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!

More Classic Cake Recipes

Print
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. Use low fat or full fat. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own sour milk. To do so, add 1 teaspoon 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 and let 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.

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

707 Comments

  1. Oh Sally… I love red velvet, and have been in search of the perfect one. I lost it years and years ago, and have been trying to replicate it ever since. Just by reading yours over I thought I found an even better recipe and you had me until “red food coloring.” We have a few serious allergies to it in our household, so we avoid it like the plague. I was sad to see you haven’t tried any natural alternatives. Is there a chance that you might in the near future?

    Ugh, I hate to sound like I’m complaining since your recipes never fail me once I decide to try one.

    1. Not complaining at all Jessica! Some people are completely against food coloring while others don’t mind it in a piece of cake. Allergies, of course, are a serious concern and though I have not tried any natural alternatives myself I am going to suggest the following for you:

      1) 1/4 cup raspberry or strawberry puree (around this amount) plus 2 extra Tablespoons flour
      2) beet root powder – add enough until you are happy with the color of the batter
      3) nothing at all for a beige cake
      4) pomegranate juice (I am unsure of this amount)

      1. Great ideas for the coloring. We have recently figured out the youngest has some kind of red dye allergy. He gets real mean. So have been trying to stay away from red dye till we get him tested. Do you know if the alternate coloring will add any funky flavor to the cake?

      2. The beet root powder should not unless you add an excessive amount. Adding pomegranate juice or berry puree will add a little flavor, of course.

      3. Thank you Sally!! 🙂 I have never bought beet root powder, where would I find it? BTW, I made the fudgy brownies the other day and they were so good!! I was surprised at how thick they turned out with no baking soda/powder added. 😀

  2. If I’m using the cake flour do I have to sift it then measure? Sorry I’m new to this and want to make it for my daughter’s birthday party this weekend.
    Thank you 🙂

  3. Hi Sally, is this the exact same recipe as your RV cupcake one? I made that one for Halloween last year …. yummy! Can I simply convert this recipe to cupcakes? Also, can I pre-bake the cake layers and freeze for later use? I would thaw them out and then frost them when I need the cake (end of Feb). Any tips for this? Thank you!

  4. I love this recipe! But I always have this problem with icing cakes, especially with cream cheese icing. The icing always gets really runny and it becomes impossible to ice. I also have trouble with crumbs. Do you crumb coat your cakes? How can I stop the icing from going runny?

    1. Phoebe, no crumb coat here. You can, of course, but I do not use it for this recipe. This cream cheese frosting is quite thick! Give it a try.

  5. Thank you Sally for this wonderful recipe. I am going to bake it right a way and thank you so much for the measurements in g and ml,

  6. Hi Sally,

    I have been searching for the perfect Red Velvet Cake as well, and this looks amazing. May I ask if you have ever added coffee to your recipe? I have seen a few that have that ingredient. What are your thoughts on this?

    Thanks so much for the recipe, I can’t wait to try it!!

    1. I’ve seen that before too but have never tried it! I love coffee in my chocolate cakes but not sure about it in red velvet. Let me know if you try it yourself.

  7. Such a gorgeous looking cake Sally!
    I love how you use the US volumetric and the UK metric measurements.
    I’m based in the UK, so I’m trying to starting including US measurements. I find it simple to convert to pounds and ounces, but I’ve got a feeling that most of the readers in the US prefer cups?
    I may have to order some US cups (UK cups are a different size!)

  8. Hi Sally,
    Made this as a one layer cake for my hubby pie today. The cake was so light and yummy. Didnt add the red color though so it more so resembled a chocolate cake. Thank you for the recipe 🙂

    Thursday i made your apple pie,last of the crumbs were also gone from the plate.

  9. Sally, I love your blogs and excited to try this recipe because of the combination of butter & oil!

    Can we beat the eggwhites foamy in the stand mixer and keep aside until the end? Or will it become liquidy/runny?

    Can this recipe be used for cupcakes? What’s the difference in cake and cupcake recipes?

    Thanks, looking forward to trying this

    1. You can beat the egg whites in the mixer first then set aside, yes. Do not beat them more than 15 minutes before adding to the batter. I use this exact recipe for cupcakes (only halved)– see link in the post for my red velvet cupcakes.

  10. Thanks so much for this recipe! I’d never made a red velvet cake before but decided to give this one a try today, and it turned out beautifully…I’ll definitely be making it again! Thank you 🙂

  11. Sally, thank you for describing your thought process and test process here. I have baked a lot of RV cakes, because I am a huge fan. I think when it comes to the texture, it is a personal preference. I like mine RV a little dense, so I am ok using all-purpose flour. I do agree completely on the use of buttermilk, it’s a must because you need the acidity it provides.

    A question that I haven’t been able to find an answer to anywhere, is the use of vinegar: buttermilk does it’s job just fine to react with cocoa powder and baking soda. I have not noticed any difference when I omit it. In fact, I noticed less fluffy texture when I use it. I tend to think it is included in recipes out of tradition and not because it is essential for the recipe. Am I wrong?

    1. Mila, that is so interesting! Because I find the exact opposite– I find that the little extra vinegar makes a fluffier cake. It’s a minimal difference, but I can detect it. If you don’t prefer the texture then absolutely you can leave it out!

  12. I just want to say Thank You fo this recipe. I have tried many different Red Velvet recipes and this one it the best. I made this for Valentine’s day and it was a big hit with my Husband and Son. The texture and the “I Love so Much” butter flavor was perfect. This recipe is now apart of my collection.

  13. 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!

  14. 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?

  15. 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?

  16. 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. 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!

  17. 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

  18. 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!

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

    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 =)

  21. 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.

  22. 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

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

1 2 3 4 5 14

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Recipes You’ll Love

Archives

Categories

Sally's Baking Challenge

Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe.

View More

Sally's Cookie Palooza

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

Sally's Pie Week

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally

×