Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red velvet cake is much more than vanilla cake tinted red. This recipe produces the best red velvet cake with superior buttery, vanilla, and cocoa flavors, as well as a delicious tang from buttermilk. My trick is to whip the egg whites, which guarantees a smooth velvet crumb.

This is my forever favorite red velvet cake recipe. I published it on my blog a few years ago and decided it’s time for clearer recipe instructions and a video tutorial. Many of you love this recipe too, so let’s roll up our sleeves and rev up our mixers!

Red velvet cake is the queen of all layer cakes. The “I can’t quite put my finger on the flavor” cake. It’s the sweet marriage of buttermilk and vanilla with a little cocoa for good measure. She’s tall, dramatic, and completely covered in silky cream cheese frosting. This is my best red velvet cake.

Red velvet cake

What Does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like?

I used to be unsure about red velvet. I don’t really trust a cake that has a mystery flavor. What is red velvet? Is it vanilla, chocolate, or just a butter cake tinted red? From red velvet brownies and red velvet cookies and red velvet cupcakes, I’ve had a lot of fun getting to know red velvet. Red velvet is:

  1. Mild cocoa flavor
  2. Tangy buttermilk
  3. Sweet vanilla
  4. Very buttery

These 4 flavors are essential to the perfect red velvet layer cake. Not only is the flavor outstanding, red velvet cake’s texture is worth writing home about. It’s dense and soft with a moist and velvety crumb. However, the absolute best part about red velvet cake is the cream cheese frosting. Slathered on thick, my cream cheese frosting recipe is delicately sweet and undeniably creamy.

Red velvet cake

How to Make Red Velvet Cake

I use specific ingredients, certain amounts, and unique mixing techniques to produce my best red velvet cake recipe. Begin by whisking the dry ingredients together, then beat together the wet ingredients. We’ll combine the two, add buttermilk and tint the batter red. More on food coloring below.

  1. Cake Flour: I highly recommend that you use cake flour. Cake flour is much lighter than all-purpose and the perfect base for a light, soft-crumbed cake texture. Like I mention above, red velvet’s texture is important to the authenticity of the flavor. You will thank me for the recommendation after you taste how incredibly soft this cake is! It’s the texture you find at professional bakeries. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY cake flour substitute.
  2. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder: 2 Tablespoons is plenty for a little cocoa flavor without overpowering the vanilla and butter flavors.
  3. Butter & Oil: What sets red velvet cake apart from chocolate is its buttery flavor. With only butter, we risk a dry cake. With only oil, we lose the butter flavor and softness that comes with creaming butter & sugar together. So all that’s to say, use both butter and oil. Moist texture, soft and cakey texture, buttery flavor. Boom.
  4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is tangy, creamy, and makes baked goods extremely moist. You can’t make delicious red velvet cake without it! Additionally, buttermilk helps activate the baking soda to leaven the cake.

What About the Food Coloring?

Red velvet cake wouldn’t be red without food coloring. I recommend gel food coloring because the color is concentrated, so you need less of it. For natural coloring, use beet powder. If you don’t want to use food coloring, leave it out! The cake will have the same flavor and be a lovely shade of cocoa.

Whipped egg whites

My #1 Trick

I add one simple step to this red velvet cake recipe and it guarantees the BEST texture.

Whip the egg whites separately, then fold into the batter.

This cake recipe requires 4 large eggs. Separate the eggs before starting. Beat the egg yolks with the wet ingredients, then beat the egg whites into fluffy peaks and fold them in last. Beating the egg whites incorporates air and promises a velvet-rich texture.

You will never go back.

Red Velvet Cake Video Tutorial

Cream Cheese Frosting

In my opinion, cream cheese frosting pairs best with red velvet’s flavor and this frosting recipe is really simple. You need block-style cream cheese, butter, confectioners’ sugar, a splash of milk, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt to offset the sweetness. It glides on seamlessly and is silky smooth. If you’re looking to pipe decoration with this cream cheese frosting, chill it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. This guarantees the creamy frosting will hold its shape.

The BEST red velvet cake I've ever had!! Moist, rich, buttery, and topped with cream cheese frosting! Recipe on sallysbakingaddiction.com

Red velvet cake

This recipe converts red velvet skeptics. I should know because I used to be one!

Interested in turning this red velvet beauty into a tiered wedding cake? See my homemade wedding cake for details.

