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. So glad you tried this red velvet cake recipe! Did you use blocks of cream cheese? That will make a big difference in the final consistency of the frosting.

  2. Does adding baking soda to vinegar separately and then mixing it to the batter towards the end make any difference to the texture..

    1. I’ve never tried it, but I recommend sticking with the order the ingredients are used/mixed in the recipe. 🙂

  3. Hi Sally, just wanted to check re: making 3 layers instead of 2 – is the “3 nine inch pans” correct, and the layers are just much thinner?

    Thank you, and I can’t wait to try this out!

    1. Correct. Divide the batter between 3 cake pans instead of 2. The layers will be slightly thinner.

  4. Hi Sally! I love red velvet cake but prefer it a little more chocolatey than 2 TBSP. If I add more, should i adjust the quantities of the other ingredients, specifically the wet ingredients?

    1. Hi Beth! I recommend swapping out some cake flour for extra unsweetened natural cocoa powder. I haven’t tested this recently, but let me know how the cake turns out.

  5. Hi Sally,
    I’ve already made your applesauce carrot cake and strawberry cake. Both were outstanding. Your recipes are so much more simple to make than many other recipes out there, AND deliver 100% in flavor and texture. I just made your red velvet cake last week. I do not have deep 9″ pans, so made the cake in three WS gold touch 9″ pans and baked them for the minimum 22 minutes. Another reviewer was correct; it is a large volume of batter! While I did not eat the cake, my mother raved over the crumbs (from leveling the cakes), and the person I made it for, said it was an OMG cake! Thanks Sally, for another winner. BTW, I do own your cookbooks and would highly recommend that other readers support their Sally’s Baking Addiction, addiction by supporting you too!

  6. If I choose to leave out the red food coloring, do I still need to add the vinegar?

    1. Hi Sheryl, you can leave out the vinegar if skipping the food coloring.

  7. Hi Sally,thanks for the recipe.can this cake be covered in fondant and it won’t go bad ?

    1. This cake is strong enough under fondant, yes!

  8. This looks stunning! Where is your apron from that you are wearing in the video?

    1. Thanks Lauren! I bought it from Anthropologie a few months ago.

  9. This is the best of the best for red velvet recipes that I’ve tried! Very light and fluffy. I had to bake it an extra 10 minutes though and the cakes were very high! That frosting is just divine. My husband loved his early Valentine’s Day treat!

  10. I made this one last week as my first bake since my family Christmas cookie bake day, and it was a wonderful choice. Before delving so deeply into baking, red velvet was just another flavor, but after making a cake myself, it made me love it all the more!

  11. I’m usually not a fan of red velvet, but this looks so moist and delicious! Thank you for the tips about the egg whites. And I think cream cheese frosting goes with everything, or all by itself haha 🙂

  12. These look absolutely divine, We made the red velvet two nights ago and they were delicious. I can’t wait to catch up with all your ‘news’!!

  13. Wow that looks so good! Can I make this cake into cupcakes instead?

    1. Definitely. Use the same bake temp/time as my red velvet cupcakes. The separate cupcake recipe yields less.

  14. Quick question: What exactly do you mean by “baking soda”? I’m from germany and “baking soda” could be translated to “baking soda” or “sodium bicarbonate”. Planning to bake this cake for my mothers birthday on monday 😉

  15. Connie Attanasio says:

    I love red velvet cake and have been using the same recipe for years. I decided to try yours and it is the best red velvet I’ve ever had! The cake flour makes a huge difference! My mom, who doesn’t like red velvet at all, loved it too! It’s a keeper!

  16. Finally I found the best recipe for Red Velvet Cake. Nice tricks. I made your recipe on Valentine’s Day and it came out perfectly. It’s moist, soft and fluffy. Even your frosting recipe was heavenly delicious and I only put milk instead of heavy cream because we don’t have it in our country. I used the Dutch processed still my cake turns beautifully red. I must say this is the best I’ve had. I love your website. Thank you Sally. From now on I’ll keep reading your website and to try your other recipes as well.

  17. Great tasting cake. The recipe makes a ton of batter, and I had to bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes.

  18. Hi Jess! I’m thinking of making these into 6 inch cakes, too. Did you end up making them? And you tell me if halving the recipe worked? Thanks!!

  19. Hi Sally,

    Great recipe! My cake came out brown though. I used two teaspoons of red gel food coloring. I followed all instructions. I’m thinking that something happened because I was using a hand mixer? The batter just never really turned red.

  20. Eleonora Farrugia says:

    Hi Sally
    my daughter goes crazy for red velvet cakes but never manage to make it my self .I tried your recipe last week and its the best i ever tasted very soft .the second one Im going ti make it today for her BIRTHDAY thanks for sharing.
    regards from Malta.:)

    1. This cake was extremely tasty, soft and moist but it did not raise very well for me.

  21. Thanks for the recipe! I want to try the frosting on red velvet mini cupcakes, do you think it will hold? I need frosting that stays so that I can decorade it for a bachelorette party.

    1. Absolutely! As long as you use the American block style cream cheese. (I like Philadelphia brand.)

  22. I love this recipe. Do you have any advice if I wanted to make it into a bundt?

    1. Hi Ashley! See recipe note.

  23. I was wondering if this cake would hold up to being covered by fondant or if there are some modifications you would make

    1. Hi Terri! This red velvet cake holds up beautifully under fondant.

  24. Thanks so much for the tips! I’ll do some experimenting and see what works for me. It’s been so frustrating as all of my cakes were perfect in Chicago. Cheers!

  25. Patrice Felsher says:

    Okay my panic mode is over and the huge mistake I made and fixed obviously worked because surprisingly everyone loved the cake…even me, and I’m a tough critic! Will definitely make this one again!

  26. My friend asked me to bake her birthday cake, and she requested a Red Velvet cake. I have never eaten, nor baked this cake. I tried another recipe first with good review, but found the ratio between fat and flour wrong, with too little eggs, which resulted in a very dense cake. I tried this one next, and it turned out amazing. Very easy to make, and all the proportions were perfect. The cake is light and fluffy, and very tasty. I did reduce the sugar by ½ cup though, and also used only 2 cups of sugar for the frosting, since I prefer my baked goods a little less sweet. If anyone ever asks for a red velvet cake again, this will be my go-to recipe.

  27. I want to make a two tiered cake. Im not good at math so gow should I do this recipe?

    1. Hi Tanille, How much batter you need would depend on the pan sizes you plan to use.

  28. Sally’s is my most favourite blog when it comes to baking. Love all your recipes and the detailed instructions you give. Yesterday made this cale for my daughter’s birthday, everyone loved it. Thank you

  29. Upstate Sandy says:

    Great recipe! I followed it to the letter including letting the ingredients sit out to get to room temp. The cake was dense but still very tender and moist. I did have to keep it in the oven an extra 10 minutes. The frosting had a nice tangy flavor that offset the sweetness of the cake. I made this for my teen’s birthday and it was a big hit with everyone.

  30. Would substituting the flour for almond flour and doubling the eggs work for this recipe? Keto lifestyle but before i always made desserts from your site. Hoping i can ketofy this recipe

    1. I’ve never tried ketofying a cake recipe! I’m doubtful that the results would be the same making these substitutions but let me know if you try!

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