Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake Recipe

The frosting for this ever-popular red velvet cake recipe is very different from most other cream cheese frostings because it’s lightened with mascarpone and whipped cream. If you prefer a sturdier frosting, simply omit the whipped cream.–Bea Vo

LC Seeing Red Note

We’re not so into artificial coloring. We’re not trying to pass judgment or incite ire, mind you. We’re simply saying that if you’d prefer not to taint your red velvet creation with artificial tint, there’s an increasing array of natural food colorings nowadays. They still lend a rich hue, they just eschew multisyllabic ingredients and frighteningly numbered names like Red No. 40. Don’t worry, you’ll still be seeing red when you slice into this cake.

And if you wish to see quite a lot of red when you slice into your cake, rather than slicing a single cake into skinny layers that you plop on top of one another as this recipe suggests, bake an extra batch or two of red velvet goodness and stack each individual layer cake for the towering effect that you see in the photo above. Now THAT’S seeing red.

Red Velvet Cake Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 45 M
  • 1 H, 20 M
  • Serves 8 to 12

Ingredients

  • For the cake
  • Butter for the pan
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender or food processor until finely ground but not powdery)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup sunflower oil, plus more for the pan
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder (or Dutch process, if that’s what you happen to have on hand)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red food coloring or 3/4 teaspoon red food coloring paste (Bea Vo recommends Sugarflair Red Extra Coloring Paste, although it’s not typically available in the U.S.)
  • For the cream cheese frosting
  • 1 cup heavy cream, very cold
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone
  • 3/4 cup cream cheese
  • 3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions

  • Make the cake
  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Butter or oil an 8-inch round cake pan and line it with parchment paper.
  • 2. Whisk the eggs, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Still whisking, slowly add the oil in a steady stream until completely combined and the mixture has thickened slightly. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  • 3. Mix the buttermilk, baking soda, and vinegar in a smaller, separate bowl. The mixture should bubble quite actively at the beginning and then fade.
  • 4. In another bowl, combine the flour and cocoa powder and sift to combine.
  • 5. Stir 1/3 of the flour mixture into the egg mixture and mix until well incorporated. Then add half of the bubbly buttermilk mixture and mix until just combined. Repeat with 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the bubbly buttermilk mixture, and, finally, the last of the flour mixture. Mix until thoroughly combined, then add the food coloring and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan.
  • 6. Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 28 to 35 minutes, until a wooden skewer inserted in the middle comes out with almost no crumbs attached and the surface of the cake, when gently pressed with your fingertips, springs back instead of sinks. It may be necessary to bake the cake for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely.
  • Make the cream cheese frosting
  • 7. Whisk or beat the whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
  • 8. In another bowl, beat the mascarpone, cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla until well combined. Add 1/3 of the whipped cream to the cream cheese mixture and beat until combined. Gently fold in the rest of the whipped cream until thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. (This frosting must always be refrigerated.)
  • 9. Cut the cooled cake horizontally into 3 equal layers. Using a spatula or a knife, slather a little of the cream cheese frosting over one layer of cake and top with another layer. Spread a little more frosting over the second layer and top with the final layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the cake.
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Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Kristina R.

Apr 13, 2012

This red velvet cake is wonderful and easily outshines other similar cakes that I’ve had, including red velvet in cupcake form. Plus the frosting is awesome. I’m not a frosting person, but I was eating this straight with a spoon! I made a couple of adjustments to the recipe. Since my grocery store ran out of buttermilk, I made my own by letting 2/3 cup whole milk and 2/3 tablespoon of lemon juice sit for 10 minutes or so. I also couldn’t find red food coloring paste, so instead I used 1 1/2 tablespoons of red food coloring liquid, and the amount resulted in the perfect shade of red velvet cake. I cooked the cake for a total of 45 minutes. Finally, in the future, I would only cut the cake in half rather than into thirds, as it can get messy and the layers are thin.

Testers Choice
Emily Olson

Apr 13, 2012

This Red Velvet Cake is as easy as can be. Simple steps and easy to put together. The frosting is just sweet enough, though I did not add the heavy cream. I prefer a thicker frosting. I would definitely make this cake again, and maybe turn it into cupcakes!

Comments
Comments
  1. Susan says:

    The red dye in red velvet cakes is what has kept me from ever liking it…its odd, chemical flavor is all I can usually taste. Plus it has no real other flavor…it’s just sweet and moist, mostly. I’ve never understood it’s popularity.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Susan, I’m not going to argue with you. Although I am going to say that we did include mention above, in the LC Note, about alternatives to the artificial coloring and the accompanying odd, chemical flavor. That said, it’s a classic of sorts whose appeal seems to know no bounds, and so we wanted to offer the best rendition we could find for those who go weak in the knees at the site of red velvet goodness…

  2. Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

    Oh, how I love red velvet cake. I’d like one for my birthday please, hint, hint!