More Classic Cake Recipes

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slice of red velvet cake on a white plate

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Red velvet cake is much more than vanilla cake tinted red. This recipe produces the best red velvet cake with superior buttery, vanilla, and cocoa flavors, as well as a delicious tang from buttermilk. My trick is to whip the egg whites, which guarantees a smooth velvet crumb.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups (345g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons (10g) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature and separated
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • liquid or gel red food coloring
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk, at room temperature

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces (450g) full-fat block cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (170g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 5 and 1/2 cups (660g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease two 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on medium-high speed until combined, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the oil, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and vinegar and beat on high for 2 minutes. (Set the egg whites aside.) Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.
  4. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in 2-3 additions alternating with the buttermilk. Beat in your desired amount of food coloring just until combined. I use 1-2 teaspoons gel food coloring. Vigorously whisk or beat the 4 egg whites on high speed until fluffy peaks form as pictured above, about 3 minutes. Gently fold into cake batter. The batter will be silky and slightly thick.
  5. Divide batter between cake pans. Bake for 30-32 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the cakes need a little longer as determined by wet crumbs on the toothpick, bake for longer. However, careful not to overbake as the cakes may dry out. Remove cakes from the oven and cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of salt. Beat on low speed for 30 seconds, then increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes until completely combined and creamy. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet. Frosting should be soft, but not runny.
  7. Assemble and frost: Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard or crumble over finished cake. Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. I always use an icing spatula and bench scraper for the frosting. I used Wilton piping tip #12 for decoration around the top.
  8. Refrigerate cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  9. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for 5 days. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting.
  2. Cake Flour: For best texture and taste, I strongly recommend cake flour. You can find it in the baking aisle and I have many more recipes using it. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY cake flour substitute.
  3. Vinegar: The vinegar helps brighten the red color. Don’t get scared, a touch of vinegar is normal in red velvet desserts! You can’t taste it.
  4. Why is everything at room temperature? When everything is near the same temperature, they mix together easily, evenly, and produce a uniform texture. It’s important!
  5. Food Coloring: The amount of red food coloring is up to you. I tested with varying amounts. To get the dark red color you see here, use about 2-3 Tablespoons of liquid food coloring or 2 teaspoons gel food coloring. Dye the batter until you are pleased with the color. Use beet powder for a natural alternative or leave the food coloring out completely.
  6. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is a key ingredient and flavor in this recipe. You can use low fat or full fat. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own sour milk. To do so, add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough regular milk (whole milk is best) to make 1 cup. Stir the two together, then let it sit for 5 minutes before using.
  7. Sheet Cake: This batter fits nicely into a 9×13 inch cake pan or 12×17 inch sheet pan. Same oven temperature. Bake for about 40-45 minutes or 20-25 minutes, respectively. Keep your eye on the cake and use a toothpick to test for doneness.
  8. 3 Layer Cake: Divide the batter between 3 9-inch cake pans. Bake for about 22-25 minutes.
  9. Bundt Cake: This cake batter fits into a 10-cup or larger bundt pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time (likely around an hour), but use a toothpick to test for doneness. Same oven temperature.
  10. Cupcakes: You can use this cake batter for 2-3 dozen cupcakes. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 – 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20-21 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Use my red velvet cupcakes recipe if you need fewer.

Recipe originally published on Sally’s Baking Addiction in 2015

Need something smaller? Here are my red velvet cupcakes!

I love this Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com
I love this Red Velvet Layer Cake recipe! Learn exactly how to make it on sallysbakingaddiction.com

966 Comments

Comments are closed.

  1. Can I use 8inch pans for this cake if not how do I adjust the recipe

    1. Yes, you can use two 8-inch pans. Your cakes will be a bit taller than mine so your bake time might be a minute or two longer.

  2. After all the amazing reviews, I am very excited to try making this cake but have a question about food colouring. I want a nice vibrant red colour and so after much research, I’ve decided gel food colouring is the way to go. I’ve found Wilton brand at a store nearby with 2 red gel options – “Red” and “Red (no taste)”. I didn’t even know food colouring had a taste haha! Which one should I use for this cake?

    1. Hi Nina! My favorite is Americolor “Super Red” gel food coloring. I think either one of the options you found, though, would be fine.

