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.

Red Velvet Cake

  • Quick Glance
  • (3)
  • 1 H
  • 2 H
  • Serves 8 to 12
5/5 - 3 reviews
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  • For the cake


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.

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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!


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  1. 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 😀

    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!)

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

    1. 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…

  4. 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!

  5. 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!


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