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. Greetings from Malaysia! i have tried this recipe without using cake flour,but using the substitute you gave and lessened the sugar to one cup only (i prefer it to be not too sweet) and it turned out perfect! Very moist and have that chocolatey after taste too! thank you for sharing this! definitely a fan of yours from now on.

  2. First, I’m so glad that you loved this cake Ashley! I wonder if the 2nd cake had too much batter in it? That could be a possibility. Did you bake them at the same time or separately? You can try baking them separately if time allows next time. That could help.

  3. Yes, I made them at the same time. Its possible there could have been too much in one of them. I tried to pour them evenly, but I couldn’t think of any other way to do it, other than just measuring with my eyes. I’m wondering also what would could cause it to be a little dense too. Can’t help but think I messed up somewhere along the way. I absolutely love baking, however, with me just starting to widen my abilities and challenge myself a little more, its very difficult with a 2 year old hanging from my legs, demanding every single thing he can think of! Its very easy to get distracted under these conditions, especially when you’re just learning. I even had to start the batter over again because I accidentally added both sticks of butter in with the sugar and mixed it all together. Instantly realized that mistake!

  4. Should the flour be sifted?

    1. Sorry! I see now in an earlier comment where you said you do not sift the flour for this. Thank you!

  5. Love this recipe!! The best one I have managed to find. Roughly how much servings would I get out of this recipes? I’m using this for my friends birthday cake 🙂

    1. Thanks! Serves 12

  6. Ayesha Jhumka says:

    Hello Nikki,

    I came across this website: http://mentalfloss.com/article/48990/how-red-velvet-cake-got-its-name where shortening and butter flavouring are used.

    However, I would advised you to keep to Sally’s recipe as it is the best! you may want to compare both recipes and see how you can come up with the right amount of shortening to use.

    Hope it helps 🙂

  7. Delicious! So light and tasty. I looked at a lot of recipes and decided with some trepidation on this one. So glad I did! Like some others in the uk, couldn’t use cake flour so just used plain with some cornflour.

    Only made 3/4 of the cake recipe and half the icing and found it ample.

  8. Hi Sally!
    Sorry for bothering you again but I was just wondering again that should I double the batter or use 1 1/2 of the batter if I wanted to make a three layered cake that is about 2 inches for each layer in a 9×2 springform pan?

  9. hey sally. the recipe looks fab. i have a wedding cake to do soon and need a 10″ red velvet for the middle tier. do you think i could extend the recipe slightly, or do you have a 10 inch red velvet recipe you’d like to share. please and thanks
    Daniel.x

  10. Hi Sally

    Thank you for the recipe and the detailed info. I tried this yesterday, and it came out PERFECT! my husband and 2 boys loved it, specially after few trials of from other recipes that did not came out ok. for icing I used flour, milk, sugar, butter and vanilla (got it from the other recipes I tried before).

    Thanks a mil, Sharon

  11. Love your blog sally!!! This is my second recipe of yours I have tired and both were amazing. I also love all the background information you give. I ran short on oil so I added melted butter to top off the cup and it tried out great.. next week’s cake is your carrot cake

  12. Rebecca Olsen says:

    I’ve just made this for the 18th birthday of a friend of mine who requested a red velvet cake. It’s a fantastic cake. My only disappointment is that I didn’t manage to find any beetroot powder in my local supermarket (they don’t stock it any longer) and so I had to use food dye which I’m not so keen on. The taste is good though. Thank you 🙂

  13. Hi Sally! First of all, thank you so much for this recipe! It is absolutely amazing! I’ve already made it twice and my friends just can’t get enough!

    I do have one question regarding the frosting though: I live in Germany and here, the cream cheese you can buy in the stores isn’t as thick as it seems to be in the States. Consequently my frosting kept turning out rather runny (we’re talking sliding off the cake runny). Do you have any tips as to making the frosting thicker? Should I add more butter? I fear that if I add more butter it will turn more yellow than it already is and adding more sugar might make it too sweet.

    1. It sounds like with the type of cream cheese you are using, Lisa, that a thick texture isn’t really something you can achieve. I fear adding more confectioners’ sugar to thicken it up would make the frosting unbearably sweet. How about using a creamy vanilla frosting instead? Like this: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/12/29/funfetti-sheet-cake/

  14. Lynne lake says:

    22 ml of vanilla? 1 1/2 tablespoons? That is half a small bottle of vanilla. You must mean 1 1/2 teaspoons like most red velvet cake recipes.

    1. Hi Lynne! Vanilla is a primary flavor in RVC. Yes, 1 & 1/2 Tablespoons.

  15. Would it be alright to use olive oil instead of the canola oil or would that alter the taste to some extent?

    1. That should be fine here.

  16. Will this cake turn out using a 9×13 pan?

    1. Yes– I am unsure of the bake time.

  17. Hi Sally!
    Planning to make this very soon!
    If I’m using red gel(Wilton’s) coloring instead of liquid, then how much do I need to use to get the color as shown in the pictures?

