The BEST Red Velvet Cake Recipe - Moist & Fluffy | Handle the Heat

Red Velvet Cake

By Tessa Arias
  |  
February 1st, 2022
4.91 from 245 votes
4.91 from 245 votes

The BEST Red Velvet Cake recipe ever! Ultra moist, buttery, tender and soft cake with the most perfect red velvet flavor. Topped with easy cream cheese frosting. This cake is perfect for Valentine's Day or for any red velvet lover in your life!

Yield: 12 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook: 40 minutes

Tessa's Recipe Rundown...

Taste: Sweet but not overly so with that tang from the cream cheese.
Texture: This is definitely the (and I hate to use this word) most MOIST red velvet cake I’ve ever tasted.
Ease: You are going to dirty dishes and spend a couple of hours to get this cake made but it is definitely worth it, especially if you or your family are red velvet lovers.
Appearance: This is what red velvet cake is all about. I’ve experimented and only red gel food coloring gives that intensely red hue.
Pros: Super moist cake with an unbelievable frosting. My go-to recipe for red velvet now.
Cons: None.
Would I make this again? Yes, especially for birthdays.

I’m very excited to share this recipe for Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting with you today, but first, I have something to say that may shock you…

I’m not a huge fan of red velvet.

I know it’s tremendously popular. But most red velvet type desserts that I’ve tasted have always been bland, dry, or sickeningly sweet. Plus, there can never be enough chocolate in my book so the tease of cocoa in red velvet cake kind of angers me if I’m being honest!

I’m happy to say I created a fabulous recipe that even I enjoy eating. This doesn’t mean I plan on giving up my chocolate cake anytime soon, but now I have a go-to red velvet cake recipe.

This cake is absolutely perfect for birthdays, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July, or any time the red velvet flavor craving strikes.

How to Make Red Velvet Cake

What is Red Velvet Cake?

Red Velvet Cake is a popular dish in the Southern United States. Although traditional recipes vary from modern ones, it’s now typically made with a small amount of cocoa powder, buttermilk, vinegar, and red food coloring as staple ingredients. Its name references both its color as well as its soft, velvety smooth texture.

Best Red Velvet Cake Baking Tip: Use ROOM TEMPERATURE Ingredients!

With the exception of the hot coffee / hot water, you really want to make sure your eggs and buttermilk are brought completely to room temperature. This will help to form a uniform and cohesive batter and cake.

Why use hot coffee or hot water in a cake recipe?

Just like in my Best Chocolate Cake recipe, this Red Velvet Cake uses hot coffee as a staple ingredient. If you don’t have coffee, you can just use hot water. The coffee does help to enhance that hint of chocolate flavor, and the heat of the liquid helps to ‘bloom’ the cocoa, bringing out its full flavor.

What if I don’t have buttermilk?

Buttermilk works best in this recipe to provide a rich and tender cake. It is traditional (along with the vinegar too!). You can learn more about the science of buttermilk in my Buttermilk 101 article here. I would not recommend using a buttermilk substitute. If you must, use whole milk instead but note the cake’s final taste and texture will be different.

What kind of food coloring is best for Red Velvet Cake?

I would highly recommend using gel food coloring for red velvet cake and not liquid or ‘natural’ food coloring. You’ll need at least 3 teaspoons, possibly more depending on the brand, so don’t buy just one small bottle (0.75 oz). Opt for a larger bottle or buy two smaller ones. I like Americolor or Chefmaster gel food coloring.

Overview of how to make Red Velvet Cake:

Make the red velvet cake batter:

  1. Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, spraying parchment and sides of pans generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Whisk together the hot coffee and cocoa powder, setting aside for 5 minutes. Whisk in a separate medium mixing bowl the dry ingredients of the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, and melted butter. Add in eggs and egg yolk, whisking until well combined. Add buttermilk, vanilla, and food coloring, and whisk to combine.
  4. Whisk in the vinegar and coffee mixture. Sift the flour mixture in thirds into the batter until incorporated.
  5. Pour the batter evenly between your prepared pans. Tap the bottoms against the counter several times.
  6. Bake at 325°F for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
  7. Place the cake pans on cooling racks. Once cool to the touch, run a thin knife around the edges to loosen the cake, and invert onto the cooling racks. Cool completely.

Make the cream cheese icing:

  1. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until light, creamy, and smooth.
  2. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure no clumps remain.
  3. Add vanilla and beat until combined.
  4. Gradually add in the sugar on low speed and beat until the buttercream frosting is fluffy.

What kind of baking pans to use for Red Velvet Cake?

Use three 8-inch cake pans for this recipe. My favorite brand of cake pan is Fat Daddio’s, they bake evenly and wash up easily. Don’t use darkly coated nonstick cake pans or you may end up with dry or overbaked cake edges.

Can I use 9-inch cake pans instead?

Although this recipe was specifically designed for 8-inch cake pans, you may be able to bake in two 9-inch cake pans. Fill each 3/4 full and increase the baking time by about 5 to 10 minutes because there will be more batter in each pan.

How to prevent Red Velvet Cake from sticking:

Be sure to line each cake pan with parchment rounds. I like these ones which have tabs to easily pull out the baked cake layers. Spray the sides of the cake pan and the parchment generously with nonstick cooking spray.

What kind of frosting is best with Red Velvet Cake?

Cream cheese frosting is the classic choice for red velvet cake! Its tangy flavor complements the sweetness of the cake layers. If you’d prefer something more sturdy or want to make special cake decorations, opt for my Best Buttercream instead.

Favorite Tools for Layer Cakes:

Can I Make Red Velvet Cupcakes Instead?