  3. Hi Sally,

    My cake came out really uncooked in the middle. I followed the recipe, but used pastry flour instead of cake flour. Do you think that could be why the middle is so uncooked while the edges are cooked? I also used 8 inch round baking pans and cooked for roughly 35 minutes. Any thoughts? Thanks!

    1. Hi Emily! If the cakes are still batter in the center, they need more time in the oven. The flour wouldn’t have caused the issue. Bake until the cakes are cooked through and use a toothpick to test doneness. 8-inch round cakes will be thicker and require more time than 9-inch cakes.

  4. Hi Sally,

    I’ve made this cake before and it’s been a huge success! I’m making this for a friends birthday but making a 7inch cake. How many layers will I be able to get out of this recipe For 7inches? And how long should they bake for?(I want a tall cake as I am going to decorate with a drip effect)

    1. Hi Sanj, I have never tested this recipe in a 7 inch pan. Wilton has a pretty good chart that should give you an idea of how much batter you will need and the bake times: https://www.wilton.com/cake-serving-guide/cms-baking-serving-guide.html

  5. Can you use this recipe for a wedding cake? Will the cream cheese frosting hold while the cake is on display?

    1. Hi Tammy, I have heard from so many readers who have used this as a wedding cake! Cream cheese frosting should always be refrigerated but it should be ok to leave out for a bit to display it before it’s cut.

  6. Sally I’m just not getting any lift in the cake. Flavor is great, way better than the box cakes I used to use, but I think that the baking soda reacts too quickly by the time I’m done folding in the egg whites. Would 1:1 substitute of double acting baking soda work?

    1. Hi Bryan, do you mean double acting baking powder? I recommend sticking with the recipe and making sure that your baking soda is active. For extra lift, you can try supplementing the baking soda with 1 teaspoon of baking powder, too.

  7. I’ve made this recipe for only God knows how many times. Layer cakes, cupcakes, sheet cakes. It’s a very versatile cake and you can never go back after finding this recipe. Thank you so much for this.

  8. Sue lancastee says:

    This looks great. Can I make 1.5 or 2 x the quantity. I want a 3 layer 9 inch cake

    1. Hi Sue! You can use the batter as written and divide between 3 cake pans. The bake time will be a little shorter.

    2. I made it into a 3 layers because to me the batter didn’t look like it would all fit into 2 pans with out the cake running over the pans. I accidentally overcooked it some. I put the timer on 25 mins so I’d assume to check at 20 mins.

  9. Tasted perfect. So, so fluffy! 2.5 in tall at center. Compliments on the frosting “not too cream-cheesey, great balance.” I followed as written using the “sheet cake” noted option: only one layer, 9×13 pyrex pan (buttered, parchment paper on bottom, buttered again, then floured), decreased heat to 325 F per the internet telling me to. Had to add foil cover after 40 min with top a little brown and needed 10 min more of bake time. Maybe will do two layers next time since so puffed!

  10. My son asked for a Red Velvet cake for his birthday this year.
    Because his mom and I recently divorced it was on me to learn how.
    I have to say that this is an amazing recipe, even for someone who is baking there very first Cake!
    Thank you…

  11. Hi! I LOVE your cake recipes and you are my go-to for anything baking. Quick question: Can I use 3 sticks of butter, instead of 1 stick, with 1 cup of oil?

    1. Thank you so much! No, I recommend sticking with the recipe.

  12. Hi Sally,

    Tried it and as usual it was deeelliiicious
    Everyone who tried it asked mr about the recipe and said they never tasted a red velvet cake that good before.

    Thanks

  13. Easy to follow, came out perfect.

  14. Made this for my sister’s party and people said it was the best red velvet cake they’ve had. Super easy a delicious

  15. Delicious!

  16. Rosemary Manderson says:

    I have made red velvet for years. A few years ago, I decided to give this recipe a shot. Very similar to my family recipe with the addition of the cake flour. I promise, it makes all the difference in the world! I get requests for this cake year around! It is awesome.

  17. Charmaine Thomas says:

    This frosting was fantastic. I added another brick of cream cheese for a bit of extra tang. My red velvet cake was a show stopper!

  18. Made it as a Bundt cake! Turned out great at 55 minutes (or was it 65?). I substituted 1/4 cup of buttermilk for coffee to enhance the chocolate flavor. That was the only change I made. It was absolutely delicious!!! Big hit!!!

