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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Red velvet cake

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
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 and 1/2 cups (540g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (15ml) heavy cream or milk
  • 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, cream/milk, 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, more milk if frosting is too thick, 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. Hi Sally, thanks for the recipe. I tend to make large cakes, can I triple this recipe?

  2. Hello,

    Just out of curiosity, I’m planning to make a large amount of the frosting so I can frost the outside of the cake in rosettes for an event… Will this frosting hold or will it melt??? If so, do you happen to have a recipe that can hold and wont end up being a disaster on me haha Thanks!

    1. This frosting will not hold its shape as rosettes for a long period of time. I suggest this vanilla frosting: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2013/04/20/very-vanilla-cupcakes/

  3. Can I use this exact same recipe for a blue velvet cake? If yes, then how much of bright blue liquid food coloring do you think would be right? Same as here. .3 and a half Tbsp?

    1. Yes. And I’m unsure- I would just tint the batter until you are happy with the color.

  4. I baked this Red Velvet cake today But not 2 layered. It was not too soft maybe because I substituted the butter with additional oil?

  5. Was asked to make a RV cake for a church function, I want to make this as a sheet cake, could you give me the measurements of cake pan I would need?

    1. I would use a 12×17 half sheet pan. Unsure of the bake time.

      1. Oh. My. Gosh came out fantastic! 3 ppl came up to me at church today and asked if I would bake them THAT cake for their birthday. Thank you Jesus for leading me to your blog! Up until then I had given up on ever trying to make a RV cake….absolutely a keeper!

  6. Flourless Chocolate Cake says:

    Thanks for sharing this recipe to me Sally. I hope I can make it easily. Maybe I will make this cake on my brother’s birthday.

  7. Natalie Abouzaki says:

    Hi Sally, the cake looks amazing, and want to make it this week for my husbands birthday. I just have a question, I am planning on covering the cake with fondant, can I do that with this icing ? Thanks

    1. Hi Natalie. No, I do not suggest it with this cream cheese frosting. It isn’t sturdy enough.

  8. Hi Sally, a friend told me about your page after trying one of your cake recipes, (which was divine!!!!) All of your recipes seem bullet proof so I’m excited to try this one! I have Two questions:

    1. I have a hand held mixer that does not come with a paddle attachment, just the plain ,metal attachment instead.. Will it be okay to use?

    2. I need the cake to be quite tall bc it’s a centerpiece at a baby shower, how tall do estimate it is? If I use 2 9×2 pans, do u think it comes out to be about 5inches after it is leveled and frosted in the middle??

    Thanks so much,
    Sasha:)

    1. Hi Sasha! The metal attachment you are referring to is likely a paddle attachment. What does it look like? This cake is at least 5 inches tall, yes.

      1. i just looked online and yes it is a paddle attachment!!
        Oh Yay, then the size will be perfect!!

        Thanks for replying,
        Sasha

      2. Hi, I LOVE YOUR FOOD!

        I am using this recipe for a 3 tiered birthday cake for my neice (6×2″, 9×2″, 12×2″). Were feeding a lot of people lol.
        You’re recipe does not say what size pan you used. Can you please help me determine how much cake this batter will make?

        Thank you!

      3. This recipe uses two 9×2 (deep dish) cake pans.

  9. CheeseSticks says:

    My friend is coming to stay with us next weekend and I wanted to make her favorite red velvet cake. This sounds so tasty and I happen to love cream cheese icing. Usually I have it on carrot cake but it sounds like it would be perfect on red velvet, too.

  10. I know this will seem silly on the surface but give me a chance to explain. Is there a way to make a red velvet cake a blue velvet cake? I’m surprising my wife for her baby shower and want to bring a red velvet cake that I will cut and shape into little building blocks. But because we are having a boy I thought it would be great if I could make the cake blue. Any ideas?

    Also, why are you saying I should make it a day I had of time?

    Thanks so much!

    1. Brian, you can use blue food coloring instead. I suggest 1 day ahead of time only if readers need to make the cake ahead of time. You can certainly make it the day of serving.

  11. I do not have cake flour. Can I still use the A.P. And get the same taste ?

    1. You can substitute 1/4 of cornstarch and 3/4 of a.p. flour per 1 cup of cake flour. Cake flours finer texture reduces the amount of gluten formed making a softer finer crumb. This alternative helps reduce the gluten formation and creates basically the same result =)

  12. Hi Sally,

    If I use gel food coloring, how much do you think I would need? Would I need to add any extra liquid to compensate?

    1. I wouldn’t add any more liquid to compensate, Phoebe. And I’m unsure of the amount. Just add enough to tint the batter the red color that you prefer.

  13. Hi Sally,

    This is the best red velvet cake I’ve ever had. Thank you for the detailed instructions. It really helped this newbie baker. I used cake flour per your suggestion and the cake was so soft and fluffy. I also loved the frosting recipe. It was so creamy! My husband took the leftovers to work and he said it was gone before lunchtime. Thank you!

    Miranda

  14. Hi, Sally! My name is Victoria, I’m from Argentina and I absolutely love your blog, and how extremely clear your recipes are. I just have one doubt: I did not understand if you are using one or two cake pans for this red velvet cake. I hope you could answer me. Thank you and congratulations on this beautiful web!

    1. Hi Victoria! This recipe requires 2 cake pans.

  15. Hello, this cake looks lovely. I adore red velvet! I am planning on making this for my boyfriends party on the weekend but I only have a 10 inch cake pan. Would this recipe be fine to use as is in the bigger cake pan? Or should I double the recipe? Thanks 🙂

    1. You could make these cake layers in two 10-inch cake pans, yes. The bake time will be slightly lower. If you only have one 10-inch cake pan, you can bake in batches.

