Red Velvet Cake Recipe
This 3 layered cake is everything you would expect from a red velvet cake recipe. Light in texture, tangy, with a hint of cocoa and frosted with cream cheese frosting.Jump to Recipe
WHAT IS RED VELVET CAKE?
Contrary to popular believe, red velvet cake is not just vanilla cake with red food coloring. Red velvet cake has a very distinct texture and flavor because of the ingredients used. So, what is red velvet cake made of?
This cake is soft and light in texture that is most often accomplished by using cake flour which is less dense than all-purpose flour. My recipe uses all-purpose flour but we found the perfect combination to still yield an ultra soft and tender texture.
Red velvet cake also has cocoa powder and a slight tang from the buttermilk and vinegar. The leavening agent combined with the vinegar creates an immediate chemical reaction that results in rising the cake and contributes to the the ‘velvet’ crumb texture. Don’t skip out on adding the vinegar or swapping the buttermilk!
What is the best cocoa powder to use? Natural, unsweetened cocoa powder is the best to use because it is slightly more acidic and lighter in color compared to dutch process cocoa powder. But either option work great.
This cake is basically all the best components of cake. Light, airy, tangy, with a slight taste of cocoa that pairs so well with cream cheese frosting.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST RED VELVET CAKE
A layered cake can feel intimidating to make but follow these tips and you are sure to make the perfect cake every time!
- Use Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Power- This cocoa powder is slightly more acidic compared to dutch process and slightly lighter in color. The acid from the buttermilk, milk, and cocoa powder in red velvet cake all contribute to the distinct tangy flavor and light texture.
- Use room temperature ingredients- Set eggs to sit a room temperature for 30 minutes before baking or in a bowl with warm water for 5-10 minutes.
- Measure flour accurately- Always scoop flour with a spoon into measuring cup and level off with a knife for the most accurate measurement (unless you have scale at home). Otherwise you may have a cake that is too dense. Tips on how to properly measure flour- Instagram Reel videos!
- Missing Buttermilk, make it! If you are missing buttermilk, it can easily be made at home. Just add 1 Tablespoon of vinegar or lemon and allow to sit for 5 minutes. It will appear curdled, just whisk until smooth before adding to the cake batter.
- Make sure your baking soda is not expired- Baking Soda and Baking Powder can expire within 5-6 months so I always write the date I open the box. This may impact your cake from rising properly! You will know if it has expired no bubbles appear after adding the vinegar.
- Use a neutral oil- grapeseed oil is the most neutral oil and can withstand high temperatures, which is why we use this in all of our bakes. Another great option is vegetable oil.
- Ensuring the cake doesn’t stick to the cake pan- We have a 10 second video on IG showing the best way to get those cakes out! Spray with oil, line with a parchment round, spray with oil and lightly dust with flour.
HOW TO MAKE THE CAKE AND FROSTING AHEAD OF TIME
If you are planning ahead or just don’t have the time to bake and frost the cake within a day of serving, then follow the baking timelines below!
- If making the cake more than 2 days before you plan on serving: Bake the cake layers and allow to cool completely on a cooling rack. Wrap each layer of the cake in plastic wrap (twice) then foil and place in a freezer ziplock bag. Store flat in the freezer. The cake can be made 3 weeks in advance.
- Take cake out of the freezer the day before you serve and assemble and frost cake within 24 hours.
- Making the frosting in advance: Frosting can be made 3 days in advance and stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator. Take frosting out of the refrigerator for 1 hour to soften, or until it reaches room temperature. In a stand mixer, re-whip the frosting until light and airy. Frosting should be spreadable.
HOW TO STORE THE CAKE
How a cake needs to be stored is typically based on the type of frosting. Cream cheese does need to be refrigerated.
Placing cake in the refrigerator can actually pull out moisture and also pick up any odors that are present from other food. If placing in the refrigerator, it is recommended to store in a cake box or cake storage container.
The cake is best served at room temperatures- take the cake out of the refrigerator up to 1 hour before serving.
The cake can also be cut into individual pieces and wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil and placed in a freezer ziplock bag for quicker thawing.
ASSEMBLING THE CAKE
Assembling a layered cake doesn’t have to be complicated or require any special equipment. We have several short Reel Videos on IG that show you how to assemble a layered cake! Check them out here:
DECORATING THE CAKE
This cake has a beautiful red color which is why we like the cake layers to slightly show through the frosting.
To achieve this, evenly apply a layer of frosting on the outside and using a bench scraper, gently scrape off any excess frosting until the cake layers begin to slightly show through. See video below!
OTHER CAKE RECIPES TO TRY
Red Velvet Cake Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 3 tbl unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup oil vegetable, canola, or grapeseed
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 1oz bottle red food coloring
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 3 tbl warm water
- 1 tsp baking soda
Cream Cheese Frosting- enough to frost and fill 3 layer 8” cake
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 12 oz cream cheese 1 1/2 package- room temperature
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbl vanilla extract
- 4 1/2-5 cups sifted confectioners sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350°F degrees. Line 3 8” cake pans with parchment rounds, spray with oil and lightly dust with flour. Set aside
- In a medium bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and sugar and beat on medium speed for 3-5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add oil and mix to combine.
- Add eggs one at a time, mixing until each egg is incorporated before adding the next egg. Add the red food coloring and beat until combined.
- With the mixer on medium-low speed, alternate adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk; beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Be careful to not over mix the batter. Stop the mixer when a few ribbons of flour are visible.
- Combine the warm water, baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl. Bubbles will begin to form- add to the batter and mix for 10-20 seconds on medium-low speed.
- Evenly distribute the cake batter into each prepared cake pan and bake for 30 minutes. Check cakes by inserting a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean or with a few crumbs- cakes are done! *Each oven varies and baking times may differ by 5-10 minutes. Check cake for doneness at 28 minutes.
- Place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes in the pan before turning the cake pan upside down to release the cake to completely cool.
- Prepare the frosting
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 2-4 minutes or until well combined. Add pinch of salt
- Sift confectioners sugar and add 1 cup at a time. Beat on medium speed until combined before adding additional confectioners sugar. Add vanilla. Beat until smooth and spreadable. Test frosting for sweetness at 4 1/2 cups of sugar before adding additional confectioners sugar.
- If any of the cake layers are domed on top, use a serrated knife to cut off the top to even the cake layers before stacking.
- Using an 8" or 10" cake board, add a small amount of frosting to act as glue for the first cake layer to stick to the board. Add one layer of cake.
- Using a giant cookie/ice cream scooper, add 3 heaping scoops of frosting, about 3/4 cup- 1 cup. Evenly spread across the cake. Add the second layer of cake and repeat process. For the final cake layer, turn topside down.
- Apply a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake. This is the crumb coat and does not need to look perfect. Place in the freezer for 10 minutes. This will set the frosting and lock in the crumbs so they do not show up on the final frosting.
- Once the cake has chilled, add another layer of cream cheese frosting.