This red velvet cake is a show-stopping dessert! Paired with a tangy cream cheese frosting and a gorgeous cake crumb topping, this cake is extra moist, fluffy, and buttery with vanilla and a hint of chocolate.


Don’t you love easy cake recipes that come together quickly and bake up beautifully without a hitch? That’s exactly what you’re getting with this red velvet cake recipe.

Like my classic moist chocolate cake and rich butter cake, this red velvet cake is a winner because it’s incredibly moist and stays moist for up to 4 days.

But that’s only half of this red velvet cake’s appeal. It’s covered in a smooth (not too sweet!) cream cheese frosting which gives this red velvet a nice tang to complement its mild flavor. It’s an essential pairing. Otherwise, it just wouldn’t be red velvet cake as we know it.

Now, I’m not a particularly patient baker so I can’t bother with complicated frostings and elaborate piping work. That’s why this red velvet cake is perfect! It’s all about easy steps, beautiful results.

What is red velvet cake?

A red velvet cake is basically vanilla or very light chocolate cake tinted a deep red or burgundy.

Though the richness of the cocoa is modest, it’s added more for its color, reacting with the vinegar, buttermilk, and food dye to give the cake its unmistakable reddish-brown or burgundy hues.

At first, I couldn’t get over how alarmingly reddish a red velvet cake is. I’ve resisted baking with food color dyes for as long I’ve been able to mix cookie dough, cut a pie crust, or work a DLSR camera.

But I now appreciate that a red velvet cake is as much about its iconic color as its distinctive flavor. It wins instant recognition.

I’m always amazed by how instantaneously people’s eyes light up at the sight of a red velvet cake – it’s like a gut reaction that never fails to fascinate.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and red velvet cake crumbs

What does red velvet taste like?

A red velvet cake tastes sweet, tart, and tangy all at once.

Basically, it’s a mash-up of both vanilla and chocolate and with a great cream cheese frosting, strikes a dominant tangy flavor profile. It’s a little hard to describe but unforgettable once you’ve had a taste.

Why I love this red velvet cake recipe

Turns out soft and tender. I use cake flour to achieve a softer and finer crumb without being crumbly.

Bakes up light and fluffy. By whipping the egg whites separately, instead of beating whole eggs into the cake batter, you’re adding that extra lightness, ensuring a fluffy texture.

Stays extra moist. Buttermilk, together with butter and oil makes a very moist cake that stays moist for days.

Tastes amazing. A butter and oil combination, together with buttermilk, gives this red velvet cake a distinct tangy, buttery flavour without leaving a greasy mouth feel, as well as added moistness that stays IN the cake.

Uses less sugar in the frosting. By changing the order of mixing in the frosting ingredients, you’ll actually need much less icing sugar than a lot of standard cream cheese frostings.

Prevents a runny cream cheese frosting. By creaming the butter with sugar first, allowing the fat to coat the sugar molecules before adding the cream cheese, the sugar is less likely to draw out the water content from the cream cheese. That means no runny frosting!

Ingredients for red velvet cake

Almost all red velvet cake recipes use a common base of ingredients. It’s this combination that gives red velvet cake its distinctive flavor. Here’s what you need:

For the cake

  • cake flour. Cake flour gives this cake it’s softer, finer, and lighter crumb. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, substitute with pastry flour or make your own from scratch.
  • baking soda. Leavens the cake by reacting with buttermilk and vinegar (acidic ingredients), causing it to rise and expand, giving the cake a nice lift and tender crumb.
  • salt. A little bit of salt balances the sweetness, and enhances the flavours of other ingredients. Omit if you use salted butter.
  • cocoa powder. Use either natural unsweetened cocoa powder or Dutch-process cocoa – both work equally well here. There’s just enough to infuse the cake with a bare hint of cocoa flavour, without overpowering other flavours.
  • butter. Unsalted butter is used and can be replaced with salted butter without adding the salt.
  • sugar. White sugar works best for red velvet cake, as it won’t darken the batter or interfere with the flavour. Brown sugar won’t work well here, because its toffee-like flavour will alter the taste and colour of the cake.
  • eggs. Use large eggs, weighing 56 – 62 grams each.
  • oil. Oil, combined with butter and buttermilk, makes a really moist cake that stays moist for days! Choose neutral-flavoured oils like canola, sunflower, safflower, grapeseed or corn.
  • vanilla extract. Vanilla is a key flavour in red velvet cake, so use a good quality pure vanilla extract. If using artificial vanilla essence, double the amount called for in the recipe.
  • white vinegar. Vinegar is needed here to react with baking soda (an alkaline ingredient) to create the necessary chemical reactions to release carbon dioxide, a gas that helps cakes rise. You can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
  • buttermilk. Buttermilk is a power ingredient! It’s what makes a red velvet cake moist right from the start, and gives it a tangy, buttery taste. Also an acidic ingredient, it reacts with baking soda to help the cake rise. If you’re out of buttermilk, you can make your own homemade buttermilk.
red velvet cake ingredients for the batter