  16. Hi Sally ! I tried the red velvet cupcakes and they were amazing , now I want to bake the layer cake but for 20 persons, shall I double the recipe or what ?

    1. Doubling this recipe will make A LOT of batter and could risk overmixing and accidental overmeasuring. I recommend just making two layer cakes.

  17. THANK GOD that I came across your recipe!
    I Love how you went into so much depth so I knew the WHY behind each step ^.^
    Also great that you listed some alternatives 🙂 Can’t wait to try this x

  18. Hi Sally. I came across your website while looking for a good red velvet cake recipe. I love how thorough you are and I can’t wait to try this recipe! I’m not a great cook, but I’ve found I’m a pretty good baker. I keep my kitchen stocked with bread flour and pastry flour for some of the stuff I make, but not cake flour. Would one of those work instead?
    Thanks!

    1. Hi Rosie! Pastry flour is your best bet. It’s delicate and low in protein like cake flour.

  19. Can I use 8 inch round cake pan?thank you so much

  20. Thank you, Sally, for the recipe! I’m making my daughter-in-law’s favorite cake for her birthday, and we are celebrating both my husband’s and daughter-in-law’s birthdays together.

    Can I make this cake in two 9×12 baking pans? Do I need to double the recipe. I’m attempting to make their birthday cake for a crowd. Thought I would make it like a sheet cake.

    If so, please let me know how long to cook each pan. Thank you, sooo much!

    1. Jeannie, I would make two separate recipes (I don’t advise doubling such a large recipe as is– this risks overmixing) and bake in the 9×12 baking pans. Fill them 2/3 of the way full. You might have extra batter that you can use as cupcakes. You can bake the cupcakes for 20-21 minutes. I am unsure of the bake time for you size pans.

  21. Hey Sally! I totally love your recipe…will try it for sure!
    Just wanted to know any other ideas for the frosting apart from the conventional cream cheese!
    Cheers..Thanks!

    1. How about this vanilla frosting: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/12/29/funfetti-sheet-cake/

      Or white chocolate frosting: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/09/20/white-wedding-cupcakes/

      Or this milk chocolate frosting: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/03/28/raspberry-chocolate-chip-layer-cake/

  22. So excited to make this for my best friend’s birthday! I love your recipes, and every one I’ve made has so far turned out to be a huge hit!
    For this recipe, I have two questions:
    1) For the frosting, does it matter what type of milk we use in it (1%, 2%, skim, etc…)?
    2) What size cake pans should we use if we’re just making the double-layer cake?
    Thanks!!

    1. 1) cream is preferred for the creamiest texture, but whole or 2% are fine. Even half-and-half. 2) Use two 9×2 (deep dish) cake pans.

  23. I really love this recipe so thank you for sharing. Do you think the cake recipe would work for mocha, replacing 1tbsp of cocoa with coffee?

    1. You could use 1 Tablespoon of instant coffee instead of cocoa. I’ve never tried it this way though. Let me know how it goes.

  24. Nikki, I wish I could be more help but I’ve never tested this cake with success any other way than as written. Feel free to test some things out. Almond or coconut milk with the vinegar is OK.

  25. Hi Sally, I will be making this for my boyfriends birthday however I am working the day before so I wanted to make it 2 days prior. Is this okay, and how long will the cake last for?

    1. please see step 8– thanks Ellie!

  26. Ayesha Jhumka says:

    OMG Sally!! it’s the first red velvet cake i’ve had that tastes divine without the cream!!! Really moist and buttery!! I’m supposed to be on a diet but I just couldnt resist a huge piece of this cake 😛 Thanks soooo much for this recipe. Im eager to try your other recipes soon..Looks like you’re a choc and mint lover! CHEERS!

  27. Could you tell me why and your red velvet cake use cake flour vs the cupcakes use AP flour?

    I would like to use cake flour in my cupcakes can I do this?

    I am baking this for Easter so I would like for it to be perfect for a couple families thank you for your recipe

    1. Cupcakes use a DIY cake flour (combo with cornstarch) see recipe notes in that post; you can use cake flour as suggested. Cake is a little more delicate and I always use cake flour. Yes, I weigh my ingredients.

      1. Than k you, getting ready to Bake

      2. I finished and your red velvet cake recipe is Awesome, my second layer fell apart but I think the pan was not greased correctly, it stuck to the pan, the cake is very moist and beautifully colored….

        Thank you very much

  28. This morning I made this cake. Let me just say it’s by far the BEST red velvet recipe I’ve ever made. The texture is perfect! I will add this recipe to my personal handwritten recipe box. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe and even sharing your tips!

  29. Alison Tutt says:

    As I am in the UK can you tell me if Self Raising flour be ok to use as I have never heard of cake flour over here, thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Alison, you can buy sponge flour in Tesco’s, it’s called McDougalls supreme sponge premium self raising flour and it’s in the home baking aisle. I bought some this afternoon.

    2. Cake flour is not the same as self raising, it doesn’t have any raising agents in it. You can sub self raising, but it will likely affect how the cake rises.

      We don’t seem to have an equivalent in the UK – cake flour has a much lower protein content, something like 8%, whereas our all purpose/plain flour is usually around 10/11%.

      The best way to sub (unless you can find a plain flour with that low protein content) is as the author suggests, to add cornflour to the plain flour.

  30. err -orange velvet cake anyone?! My batter went from a pale pink to a very nice terracotta shade with no red in sight!! The only thing I can think of is that I used my own free range eggs which are a deep orange colour opposed to the wispy washy lemon coloured eggs from the supermarkets….. And yellow and red make orange?? Haven’t tried the sponge yet as leaving till tomorrow to ice, but has this happened to anyone else?

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