    1. I’m unsure of the exact amount; I would simply just add enough until you are happy with the color of the batter.

  18. Hi Sally, I am making this cake for a teacher’s birthday this weekend, and I really want it to come out nice! I only have one 9-inch pan, and I am wondering if it will make a difference if I bake the cakes one at a time? Is it bad to let the batter rest for so long before baking the second? And also, since I am doing one at a time, about how many cups of batter are in each layer (I want them to be even, and I am never good at eyeballing it!)? Thanks!
    Sorry if this posts twice, because my computer keeps freezing up!

    1. I’m unsure of the amount of batter, but you can measure it out yourself and just use half of the total measurement. Having two cake pans is ideal, but you can bake the batter in shifts. Keep the remaining batter at room temperature, covered tightly.

  19. thank you so much ….i have made the cake 4 times in the last few weeks..all my family and friend just love it..
    the cake flour tip is important ..thanks for it ..you explain so well..

  20. Hi! Can I sub 1/2c of the oil with 1/2c yogurt? Will that mean me adding more baking soda?

  21. Sally,

    I followed the recipe, 2 tablespoon cocoa powder.  But i forgot it with the dry ingridients, so i put it last, my cake did not turned out red. Its chocolatey, does that have something to do with the way i did it or with my pan which is dark?  Thanks for the help.

    Ysah

  22. Hi Sally…love your recipes:-) can this red velvet cake be doubled?….I need enough for 10x3inch square pan…how many cups of batter does this reciepe yield?

    1. This batter should be enough for your pan. Do not double the recipe.

  23. Sally, you are a gal after my own heart. I have been baking since I was a little girl, starting with cake mixes and working my way up to ‘cakes from scratch.’ My first cake was made solo at the age of twelve to surprise my mom after she delivered her seventh child. She was as proud of me as I was of myself. Today I bake only from scratch and  use only the finest ingredients in my cakes and cookies. I must say that when I bake a cake of any kind either for guests in my home or for others, it is devoured quickly. It is the most requested item to bring to gatherings. During the Christmas season I doubled your Red Velvet cupcake recipe for a layered cake. Keep in mind like you, I have tried several variations of this cake-all good. But your cupcake recipe was the BOMB! So moist and delicious and room temperature ingredients makes all the difference. Thanks Sally for your great tips and ‘to die for’ recipes.

    1. You and I both have come a long way from baking cakes with cake mixes! Thank you so much for reporting back Linda!

  24. Hi Sally!

    I am making this today. I looked at some other recipes, but yours looks amazing! I was wondering how you got that beautiful layer of crumbs all alongside the cake. (Technique, etc.) Will just the tops of the cakes be enough to cover the whole thing? Also, should I do a crumb coat? When I made this cake before (not your recipe) the frosting ended up with flecks of red. 

    Thank you! 🙂

    1. Hope, you can do a crumb coat, yes. I don’t for this particular cake though. There are enough crumbs for the sides and top border of the cake, yes. I simply put a bunch of crumbs in my hand and pat them into the side of the cake. I do this all the way around the cake. Any crumbs that fall off, I pick them up and press them back in. And then just sprinkle any more on top of the cake.

  25. Hi , sally, made the redvelvet cake with your recipe . The best red  velvet anyone ever tasted before. Even my sister who think red velvet is overrated was impressed. I will keep your recipe in my best recipes compilation book. Can’t  thank you enough!

  26. Daniel Myrick says:

    I made this cake once for my uncles birthday. It was a hit!!

    Just a couple Q’s, would this recipe work well for leaving out the cocoa and making a yellow cake? Also leaving out the food coloring with the cocoa, Would this recipe work well for marbled cake?  Thanks! 

    1. Glad it was loved. I recommend making this yellow cake instead. You can ignore the whole piñata/fill with candy part.

  27. Aklassicdiva says:

    This cake looks amazing!! I can’t wait to try it this weekend. Question… What type of unsweetened cocoa do you use? I’ve been trying to find a good brand. I have a favorite dutch processed cocoa, but I haven’t been able to find an unsweetened natural cocoa that I “Looovveee”. Any suggestions you can give are greatly appreciated. Thanks!!

    1. I like Hershey’s brand. It’s inexpensive and great quality in my cakes.

  28. Would it make a big difference if I just added the eggs whole instead of separation?

  29. I just have a quick question if I may: I plan to make this for my partners birthday, which is this Sunday, but as we will be away for the weekend I’m going to have to make it on Wednesday. Will it keep until Sunday? Also I will not only be giving it a crumb coat in cream cheese frosting but also coving it in fondant icing. We’ve got to travel 225 miles with it in the car – any tips? Thanks in advance.

    1. The cake won’t taste as fresh by Sunday, but it will still be OK and tasty for sure. Do you have a cake carrier? I suggest picking one up– I got mine at Michaels craft store and it makes traveling with cakes so easy.

      1. Thank you so much! Should I keep it in the fridge or just somewhere cool?

      2. Ideally, the fridge. But somewhere relatively cool is just fine.

  30. Belinda Govender says:

    I can’t thank you enough…this recipe is perfect…i have followed other recipes before… but this is definitely the best recipe ever…Thank you for sharing…

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