The BEST Red Velvet Cake
This recipe for classic red velvet cake is made completely from scratch and features a tangy cream cheese frosting. Make this cake for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and birthdays!
If you’ve been making red velvet cake from a box until now, wait until you try the from scratch version. Only then will you understand why “velvet” is in the recipe name!
You see, it’s called “red velvet” both because of the cake’s signature crimson color, but also because of its velvety texture. The combination of natural cocoa powder, vinegar, and buttermilk in the batter creates a unique texture that no other cake has.
This crowd favorite cake might be bolder in appearance than your average layer cake, but it’s incredibly easy to prepare and requires no special ingredients or complicated prep work.
Enjoy this homemade red velvet cake any time of year — Valentine’s Day is the obvious choice, but this also makes a wonderful Christmas, birthday, or “just because” cake!
What Flavor Is Red Velvet Cake?
Red velvet cake isn’t just a prettier version of chocolate cake. Yes, there’s cocoa powder in the batter, but the overall flavor profile isn’t chocolatey.
If a cake is labeled as “red velvet,” that means it will have a mild cocoa flavor, but will also taste buttery and have vanilla undertones. The cake itself is also lightly tangy, which is complemented nicely by the cream cheese frosting.
Ingredients for This Recipe
The trick to achieving the signature color and texture of a red velvet cake is to use the right ingredients. A detailed ingredient list can be found in the recipe card below, but let’s quickly review the main things you’ll need to make this recipe:
- Cake Flour: I suggest using cake flour because it has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, which creates a softer, lighter cake. When it comes to cake flour, two of my favorite brands are Pillsbury Softasilk and Swans Down. If you don’t have any on hand, you can use my cake flour substitute.
- Cocoa Powder: There’s 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder in this cake. The cake isn’t super chocolatey, but it has a hint of chocolate that you expect in a red velvet cake.
- Butter & Oil: The oil helps to keep the cake incredibly moist while the butter adds a rich, buttery flavor.
- Buttermilk: The buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to create a soft, tender crumb. If you don’t have any buttermilk on hand, you can make your own using my homemade buttermilk substitute.
- Vinegar: You’ll need 1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar.
- Red Food Coloring: You’ll need one 1-ounce bottle of liquid red food coloring to make this recipe. I typically use McCormick red food coloring.
How to Make Red Velvet Cake
Despite its bold color, red velvet is one of the easiest layer cakes to prepare. Here’s an overview of the baking process:
- Prep the cake pans: Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with non-stick spray and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- Sift together the dry ingredients: Whisk together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Then, sift the ingredients to ensure there are no clumps.
- Mix together the wet ingredients: I suggest creaming the butter and sugar together in a separate bowl for about 4 to 5 minutes. Creaming the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy incorporates more air into your cake batter, creating a softer and lighter cake. Once the butter and sugar are ready, mix in the eggs one at a time. Then, stir in the oil, red food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Don’t add the buttermilk just yet!
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk: To the wet ingredients, you’ll need to add the dry ingredients in three increments, alternating with the buttermilk. Make sure to start and end with the dry ingredients and mix in each addition just until combined.
- Bake: Divide the cake batter between the two prepared cake pans. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake layers cool in the pans for 15 minutes before inverting onto a wire cooling rack.
- Make the cream cheese frosting: I like to use a stand mixer to do this, but a hand mixer works just fine too! Beat the cream cheese until smooth, then add the butter and mix for an additional minute. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until well combined.
- Assemble the layer cake: I recommend leveling the tops of each cake layer using a cake leveler or a knife. From there, it’s just a matter of spreading frosting over the first layer, placing the second layer on top, and then frosting the top and sides of the cake. An offset spatula makes easy work of this!
Additional Frosting Options
I used my favorite cream cheese frosting for this cake and increased the amount to have enough to frost it. If you want to try another frosting, my vanilla buttercream frosting or ermine frosting would be delicious too.
Can This Recipe Be Used to Make Cupcakes?
Yes! This recipe will make about 30 to 32 cupcakes and take 15 to 18 minutes to bake. If you prefer less cupcakes, you can try my red velvet cupcake recipe instead. It’s very similar to this recipe, but scaled down to make 16 cupcakes.
- Be sure that all of your ingredients are at room temperature before getting started.
- Make sure to sift the dry ingredients to remove any lumps of cocoa powder. This will also help to keep the cake soft and light!
- If you want to make it easier to get the cake layers out of your pans I suggest using parchment paper. I use these parchment liners from Wilton and LOVE them.
- Alternate mixing the dry ingredients in three additions with the buttermilk, this will help to prevent over mixing the cake batter.
More Red Velvet Desserts You’ll Love!