  19. I currently have this in the oven as a Bundt Cake AND I used the cream cheese filling from the chocolate Bundt Cake recipe in the middle! I have had the red velvet as a cake before and it is truly amazing so keep fingers crossed that this red velvet bundt with cream cheese filling comes out perfect as well!!

  20. If I cannot fit in two nine inch pans at the same time, if my oven is too small for it. What do I do? Can I bake above and below and Switch them half way? ❤️

    1. Hi Aarti, Yes you can bake one pan on the top rack and one one the bottom and rotate half way through. Enjoy!

  21. I am serving this Christmas Eve. I made a trial run a few weeks ago and I must say this is a beauty. Thank you for all the tips and instructions. If I want to make a 6″ 3 layers in the future can I half this recipe or use your cup cake?? Sally I’ve made several of your cakes and cupcakes and I’ve never been let down. I enjoy your videos, hints, and tips and yes even the whys. Thank you.

  22. Hi, what is cake flour? If I only have white flour, is that ok to use? Thank you

    1. Hi Nancy, I recommend using cake flour for the best texture for this cake. You can read my post all about what cake flour is and how to make your own using just all purpose flour and cornstarch.

  23. Hi I have had a request for an extra deep red velvet cake (9 inch round that is 3-4 inches deep (no layers)??? is this possible with this recipe… Would I need to double the recipe to achieve this and just bake it lower and slower any help would be appreciated thanks

    1. Hi Julianne, I’m afraid a cake that thick won’t bake properly in a regular round pan but you can definitely try it. This recipe (as written, not doubled) will be enough batter. Lower the oven temperature by 25 degrees F and bake for longer. You may want to tent the cake with foil to help guarantee more even baking.

      1. Thank-you Sally for getting back to me. I have extra deep cake pans so will have a play with lower temperatures and timing and see how it goes. Thanks Again.

    2. Ive just made this in a 6″ wide 4″ deep pan, i lowered the temp by 25 degrees and cooked it for around 60 mins, testing with a toothpick. The mixture was huge!! it came up and domed above the paper which was about 1″ taller than the pan, and it fell a little in the middle, but once I torted the layers taking the top off, the cake is beautiful and moist inside. Im going to play a little with the volume of batter, perhaps 2/3 batter would’ve worked without doming and would’ve saved the top? Whatever, it tastes and looks great! Good luck!

      1. Thanks Alexandra. I have done some tests too, reducing the temperature and baking for longer. My 5” wide 4” deep tin worked fairly well but lost about 0.5” from the top When trimming flat. the 9” wide 4” also sunk in the middle losing about an 1” once I trimmed the top. But both were beautifully moist and nice to eat. Will have to play a bit more too. To try and prevent sinking. (A heat core was used in the bigger one)

  24. Michelle Coyle says:

    This is amazing. Don’t change anything. Do it exactly as she says. I made this for Christmas 2019 and it was a hit!

  25. I made this recipe for my Holiday Christmas party and it was a hit!
    I wanted to know, could you add chocolate chips to this recipe?

    1. Absolutely! 1 cup stirred in the batter would be great.

  26. I have made many Red Velvet cakes. This year I couldn’t find my usual recipe, so I tried this one. OMG…my family went crazy for it. It turned out beautiful and tasted as good as it looked. I like the look of three layers, so thanks for the different options at the end. This one is a keeper!

  27. Holy Moly that is a good recipe! I bought the actual cake flour and the real buttermilk and the followed the recipe exactly to make it as a birthday cake. It was awesome. The cake was so silky smooth and moist and of course the frosting was awesome. Yum, Yum! It made the birthday boy feel extra special! Now I’m gonna make Sally’s buttermilk waffles to use up the buttermilk leftover. Expecting them to be great too!

  28. Made this as a 9×13 cake and it turned out great! Followed the recipe exactly and wouldn’t change a thing. This is my go to recipe for Red Velvet from now on! Thank you!

  29. Dainelle Mendez-Jones says:

    This Recipe was a delight. Just what I needed. I kinda tweaked it a little But you gave me just the start I needed.Thanks.

  30. This is a great cake! It rose beautifully and kept just fine for several days in the fridge. I actually used a different frosting recipe and made the more old-fashioned frosting for red velvet cake– boiled milk frosting. Terrible-sounding name, but it was delicious! Sally, if you are ever looking to add a frosting recipe to your series, I would love to see your version of a boiled milk frosting! Thanks for the wonderful red velvet cake!

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