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. 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.

    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.

  2. 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…

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