Red Velvet Cake
For the red velvet cake:
- 2 ⅔ cups cake flour (spooned & leveled) (295 grams)
- ¼ cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder (22 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (115 grams)
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar (350 grams)
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- ½ cup canola or vegetable oil (120 ml)
- 1 (1-ounce) bottle liquid red food color
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 ⅓ cups buttermilk at room temperature (320 ml)
For the cream cheese frosting:
- 12 ounces brick-style cream cheese softened (340 grams)
- ¾ cup unsalted butter softened (175 grams)
- 3 cups powdered sugar (360 grams)
- 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- To make the red velvet cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray two 9-inch cake pans well with nonstick cooking spray, line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper, and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Then, sift the dry ingredients to remove any lumps of cocoa powder. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs and mix until fully combined, then mix in the oil, red food coloring, vanilla extract, and vinegar, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Make sure to mix in each addition until just combined and be careful not to over mix the batter.
- Evenly distribute the cake batter between the two prepared cake pans and spread the batter around into one even layer. Tap the pans on the counter 2 to 3 times to remove any air bubbles from the cakes.
- Bake for 28 to 32 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Carefully remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool in the pans for 15 to 20 minutes. Then, carefully remove the cakes from the cake pans and place on the wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the cream cheese frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter and mix for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until well combined and smooth.
- Mix in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue mixing until fully combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- To assemble the cake: Level the tops of each cake with a knife or cake leveler. Place one of the cake layers on a cake stand or plate, top with a layer of frosting, and smooth it out into one even layer. Place the second layer on top, then use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake.
3 words: “Ohhh Myyy God!!!, I baked her for my Pastor’s appreciation Sunday, and it was not only beautiful on the outside, but when they cut the cake, color and moistness was very evident. I was soooo proud of how she came out. And then I looked for the best tell-tale sign, clean plates; almost to the point of wanting to lick the last crumb.
Thank you for sharing this recipe. I’m about to make it again for a senior’s birthday brunch. I’m sure she’s going to enjoy as well as her guests!!! ooh yea it was my first attempt too!!!
My first attempt at making this cake was a disaster but that was my own fault. I used a different kind of flour and my buttermilk was not room temperature and it became VERY dry. Trying again this weekend and I’m nervous it’ll be dry again. I’d like to make in advance and freeze the cake overnight and frost and assemble the day of, letting it thaw in the fridge all day but do you think it’ll be ok in a glass dome cake pan in the fridge all day? What are your recommendations on storing the cake fully decorated before serving! Thank you! Btw the taste is there, I just have to perfect the moistness
As long as you follow the recipe as written, it will be moist. It should be fine in a glass dome in the fridge too. I typically store mine in a plastic cake carrier/container in the fridge.
Hello, I would like to make this cake for my child’s birthday. I just want to use a 2-layer 6″ cake pan as I only have that size on hand. Would it be ok to halve the amount of ingredients?
Also, block cream cheese is not available where I live, only spreadable. Can I use the spreadable one for the frosting and can I use colored gel to create colorful frosting without compromising the consistency?
Thanks in advance!
Hi, Marie! Yes, you can cut this recipe in half or use my red velvet cupcake recipe to make it easier. If you use spreadable cream cheese, the frosting will be really soft. If you’re wanting a thicker frosting, you could try my ermine frosting recipe. It’s easy to make and it pairs really well with red velvet cake. Gel food coloring would be fine to use too!
Hiiii, so I just made this cake. It tastes really good. However, it’s not moist enough like it should be so I can’t serve it.
I’m using a 6×3 in pan and filled it 2/3 of the way. Do you know how long the bake time would be for this size pan? I’d like to try and make it again tomorrow but I can’t have this happen again.
Thank you. 🙂
Did you make sure to spoon and level your flour and double check the measurements for all of the other ingredients? And did you use cake flour? If so, it may have just been over baked. I’m not sure on the baking time for a pan that size, but it’s done when the cake springs back when you lightly touch it and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
I love this recipe. It’s a family favorite!
This was a good bake. And paired it with butter frosting.
Has anyone made mini Bundt cakes with this recipe? Anything I should do ? I want to try that
I haven’t, but I think it would work fine!
My husband wanted a homemade red velvet cake after coming home after waaayyyy to many years. I found this recipe (my 1st homemade cake BTW). He’s 64 years young and has never eaten a better cake. Since then and it’s only been a year it’s been show cased to his friends and our family. BEST EVER!!!! Is the response I’ve gotten. The color, flavor, moistness… perfect.
It felt like a dry cake. I didn’t find it moist like other recipes I’ve tried. Can I add something that will add more moisture to the cake?
Did you make any adjustments to the recipe?
Substitute butter for additional oil
Love your blog! How much do you increase your frosting recipe for red velvet cake? Do you double frosting recipe?
Thank you! Do you mean another frosting recipe on my site? For the vanilla buttercream or ermine frosting recipes, I’d recommend increasing them by half. The cream cheese frosting in the recipe is enough to cover the whole cake. I hope that helps!