For the cream cheese frosting

  • cream cheese, block-style. I am a true fan of Philadelphia’s – it’s my trusted choice for cream cheese frosting and cheesecakes because frosting is everything when it comes to red velvet cake. Full-fat cream cheese gives the creamiest texture and richest flavour. Avoid using low-fat or spreadable cream cheese.
  • butter. Use unsalted butter, but omit the salt if you only have salted butter on hand.
  • icing or powdered sugar
  • vanilla extract
  • salt. Don’t skip it in the frosting! It balances the sweetness and brings out the tang.
Cream cheese frosting ingredients

Step-by-step: How to make red velvet cake

  1. Sift together cake flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Separate the eggs – be careful not to get any trace of yolks in the whites.
  2. Cream softened butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 – 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl a couple of times, to make sure you get all the butter creamed evenly.
  3. Beat in the yolks, oil, vanilla extract, and vinegar on high speed for 2 minutes, again scraping down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
  4. With the mixer speed on low, beat in the flour mixture in 2 – 3 additions alternately with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour mixture.
  5. Next, add the red food coloring and beat until just combined.
  6. Whip egg whites in a grease-free mixer bowl on medium-high speed until fluffy with firm peaks, about 3 minutes (see picture #6 below). Do not over-beat. 
  7. Gently fold into the cake batter until well-combined – the batter will be smooth, glossy and slightly thick.
  8. Divide the batter equally between the 2 cake pans. Bake on the middle rack in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the top of each cake springs back when gently pressed. Don’t be alarmed if your cakes dome a little, it depends to some extent on the pans you use – you’ll be slicing a bit off the tops to level them for decorating. Let the cakes cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack, before decorating.

Step-by-step: How to make the ideal cream cheese frosting

  • Beat the softened cream cheese until smooth to remove any lumps. Separately, cream butter and confectioner’s sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla extract and salt, briefly for 10 seconds. 
  • With the mixer speed on low, add the beaten cream cheese, 3 – 4 heaped tablespoons at a time, over several additions. Taste and add more icing sugar if desired, 1- 2 tablespoons at a time. Continue to beat for 1 – 2 minutes until the mixture is very smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The frosting should be soft and hold its form, but not runny.
Cream cheese frosting for red velvet cake

Putting together the ultimate red velvet cake

  • Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of both cakes to create a flat surface. Use these for cake crumbs, gently breaking them up and loosening the crumbs with your fingers.
  • Place 1 of the 2 cakes on the cake stand or serving plate. With an offset spatula, spread a thick layer of cream cheese frosting. Place the 2nd cake on top. Cover the top and sides of the cake with frosting, scraping off the excess with a bench scraper to make a crumb coat.
  • Next, spread a thick layer of cream cheese frosting on top of the 2nd cake, this time smoothening the top and edges. Chill the cake for 15 minutes, more often in between steps if you live in a warm climate.
  • Fit a piping bag with your desired piping tip and fill with the remaining cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle the loose cake crumbs over the top of the cake, then pipe the frosting around the edges. For a finishing touch, sprinkle a bit more crumbs on top.
  • Chill for at least 30 – 60 minutes to give the frosting time to set, so that the cake will hold firm when cutting for picture-perfect, neat slices.

How to store red velvet cake

Cover leftover cake in a well-sealed, air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Both frosted and unfrosted cake layers (when properly sealed) can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months.

Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating or serving.

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and red velvet cake crumb topping

This is a tried and tested red velvet cake recipe for those occasions when you need to show up with a stunning and delicious dessert.

As easy as mixing cookie dough and quicker than baking pie, a red velvet never fails to please cake lovers. With beautiful swirls of cream cheese frosting and a red velvet crumb topping, its an unforgettable creation you’ll be proud to show off.

