Red Velvet Cake

This red velvet cake is the best rendition of the southern classic we’ve experienced. It’s also simple as can be to make. Here’s how.

A red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting on a cake stand

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. [Editor’s Note: The frosting on this cake isn’t the only thing folks are waxing poetic about. It’s sheer red velvet voluptuousness through and through.]–Bea Vo

*What kind of red dye should I use?

We’re not so into artificial coloring. We’re not passing judgment or inciting ire, mind you. We’re simply saying that if you’d prefer not to taint your dessert with artificial tint yet still want to have your red velvet cake and eat it, too, there’s an increasing array of natural food colorings nowadays at natural food stores as well as online. They’re all minus the multisyllabic ingredients and frighteningly numbered names like Red No. 40. Some of the ones we’ve encountered most frequently are India Tree and Watkins brand. Don’t worry, you’ll still be seeing red when you slice into this cake.

Red Velvet Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 1 H
  • 2 H
  • Serves 8 to 12
5/5 - 3 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Tea with Bea cookbook

Want it? Click it.


Ingredients sent!

Send Grocery List

Email the grocery list for this recipe to:

Is required
Sign me up for your or newsletter, too!
Is required
  • For the cake
  • For the cream cheese frosting


Make the cake

Preheat the oven to 350°F (176°C). Butter or oil an 8-inch round cake pan and line it with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and salt. Still whisking, slowly add the oil in a steady stream until completely combined and the mixture has thickened slightly. Stir in the vanilla extract.

In a smaller, separate bowl, mix the buttermilk, baking soda, and vinegar. The mixture should bubble quite a lot at the beginning and then settle down.

In another bowl, combine the flour and cocoa powder and sift to combine.

Stir 1/3 of the flour mixture into the egg mixture and mix until well incorporated. 

Add half of the bubbly buttermilk mixture to the batter 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.

Add the food coloring and stir until thoroughly incorporated. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan.

Bake the cake for 35 to 45 minutes, until a toothpick or 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 remaining indented.

Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 10 minutes. Then invert the cake onto the rack and turn it right side up to cool completely.

Make the cream cheese frosting

In a large bowl, whisk or beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.

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 at least 15 minutes. (The frosting be refrigerated prior to using.)

Assemble the red velvet cake

Cut the cooled cake horizontally into 2 or 3 equal layers. Place the bottom cake layer on a cake stand or platter. 

Using a spatula or a knife, slather a little of the cream cheese frosting evenly over the bottom layer. Top with the remaining layer(s) of cake, spreading a little more frosting over the the top and the remaining frosting along the sides of the cake.

Slice and serve. Originally published April 13, 2012.

Print RecipeBuy the Tea with Bea cookbook

Want it? Click it.

Recipe Testers Reviews

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 baked the cake for a total of 45 minutes. 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.

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 didn't add the heavy cream as I prefer a thicker frosting.

I would definitely make this cake again—and maybe turn it into cupcakes!

The flavors of this rich, moist red velvet cake— slightly chocolatey, not too sweet, with a creamy, cream-cheesy frosting—are what make it a Tester's Choice.

Making the batter wasn't complicated, although I did buzz regular granulated sugar to get fine sugar and it's always tricky knowing how much to buzz to get fine but now powdered sugar. Where I struggled was with the baking. After the first 35 minutes, the batter in the middle was still very wet, so I did another 5 minutes. Then I did at least four 2-minute additions. I was worried that the edges would come out dry and overdone. Since I was giving the cake away, I don't know the answer to that question. My tasting notes are based on a couple cupcakes I made with some of the batter as I absolutely had to try it. The cupcakes, of course, took much less time. The finished cake didn't sink in the middle when it cooled, so I guess it was done.

It looked like a marvelous cake (despite my poor frosting capabilities) and I definitely need to try it again. It traveled quite well in a 10-by-10-by-10 cake box.


#leitesculinaria on Instagram If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


    1. Barbara, we haven’t tried it this way, so we can’t say how dividing the batter would affect the bake time and moisture of the finished cake, although we’d certainly agree that it would be easier for assembling! If you do try it, you’ll need to watch the cake closely for doneness and expect the baking time to be shorter.

  1. Just made this cake for my daughter’s birthday and it was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!! Every year for each of my 3 kids birthdays I make a homemade cake and red velvet is usually the cake of choice. I’ve been trying different recipes for years and this is my favorite one to date. The crumb on the cake is perfectly moist, spongy and the perfect density for a red velvet cake. You can even see where the little bubbles formed from the vinegar and baking soda mixture in the batter. It’s incredibly flavorful with not too much or little cocoa. The only thing I changed was the icing because I didn’t have the mascarpone and cream so I just made a traditional cream cheese buttercream icing…but I will be trying your icing recipe next time. BRAVO and thank you!

    1. Christina, you dear thing, you have made our MONTH by sharing your experience and kind words with us! We sorta live for this kinds of feedback, so thank you! Really pleased to hear you love this cake as much as all of us do and that the experience will be part of your family birthdays. Food is about so much more than just food, isn’t it? Memories and emotions, too. Wish your daughter happy birthday from all of us!

  2. Oh, I love red velvet cakes! They are a mixture of tastiness and creaminess! Glad to have found your exquisite recipe. Will try making this tomorrow! :)

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

    2. That buttercream/whipped cream icing circa Jennifer Appel 2007 from the Red Velvet Cake Recipe from back then is what I use a few times each year for my coconut pineapple cake, an absolute hit with my family. It calls for 2 cups of milk with 3/8 cup of all purpose flour whisked in. In a heavy bottom saucepan stir constantly over medium high heat until smooth and thick, anywhere from 12 to 18 minutes. Cool at least 50 minutes. Remove the skin that has formed on the top and discard. At medium high speed beat the butter, 4 sticks unsalted cold, and 2 cups sugar until quite fluffy, 4 to 5 minutes. Add in 2 tsp vanilla extract and mix thoroughly. Incorporate the cooled milk mixture in thirds beating well after each addition.
      This stuff is delicious and I visited this site today , Christmas Eve 2019, to see if your experts have revolutionized this gorgeous icing since 2007. So glad I printed this out back then. Thank you.

      1. Cynthia, thank you for sharing your frosting recipe! Glad that works for you, we do like the texture from icings made over heat. You’re very welcome and much magic this holiday season to you and yours…!

  4. 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

    1. 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!)

  5. 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?


    1. 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. You could customize it by adding his favorite frosting, and add another cake to your repertoire.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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!

  8. 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?


    1. 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!


  9. 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?

      1. 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.

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

    1. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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…

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Attach it below. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.

Rate this recipe!

Have you tried this recipe? Let us know what you think.

Upload a picture of your dish