Red Velvet Cake – an elegant and moist layered cake baked from scratch with mild chocolate, tangy buttery red-tinted cake. You’ll taste a combination of vanilla and chocolate flavors and a bit of tang from the buttermilk. An iconic cake with great texture, flavors, and frosting!
They say save the best for last. And so I heed to this old time saying.
This Red Velvet Cake recipe is the queen of all layered cakes. The most beautiful, vibrant and flavorful cake of all time. I should also add that it’s the trickiest, too, compared to other layered cakes I’ve shared recently.
It’s pretty easy to nail the tropical flavors of bananas and pineapple in this Hummingbird Cake or the caramel frosting for this Caramel Cake. But with this Red Velvet Cake from scratch, it requires some serious concentration and persistence to truly nail all the complex flavors that meld beautifully in this cake.
What is Red Velvet Cake?
Red Velvet Cake is traditionally a red or maroon colored layer cake with a cream cheese frosting. This elegant cake is usually served on Christmas or Valentine’s Day. Red Velvet Cakes nowadays are tinted with red dye, however, back then, the red color was due to non-Dutched anthocyanin-rich cocoa. Others also use beetroot as a natural red food coloring for this cake.
Here in America, Red Velvet Cake is mostly popular in the southern region. It always makes an impression. It’s buttery and moist, generously smothered in fluffy, silky smooth, cream cheese frosting. What’s not to love?
Is Red Velvet Chocolate?
Actually, that’s what I used to think before. While this cake has a hint of cocoa flavor and has cocoa powder as one of its main ingredients, Red Velvet Cake is NOT a chocolate cake. No, it’s not! It has far less chocolatey flavor in it when you compare it to a traditional chocolate cake.
How Does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like?
The flavors are amazingly superb! No wonder it’s one of the popular cake recipes here in the U.S. You’d never guess if it’s the chocolate or vanilla that makes this a joy to eat or the tang from the buttermilk and cream cheese. You can’t help but shove this down your throat bite after bite ’cause this cake is like Christmas in your mouth. 😍
Since words can’t describe this complex cake recipe here, let me tell what you’ll get from eating this cake recipe:
- Subtle cocoa flavor for that mild touch of chocolate flavor
- Tanginess from the buttermilk and cream cheese in the frosting that balances out the sweetness of the cake
- Buttery sweet cake base from sugar and butter and so as the powdered sugar and vanilla in the frosting
Red Velvet Cake Ingredients
The batter in this cake is divided into two and each was baked in 9-inch round pans. You see, making this special cake from scratch somehow requires a kinda long list of ingredients. But trust me, once you see the result, you’ll surely impress your family and guests no matter what occasion.
You’ll need these ingredients below to make two layers of red velvet:
- cake flour – for that softer and velvety crumb (See Notes)
- unsweetened regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- unsalted butter
- granulated white sugar
- sour cream – may substitute with plain yogurt
- oil – for moisture (don’t skip on this)
- buttermilk – if you don’t have buttermilk, replace it with milk + 1 tsp lemon juice. (See Notes)
- vanilla extract
- liquid red food coloring
- baking soda
Cream Cheese Frosting
There are cakes that don’t necessarily need the frosting, but for this case, I highly discourage you from skipping it. This smooth and acidic cream cheese frosting cuts through the sweetness of the cake and adds more flavor profile. And of course, always go with Philadelphia Cream Cheese – my go-to.
- cream cheese
- unsalted butter
- powdered sugar
How to Store Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting?
The unfrosted cake can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 day provided that you wrap it in a plastic wrap. On the other hand, a frosted cake can be stored in the fridge for 3-5 days while being loosely covered with a plastic wrap.
Can I Make This Cake in Advance?
Yes, absolutely! You can make ahead the cake layers and let it cool before wrapping and storing it in the fridge overnight. Meanwhile, you can also make the frosting ahead, then cover and refrigerate, too, overnight. Let the frosting come to room temperature though (about 10 minutes) before applying it all over the cake.
You may top this cake with candied cranberries (or chocolate-covered strawberries) like I did or simply use the cake crumbs to decorate it. This cake will surely be the spotlight on your holiday table. So fancy, tasty and overly indulgent! It’s like eating a cake from posh French bakeries. Dig in!