Save for Later:The Ultimate Red Velvet Cake

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Red velvet cake for Pinterest

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Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting and red velvet cake crumb topping
5 from 4 reviews
Prep Time: 1 hr 25 mins
Cook Time: 35 mins
Chilling and Decorating: 1 hr
Total Time: 3 hrs
Yield: 12 servings
This red velvet cake is a show-stopping dessert fit for celebrations, festive occasions, and whenever you crave a special treat! Paired with a tangy cream cheese frosting and a gorgeous cake crumb toppingthis cake is extra moist, fluffy, with tangy vanilla and cocoa-tinged flavors. 

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 325 g cake flour
  • tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 10 g cocoa powder
  • 142 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 300 g sugar
  • 150 g oil
  • 3 large eggs, (56 – 60 g each)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp white vinegar
  • 225 g buttermilk
  • 2 tsp red gel food color (I use Wilton’s)

For the cream cheese frosting

  • 500 g full-fat cream cheese softened, cut into cubes , (brick-style, not spreadable)
  • 250 g icing sugar , (powdered sugar) – use less or more to your taste
  • 113 g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt

Instructions
 

Make the cake

  • Preheat oven to 180°C (356°F). Grease the sides and base of two 20-cm (8-inch) pans. Line the base with baking paper and grease the baking paper.
  • Sift together cake flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Separate the eggs – be careful not to get any trace of yolks in the whites.
  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with handheld beaters, beat softened butter and sugar on medium speed until light, about 2 – 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula a couple of times, to get all the butter evenly creamed.
  • Add egg yolks, oil, vanilla extract, and vinegar. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low. Beat in the flour mixture in 2 – 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and finishing with the flour mixture. Add the red food coloring (use less or more as desired), and beat until just combined.
  • Switch to a whisk attachment or with handheld beaters, whip egg whites in a grease-free mixer bowl on medium-high speed until fluffy with firm peaks, about 3 minutes. Do not over-beat. Gently fold into the cake batter until well-combined. The batter should be smooth and slightly thick.
  • Divide the batter equally between the 2 cake pans. Bake on the middle rack in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes, or until the top of each cake springs back when gently pressed. Insert a toothpick into the center of each cake – it should come out clean. If wet crumbs are present, bake a little longer, checking every 2 – 3 minutes, but do not over-bake.
  • Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cooled before filling and frosting.

Make the cream cheese frosting

  • In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or with handheld beaters, beat the softened cream cheese until smooth and lump-free.
  • In a clean bowl, beat butter and icing sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla extract and salt, briefly for 10 seconds.
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low. Gradually add the beaten cream cheese, 3 – 4 heaped tablespoons at a time. After the last addition, taste and add more icing sugar if desired (a few tablespoons at a time). Continue to beat for 1 – 2 minutes until the mixture is very smooth. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. The frosting should be soft but not runny, and hold its form.

Assemble the cake

  • Cake crumbs (optional): Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of both cakes to create a flat surface. Gently break up the sliced tops and loosen them with your fingers to get fine crumbs.
  • Place 1 of the 2 cakes on the cake stand or serving plate. Spread a thick layer of cream cheese frosting using an offset spatula. Place the 2nd cake on top. Cover the top and sides of the cake with frosting, scraping off the excess with a bench scraper to make a crumb coat.
    Now, spread a thick layer of cream cheese frosting on top of the 2nd cake and smoothen the edges. Chill the cake for 15 minutes, more often in between steps if you live in a warm climate.
  • Fit a piping bag with your desired piping tip and fill with the remaining cream cheese frosting. Sprinkle the loose cake crumbs over the top of the cake, then pipe the frosting around the edges. For a finishing touch, sprinkle a bit more crumbs on top.
  • Chill for at least 30 – 60 minutes to give the frosting time to set, so that the cake will hold firm when cutting.
  • How to serve: Allow the chilled cake (or slices) to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes before serving.
  • Cover leftover cake in a well-sealed, air-tight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Both frosted and unfrosted cake layers (when properly sealed) can be stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating or serving.

Shop this Recipe

Round Cake Pan 8″ Set of 2
Stand Mixer
Wilton Icing Colors Set of 8
Large Piping Tips Set of 5
Wilton Piping Bags 16″
Cake Carrier/Storage

Nutrition Information:

Serving: 1serving, Calories: 534kcal, Carbohydrates: 60g, Protein: 12g, Fat: 32g, Saturated Fat: 13g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 13g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 94mg, Sodium: 594mg, Potassium: 204mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 28g, Vitamin A: 644IU, Calcium: 185mg, Iron: 1mg
Cuisine: Western
Course: Dessert, Tea
Author: Celia Lim
Did you make this recipe? Be sure to leave a rating and a review in the section below, and tag @foodelicacy on Instagram and hashtag it #foodelicacy so I can see!