Absolutely delicious! A hit at the baby shower I made them for!
@Danielle I am in Swaziland and I have never seen anything called buttermilk in the local shops. What alternative can I use?
You can make your own, I have a post here that explains how to make buttermilk.
the cake looks so good and its my favorite kind. growing my mom used to make this for me for my birthday but she always would make cook frosting not cream cheese
Can I make this cake recipe to and bake in two 9 x 13 pans?
The batter is enough for one 9×13 pan. You could bake it in two 9×13 pans, just keep in mind that the cake layers will be thinner.
This is a family favorite!!! Absolutely perfect texture and taste!! Thank you ?
Danielle, This recipe is an absolute home run! All of your recipes are but this one may be the best of all. Easy to make both the cake (I made cupcakes) and the cream cheese frosting. The frosting by the way is SO good! Got so many compliments on it! Thanks so much for sharing!
I don’t bake much and this was my first cake from scratch. Turned out absolutely amazing! I have now made this 3 times already and it always delivers! Amazing recipe, thanks a lot!
I just made this recipe tonight into cupcakes and mini cupcakes. They taste delicious! But idk what I did wrong. Half the cupcakes rose normally and others look flat and weird. I set the nice ones aside for a work birthday I made them for, and taste tested a wonky looking one and it broke apart, was moist, but the very bottom seemed very moist…not raw, just as if it settled weird. They all passed the toothpick test and I actually baked them for 20ish minutes because I thought the flat ones were due to being undercooked or something. I have pictures if needed??♀️
I’m not sure what happened? Were the ones that baked flat in a different pan and baked later than the ones that rose properly? Was your batter thoroughly mixed together?
I would like to make the red velvet cake. Is it possible to make a smaller version of this cake I only have 8″ and 7″ sandwich tins.
Also can you half the ingredients for the mixture for the cup cakes to make 8 instead of 16.
I might have to use Self Raising flour.
This recipe would be enough for three 8-inch cake pans or you could use my red velvet cupcake recipe instead and divide it between a couple of cake pans. For my cupcake recipe, you could probably cut it in half to make less cupcakes. It does call for one large egg, so I would recommend lightly beating the egg and only using half. I also wouldn’t recommend using self-rising flour, it has baking powder added to it and this recipe only uses baking soda.
Danielle keep it up. Your recipies are the best. Continue to share your talent and you are doing a great job.
Thank you, Ezekiel! I really appreciate the kind comment!
To bake 3 6′ layers.
Would I make one times this recipe? Or play safe and do 1.5 times the recipe?
Also great recipe thank you!
Hi, Kay! This recipe will be plenty for three 6-inch cake pans. You’ll probably have some batter left over, but you could use it to make cupcakes.
This red velvet recipe is exactly what I was looking for – that good ol home baked cake made from scratch and with lots of love! I became disinterested in “store bought” red velvet cakes because they didn’t have what this cake has. So, I figured… if you want something done right, then you should do it yourself. I followed this recipe to the “T” and it turned out great. I HIGHLY recommend this recipe if you’re looking for an authentic tasting Red Velvet Cake. Two enthusiastic thumbs up!!
Can this cake be torted, or split the layers to make 4 layers instead of the two? Or will it be too crumbly to handle?
I think that would be fine, but I would recommend chilling the cake layers in the refrigerator for an hour or two to make them easier to work with.
I just discovered your recipe yesterday so I tried it out today for my daughter’s birthday celebration and I must admit it very worth ..
The compliments that came through alone was astonishing..
thanks for sharing your recipe with the world ..
Regards all the way from Germany..
A very nice texture and flavour, which is the most important thing, but the colour was definitely not as vivid as the photo, or as other red velvet recipes I have tried in the past. I even tried to bump up the colour by adding some red food colouring gel.
I made cupcakes so will fancy them up with ermine frosting (or possibly Swiss meringue buttercream.)
Wow wow wow! I received so many compliments on this cake. It was perfect! I followed the recipe perfectly except for the food dye. I used a scale for the dry ingredients. It was beautiful and so yummy! I printed the recipe so I can bake it again and again!
Hello Danielle. I only have one 9-inch cake pan so can i bake one layer first, and then the other one?
Yes, that would be fine!
Thanks I will make it for my boys birthday day celebration on next week God willing.
Thank You So Much 4 Always including weights & optional baking vessels !! You’re The Best !!! ☺️Happy Baking 😋
If i want to use gel food coloring instead of liquid, how much should i use in this recipe ?
I would start with 2 teaspoons and add more as needed.
Hi may I ask how much more for the recipe if I made a 10in cake of this please? Thank you
For two 10-inch cake layers, I would increase the recipe by half. You will probably have some cake batter left over, but you could use it to make cupcakes.