Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake Recipe

“What is a red velvet cake?” is the question. The answer: “A yellow cake with a hint of cocoa, dyed a deep beautiful red.” Some of you may know red velvet cake as the armadillo cake from the movie Steel Magnolias; others may know it as the best cake they’ve ever tasted! Buttercup staffers describe the icing as somewhere between buttercream and whipped cream. Long beating makes it light and fluffy, and its not-too-sweet flavor makes it a perfect mate for red velvet cake. Read about the search for the origins of red velvet cake.–Jennifer Appel

Red Velvet Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 55 M
  • 2 H, 15 M
  • Serves 10 to 12

Ingredients

  • For the red velvet cake
  • 1/4 cup red food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk (either low-fat or full-fat)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Red Velvet Icing (recipe below)
  • For the red velvet icing
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound unsalted butter, cold
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  • Make the red velvet cake
  • 1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease and lightly flour three 9- x 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper.
  • 2. In a small bowl, whisk together until well combined the food coloring, cocoa powder, and vanilla. Set aside.
  • 3. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time. Add the flour in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Add in the salt. Beat in the cocoa mixture until thoroughly incorporated. In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter at the end, making sure to mix well.
  • 4. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  • 5. Let cake cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completely on wire rack.
  • Make the red velvet icing icing
  • 6. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk to combine the milk and flour. Stir constantly over medium-high heat until smooth and thick (anywhere from 12 to 18 minutes). Let the mixture cool for at least 50 minutes. When cool, remove the “skin” that has formed at the top and discard.
  • 7. While mixture is cooling, on the medium-high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until quite fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add in the vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Incorporate the cooled milk mixture in thirds, beating well after each addition.
  • 8. When cake has cooled, ice between the layers, then ice top and sides of cake with red velvet icing.
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Comments

  1. This cake is so good and it always impresses people when the white frosted cake is cut to reveal the bright red color inside.

  2. The best! This has become the most requested cake in our house, especially for birthdays. It’s very special and never fails, even at our high altitude.

  3. I haven’t tried this yet, but it is most like the recipe my aunt used to make. It has the right frosting recipe. Most recipes I see have a cream cheese frosting recipe–not right.

  4. My mother has faithfully made this cake for me every year, since my first birthday. I am now 46 years old and she has never missed a year! She also makes it for my children’s birthdays—they are 22 and 24. Her recipe is a clipping from a news paper prior to 1964 and it is called Waldorf-Astoria Cake. The recipe tells the story of purchasing the recipe from the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

    The recipe is similar to this one, but it calls for the icing to be made with crisco—sounds gross, I know, but it is delicious and perfectly white. The other difference is that mom cools the milk and flour mixture in the freezer. When she makes the icing she always makes 1 1/2 recipe, so she has plenty for the cake and plenty for “licking the bowl.”

    The cake is our families favorite.

    1. Hollie, such a tradition. Well, I don’t know when your birthday is, but here’s to red velvet wishes.

  5. What a wonderful recipe! As SH remarked, it works GREAT at high altitude! I used 1 1/4 cups sugar because my family prefers desserts that are less sweet than required in recipes and this cake still turned out beautifully. I started to bake early this morning and was dismayed to discover that I didn’t have enough cake flour! I found a substitute that produced the same results: for every cup of cake flour, use 3/4 cup all-purpose flour and 1/4 cup cornstarch. THANKS for such a great recipe!

    1. Thanks for such an enthusiastic response, Christine! Always lovely to hear that recipes can withstand a little Macgyvering…

  6. Make this cake last night and some of us already tried bits and pieces of it as we sculpted it into an Eeyore. The taste was fantastic, not too sweet, very moist. We used a different icing so that the fondant would stick well to it. Tonight we will be enjoying it for my daughter’s birthday!

    1. Yum, Sofia. Can I come over? Red Velvet is my absolute favorite cake of all time. Pretty please?

      Beth

      1. Beth, I wish I would have seen your comment earlier, but we still have Eeyore’s butt to finish off! So feel free to come over, plus we have an open-door policy anyways.

        Eeyore Cake

  7. Thanks for your wonderful site and articles!

    Can Dutch process cocoa be used for this recipe?
    And how about regular white vinegar?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Sara, it’s fine to use Dutch process cocoa in this recipe. The apple cider or red wine vinegar will be a bit sweeter than regular white vinegar but I’m curious to see if you can really tell the difference in the finished product. Please report back and let us know.

    1. You’re very welcome, Edith. Just doing what we do. Kindly let us know what you think after you make it, too! Lotsa folks are loving it….

  8. I don’t have three pans, thinking I’ll make a regular two layer cake then use remaining batter for cupcakes? Ooh! and I’m adding sugared cranberries on top. When your birthday falls in the never-land between xmas and NYE you get to do what you want, right? (Also making it with dairy-free ings due to allergy, will let you know how it turns out.)

    1. jacqueline1230, first: happy birthday. Second, yes, you get to do anything you want during the wasteland between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. And third, we look forward to your experience using dairy-free ingredients.

    1. Terrific to hear you like it as much as we do, Lina. The sweetest words we can hope to hear…

  9. I am in Dubai and buttermilk is not freely available. How can I make buttermilk? Please help me. And another thing, can this recipe be used to make red velvet cup cake? Please let me know as soon as you can. I am waiting to try this recipe.

    1. Ruvani, you can make your own buttermilk for this recipe by combining 1 cup milk and 1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice. Stir these together and let them sit at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes. The mixture may look a little curdled, but that’s okay. Use this mixture instead of the buttermilk. As for making this cake as cupcakes, we haven’t tried that, so I can’t tell you exactly how it will work, but usually any cake recipe works fine as cupcakes. Just fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full and start checking the cupcakes for doneness after about 20 minutes. My guess is it will take these more like 25 minutes to be done. Kindly let us know how it goes!

  10. I’m making a wedding cake for my brother’s soon-to-be bride. She really wants red velvet. Do you think this recipe could hold up to a large size with multiple layers?

    1. Cait, that’s so sweet of you! We haven’t used this recipe in that application before and so we can’t guarantee it will be sturdy enough to support the upper layers. We’d hate for anything to go wrong with the wedding cake so we recommend you do a trial run with the recipe just to be safe.

      1. That’s a smart idea. And an excuse to eat it twice! Ha thanks. Oh- the frosting… it’s an outdoor wedding so it’ll be sitting outside for a couple hours- I’ll test that out too unless someone has previous experience?

        1. I like your attitude, Cait! I’m sorry but again we hate to promise anything without having tested it ourselves first, especially since it’s such a momentous occasion. So yes, better test that, too. Think of it as another bowl to lick! And please send pictures, whether of the test or the final wedding cake!

  11. Every year, I bake my own birthday cake, thus ensuring I get exactly the cake I want. I’ve set my sights on red velvet this year, but I’d like to bake it in a bundt pan since I’ll be transporting it. Other than bake time, do you think I need to make any other changes? I’ll let you know how it turns out!

    1. Hi Susan, happy birthday! Red Velvet is one of my favorite cakes, especially for birthday celebrations. As it is a very moist cake, be sure and butter up that bundt pan. Are you planning on dribbling the frosting over the top?

      1. Thanks Beth! I’m happy to report the cake was a hit, but it’s not meant to be a bundt. I buttered the dickens out of the pan, but it still stuck like mad. I used cream cheese glaze to cover the wounds, and we happily devoured it. Don’t tell, but I had a slice for breakfast this morning!

        1. Thanks for checking back in, Susan. I worried a bit about the moistness of the cake and whether it was sturdy enough for a bundt. Now we know. But we won’t tell about your breakfast.

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