Red velvet cake is a vibrant red cake, flavored with buttermilk and cocoa powder. Frosted with sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting, this classic favorite is cake perfection. This is the best red velvet cake recipe that is easy to make and hard to resist!
Ingredients for Red Velvet Cake
Red velvet cake
- All-purpose flour
- Granulated sugar
- Baking soda: Interacts with the buttermilk and white vinegar to help the cake layers rise.
- Cocoa powder: Use regular natural cocoa powder as opposed to dark cocoa powder to have bright red layers.
- Salt: A flavor enhancer.
- Vegetable oil: You can use any neutral baking oil, including canola oil.
- Eggs: Room temperature.
- Buttermilk: Room temperature.
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla extract gives the cake great flavor.
- White vinegar: Trust me, you won’t taste it. It helps activate the baking soda and is a classic ingredient in red velvet cake.
- Red gel food coloring: Go with red gel food coloring for the brightest red color. I don’t recommend using liquid red food coloring because you will need a TON to get vibrant red color.
Cream cheese frosting
- Unsalted butter: Room temperature.
- Cream cheese: Room temperature.
- Powdered sugar: Also known as confectioners’ sugar or icing sugar.
- Vanilla extract: Vanilla extract gives the frosting great flavor.
- Salt: To contrast the sweetness of the frosting.
How to Make Red Velvet Cake
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and prepare three 7-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and parchment paper circles.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt).
- Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture (vegetable oil, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla extract, white vinegar, and red gel food coloring).
- Mix the batter until all the ingredients are well combined.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans. Use a kitchen scale to create even layers.
- Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 30 minutes until the layers spring back when gently touched.
- Cool the cakes in the cake pans for about 20 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whip the butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until light and fluffy.
- Add half of the powdered sugar and mix on low. Then add the remaining half and continue to mix on low speed.
- Add in the vanilla extract and salt and continue to mix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure everything is well mixed.
- Turn the mixer to medium and whip for 2 to 3 minutes until smooth and creamy.
Red Velvet Cake Recipe Tips
Bake perfect cake layers
Check out my baking tips blog post on 10 Tips for Baking Perfect Cakes for simple tips and tricks to bake the best cake layers.
Smooth out the cream cheese frosting
If your cream cheese frosting has a lot of air bubbles, then there are two easy ways to smooth your frosting out. First, you can mix your frosting with a spatula by hand for a few minutes until smooth. My preferred method is to mix the frosting on the lowest speed on a stand mixer with a paddle attachment for about 3-5 minutes.
Assembling the red velvet cake
Check out my baking tutorial blog post on how to frost a layer cake to learn the basic steps involved to assemble this red velvet cake. For the cake pictured, I used a Wilton 1M piping tip to create the swirls of cream cheese frosting on the top of the cake.
Decorate with red velvet cake crumbs
A fun way to decorate the cake is to sprinkle crumbs on the top and sides. After the cake is leveled, crumble the excess cake from the “cake domes” to create crumbs. After you frost the cake, sprinkle crumbs on the top or sides of the cake. A note of caution: The cake crumbs will dry out in the refrigerator, so I suggest using this method only if you plan on serving the cake the same day.
Storing and serving
Red velvet cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days. Cover any exposed cake with plastic wrap to prevent the cake from drying out. To serve, bring the cake to room temperature for the best taste and texture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use a different size cake pan?
Yes, you can! Please note that baking times will vary depending on the size of the cake pans. For this recipe, you could use four 6-inch pans or two 8-inch or 9-inch cake pans. My favorite way to check and see if the cake layers are done baking is to gently touch the top of the cake. If it springs back, the cake is done baking. If it sinks in, it needs more time in the oven.
Can I use red liquid food coloring?
I do not recommend using liquid food coloring for this recipe. To get the bright red color, you would need a ton of liquid coloring which can impact the taste and texture of the cake. Red gel food coloring is the way to go!
Does this recipe make red velvet cupcakes?
I do not recommend using this recipe to make red velvet cupcakes. Cake recipes are often formulated different than cupcake recipes. Check out my recipe for red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting!
Red Velvet Cake
- 3 7-inch round cake pans
- Stand mixer or electric hand mixer
Red Velvet Cake
- 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 1 ¼ tsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder regular, not dark cocoa powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups vegetable oil or other neutral cooking oil
- 2 eggs room temperature
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tbsp red gel food coloring
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 cups unsalted butter room temperature
- 8 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 7 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp salt adjust to taste
Red Velvet Cake
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Prepare three 7-inch cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and parchment circles.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.
- Add the wet ingredients (vegetable oil, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla extract, white vinegar, and red gel food coloring) to the dry ingredients. Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together until the batter is combined and smooth.
- Portion the cake batter evenly between the cake pans. Use a kitchen scale to ensure that the batter is equally divided.
- Bake cakes for approximately 30 minutes until the cake layers spring back when gently touched. *Please note that baking times will vary if you use different sizes of cake pans.
- Remove cake pans from the oven and allow the cake layers to cool in the pan for about 15-20 minutes. Remove the cake layers and transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a mixing bowl with an electric mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, add room temperature butter and cream cheese. Whip on medium-high speed for 2 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.
- Add half of the powdered sugar and mix on low to combine. Add the second half of the powdered sugar and continue to mix until fully incorporated.
- Add in vanilla extract and salt.
- Turn the mixer on medium speed and whip for 2 to 3 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally, until the frosting is smooth and creamy.
Assembling the Red Velvet Cake
- Level the cake layers using a serrated knife.
- Place one cake layer on a cake board or plate. Add desired amount of frosting to the top of the layer and spread evenly.
- Continue to repeat this process until the layers are stacked.
- Spread a very thin layer of frosting all over the cake (crumb coat). Chill the cake for 20-30 minutes.
- Add the final layer of frosting with an offset spatula. Use a cake scraper to remove excess frosting and to smooth the sides and top of the cake.
- If desired, add cake crumbs to the sides or top from the cake domes that were cut off when leveling your layers. Pipe a border of frosting around the top edge of the cake using a Wilton 1M piping tip.