More Cake Recipes To Try
- Pumpkin Cake
- Vanilla Cake
- Cinnamon Apple Cake
- Coffee Cake
- Chocolate Guinness Cake
- Cream Cheese Pound Cake
- Coconut Cake
Looking for a good list of holiday cakes? Check our round-up of Easy Holiday Cake recipes HERE.
How to Make Red Velvet Cake
In a medium bowl combine flour, salt and cocoa powder. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9 inch round baking pan with baking spray; line with parchment paper if desired, set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar at high speed in a stand mixture until it’s fluffy and starting to look white, about 4 minutes, then add sour cream.
Mix thoroughly for another minute. Followed by the oil – then mix for another minute.
Add in eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture well between each addition. Next pour in the vanilla , vinegar and buttermilk, thoroughly mix.
Add food coloring until desired color has been reached.
Slowing, add flour mixture into the batter. Mix baking soda and water and gently fold into cake batter. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, tap the on the countertop to release bubbles. Bake at 350 Degrees F for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
Let the the cakes sit in their pans for about 10- 15 minutes. Gently place cakes on a wire rack and invert, lifting off the pan. Once the cakes have completely cooled, wrap them in plastic paper and place the cake in the refrigerator for at least an hour or preferably overnight. Makes it so much easier. (See recipe box for the cream cheese frosting and assembly instructions.)
Watch How To Make It
This post was first published in Dec 2017 and has been updated with relevant write up and a video.
Red Velvet Cake
- 2 1/2 cups (340 grams) sifted cake flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons (30 grams) regular or Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups (300 grams) granulated white sugar
- ½ cup (120grams) sour cream
- ¾ cup (180grams) oil
- 3 large eggs
- ½ cup (120 ml) buttermilk
- 1 Tablespoon vinegar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons water
Cream Cheese Frosting ( Double to fully frost cake )
- 8 ounce (225 grams ) cream cheese
- 4 ounce (113 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4-6 cups (500-750 grams) powdered sugar
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9inch round baking pans with baking spray. Line with parchment paper if desired, set aside.
- Cream together the butter and sugar at high speed in a stand mixer until it’s fluffy and starting to look white, about 4 minutes. Then add sour cream and mix for another minute. Followed by the oil – mix for another minute.
- Add in eggs, one at a time, beating the mixture well between each addition.
- Next pour in the buttermilk, vinegar, and vanilla, thoroughly mix.
- Add food coloring until the desired color has been reached.
- Slowly add the flour mixture into the batter. Mix baking soda and water and gently fold into the cake batter. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, tap on the countertop to release bubbles.
- Bake at 350 Degrees F for about 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
- Let the cakes sit in their pans for about 10- 15 minutes. Gently place cakes on a wire rack and invert, lifting off the pan.
- Once the cakes have completely cooled, wrap them in plastic paper and place the cake in the refrigerator for at least an hour or preferably overnight. Makes it so much easier to apply the frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whisk cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until creamy. You may use a mixer, if desired.
- Gradually sieve in powdered sugar, mix as you go along until smooth.
Assembling the Cake
- Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread about 1 ½ cup of cream cheese frosting over the cake layer. Top with the second layer, and more frosting over the cake layer.
- Top with the remaining cake layer. Spread remaining frosting over top and sides of cake. Garnish with candied cranberries, if desired.
Tips & Notes:
- Cake flour produces lighter and very soft crumb texture. If you can’t find cake flour sub all purpose flour . Or measure 21/2 cups all purpose flour – then take out 5 tablespoons of flour and replace with cornstarch . And proceed with the rest of the instructions .
- To substitute buttermilk, add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar and enough regular milk to make 1/2 cup. Stir and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- You may prep the cakes and frosting a day in advance. Make ahead the cake layers and let it cool before wrapping and storing it in the fridge overnight. Meanwhile, you can also make the frosting ahead, then cover and refrigerate, too, overnight.
- Make sure not to overbake. Check the cake at 25 minutes.
- The cakes are really moist. It is preferable that once it cooled down, you wrap them up tightly and place in the fridge overnight before stacking them.
- Someone asked me what cream cheese do I use for my cake cream cheese frosting. I go by with Philadelphia Cream Cheese but if you can’t have one, regular ones will work fine.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.