Red Velvet Cake

This red velvet cake is the best rendition of the southern classic we’ve experienced. Buttermilk and cocoa give it the classic flavor, while a lighter mascarpone and cream cheese icing modernize it. It’s also simple as can be to make.

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 really into artificial coloring. We’re also not passing judgment or inciting ire, mind you. We’re simply saying that if you’d prefer not to use an 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.

☞ Contents

Red Velvet Cake

A red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting on a cake stand
This red velvet cake is the best rendition of the southern classic we’ve experienced. Buttermilk and cocoa give it the classic flavor, while a lighter mascarpone and cream cheese icing modernize it. It’s also simple as can be to make.

Prep 20 mins
Cook 45 mins
Total 2 hrs
8 to 12 servings
491 kcal
5 / 4 votes
Print RecipeBuy the Tea with Bea cookbook

Want it? Click it.


For the cake

  • Butter for the pan
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups superfine sugar (or just blitz granulated sugar in a blender 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 (either low-fat or full-fat)
  • 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 (see *Note above)
  • 1 recipe 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.

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.

Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 491kcal (25%)Carbohydrates: 53g (18%)Protein: 5g (10%)Fat: 30g (46%)Saturated Fat: 4g (25%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 23gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 49mg (16%)Sodium: 677mg (29%)Potassium: 89mg (3%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 32g (36%)Vitamin A: 101IU (2%)Calcium: 36mg (4%)Iron: 2mg (11%)

#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.

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.

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. Is there a reason it can’t be baked in 2x 8″ pans instead of 1 pan and cutting into layers? Thank you in advance.

    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.

  2. 5 stars
    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!

  3. 5 stars
    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! 🙂

  4. 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. 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…!

    2. 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.

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