    • Karen Depp says:

      Happy Birthday to you – we’ll see what we can do about that request. Maybe a pair of red shoes will have to suffice? I am sure that The Big Apple will have some Red Velvet Cake, but probably not as good as this one looks to be. Especially the permutation of the famous frosting.

  3. Richard says:

    I have read that the original (before artificial food coloring) recipe for Red Velvet cake used red beet pulp. Something like a carrot cake. Does anyone have a recipe like that?

    • Richard says:

      Okay, I just found David’s recipe for Chocolate-Beet cake. Any others?

      • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

        I haven’t personally tried one, although I just actually flagged a recipe last week. Let me go find the book and report back. Anyone else? In the meantime, I share what I think is a desire, Richard, to avoid artificial food coloring. In the LC Note that precedes this recipe, we discuss natural alternatives, which are increasingly available both in stores and online.

  4. Sara says:

    Thanks for your recipe, I’ll be sure to try it!

    Just one question – does the dutch process cocoa give it a deeper red colour? I just have hersheys normal cocoa from the grocery store.

    Also, can I use butter instead of oil? And how much?

    Thanks!

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Sara,

      The reddish brown Dutch processed cocoa may lend a bit more red to the cake but defining color comes from the red food paste. As far as using butter in place of the oil, I would not recommend it. Butter and oil are different in both the fat percentages and physical states, and their usage affect the resultant texture of the cake. Hope this helps!

      Beth

  5. Hotly Spiced says:

    Hi, Amanda from Lambs Ears and Honey recommended your blog to me. This red velvet cake looks incredible and I do like the additional ingredients added to the cream cheese frosting. Good to know there are some more natural options out there now to turn this cake red.

    • Lindsay Myers says:

      Amanda was so kind to recommend the site, and you are so kind to visit us! It is nice to know you won’t be cramming your cake full of suspicious dyes, isn’t it? It’s just not the same without the color. If you try baking it, please let us know how you like it–especially that frosting!

  6. Jamie says:

    Gorgeous… and just when I finished the last slice of Devil’s Food Cake I found on LC! And I am not so much into cream cheese frostings but say the word mascarpone and whipped cream and I am there! Beautiful cake, looks scrumptious, and it is now on my to-do list!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Liking the sounds of that to do list, Jamie. We’re going to take a nudge from you and rethink our to do list, bumping a few things from it onto our honey do list. Let us know when you give this recipe a twirl…

  7. Stephanie says:

    Hi, thank you for the wonderful recipe. I tried making it yesterday and it turned out beautifully, my family loved it! =D And it was my first attempt to make cakes too!

    I want to make this cake for my boyfriend’s birthday, but he prefers lighter cakes (not too moist). Is there any way that I could make it less moist/lighter?

    Thanks!

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Stephanie,

      Congratulations on your baking success! Red velvet is one of my favorite cakes, rather perfect with moist, chocolatey layers. I would be a tad reluctant to mess around with the ingredients to alter the texture as baking is such an exact science and the leavening process could be impacted. If your boyfriend likes a lighter cake, you might want to try this lovely white cake http://leitesculinaria.com/79012/recipes-basic-white-cake.html. You could customize it by adding his favorite frosting, and add another cake to your repertoire.

  8. Pan says:

    Hi! I’d like to make this for my dad’s birthday. Since it’s only 4 of us in the family, my mom suggested to make a 6″ cake. I’m still new to baking, can I convert the recipe to 6″? Will the baking time change? Can I just use the same measurements for the ingredients to make taller cake?

    Sorry I am asking so much. I just want my dad to have a delicious cake! :)

    Thanks :D

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Pan, this is a wonderful cake. I would suggest, since you are new to baking, that you follow the recipe as written because using a smaller pan will affect the cook time. Your Dad will be thrilled. (And I don’t think that you will have any problem polishing off the cake!)

  9. Cathy says:

    Why has everyone gotten away from the original icing used on Red Velvet Cake? The proper icing is a cooked flour Buttercream Frosting. It’s super simple, and basically foolproof. I have a 50+ year old recipe that uses the original frosting. I have had cream cheese frosting on a Red Velvet Cake and it makes the cake taste totally different. For those that would like to try it, here is the recipe.

    Mom Mom’s Buttercream Icing

    2 tablespoons cornstarch or 4 tablespoons flour
    1 cup whole milk
    1 cup butter
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract

    Mix the cornstarch or flour with the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook until thickened, whisking the entire time. Be careful not to let it boil or brown. Let cool.

    Beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy. Add the vanilla and then slowly add the cooked cornstarch mixture. Beat until it looks and feels like whipped cream.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Many thanks, Cathy, for the history lesson and for divulging your recipe. We don’t know how or why cream cheese frosting came to be the default crown for Red Velvet Cake, but we can see how a less tangy frosting would be lovely.

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