Although this recipe was developed for cake layers, you can turn it into cupcakes in a pinch. Divide the batter among about 24 cupcake cavities, filling each 3/4 full, and bake for 17 to 20 minutes.

How to Make Cake Ahead of Time:

You can wrap unfrosted un-cut cooled cake layers completely in several layers of plastic wrap. Place inside a freezer bag. Store at room temperature for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge (do not defrost at room temperature or you will end up with mushy cake).

How to Store Homemade Red Velvet Cake Recipe:

Cover with a cake keeper and store at room temperature for up to 6 hours, then refrigerate for up to 3 days.

More Red Velvet Recipes:

4.91 from 245 votes

How to make
Red Velvet Cake

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Inactive Time 10 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
The BEST Red Velvet Cake recipe ever! Ultra moist, buttery, tender and soft cake with the most perfect red velvet flavor. Topped with easy cream cheese frosting. This cake is perfect for Valentine's Day or for any red velvet lover in your life!

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup of plain hot coffee or boiling water
  • 1/4 cup (21 grams) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
  • 2 1/4 cups (279 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
  • 2 cups (400 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (109 grams) fresh vegetable oil
  • 1 stick (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 teaspoons red gel food coloring, plus more if needed*
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 16 ounces (454 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (227 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (500 grams) powdered sugar, sifted

Directions

For the cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds and spray parchment and sides of pans generously with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the hot coffee and cocoa powder. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, and melted butter. Add in the eggs and yolk and whisk for twenty seconds, or until very well combined. Add in the buttermilk, vanilla and food coloring and whisk to combine. Whisk in the vinegar and coffee mixture. Using a fine mesh sieve, sift the flour mixture into the batter in three additions, whisking until each addition is incorporated.
  5. Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans. Tap the bottoms of the pans against the counter several times to release any air bubbles.

  6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick comes out clean. It’s normal for the cake to look slightly spongy on top. Place the cake pans on cooling racks. When the pans are cool enough to touch, run a thin knife around the edges of the pans to loosen the cakes. Invert onto the wire racks. Let cool completely.

For the frosting:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until very light, creamy, and smooth. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl to ensure no clumps remain. Add in the vanilla and beat until combined. On low speed, gradually add in the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. If the frosting is too thick, add a splash of milk or cream. If it’s too thin, add more sifted powdered sugar.

To assemble:

  1. Lay one cake layer flat-side up on a cake plate or pedestal. Tuck in strips of baking paper under the cake edges to keep the plate clean.
  2. Use about a third of the frosting to fill the bottom cake layer, then top with the second cake layer and repeat. Place the final cake layer flat-side up. Use the rest of the frosting to ice the whole cake. Serve.

  3. The cake can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes

*Don’t skimp on the food coloring. You will likely need more than one bottle if using a small container. I prefer Americolor or Chefmaster
Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American
Keyword : red velvet cake, red velvet cake recipe

This post was originally published in 2013 and updated in 2022 with recipe improvements and new photos. Photos by Ashley McLaughlin.

February Baking Challenge

This recipe was the February 2022 selection for our monthly baking challenge! Every month you can join the challenge by baking the recipe and snapping a photo for a chance to win prizes! Full challenge details here. Check out everyone’s cakes (and cupcakes!):

Tessa Arias
Author: Tessa Arias

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Tessa Arias

About Tessa...

I share trusted baking recipes your friends will LOVE alongside insights into the science of sweets. I'm a professionally trained chef, cookbook author, and cookie queen. I love to write about all things sweet, carb-y, and homemade. I live in Phoenix, Arizona (hence the blog name!)

Find Tessa on  

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Recipe Rating




  1. #
    Dawn — November 23, 2022 at 9:29 am

    The flour and sugar measurements—does sugar really weigh that much more than flour? I see it’s 2 1/4 cups of flour and only 2 cups of sugar, but the weight sugar is much higher. Is this accurate?

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — November 23, 2022 at 9:34 am

      Hi Dawn! Yes, these weight measurements are accurate. When not using a scale, most people compact their flour into cups to measure, so you never realize how much excess flour you’ve been accidentally using, until you start to weigh ingredients instead! Crazy, huh? I hope you give this cake a try – it’s truly the best red velvet cake ever 🙂 Happy baking!

  2. #
    Shelly — November 21, 2022 at 7:51 pm

    The best RVC I’ve ever made! I did everything except I baked 2 layers in 9 inch. I measured ingredients in grams and measured batter in pans.

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — November 22, 2022 at 7:54 am

      So happy to hear that you enjoyed this cake so much, Shelly!

  3. #
    Maleeha — October 4, 2022 at 4:43 am

    I only have 1 8inch pan. can I bake the cakes one at a time?

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — October 4, 2022 at 8:39 am

      Hi Maleeha! You can try that, but it may not work very well. The longer this cake batter sits and rests, the longer the baking soda is sitting with activating ingredients such as buttermilk and vinegar, so the leavening agent may fizzle out in the time it takes to bake one layer, let the pan cool completely and then repeat again for 3 layers. If the leavening agent has fizzled out before the cakes reach the oven, it won’t be able to rise properly and the cakes will be dense or will sink in the middle. I would really recommend trying to purchase or borrow a couple more 8-inch cake pans, or experiment (as some of our other readers have in the past) and try this out in a 9×13-inch sheet pan. Best of luck!

  4. #
    Krista — September 27, 2022 at 6:10 pm

    Best Red Velvet Cake ever

  5. #
    Lisa — September 24, 2022 at 9:09 am

    Best red velvet cake ever!!!! My husband is still raving about it!!

  6. #
    Alexis — September 15, 2022 at 2:40 pm

    Hi my sister wants a red velvet flavor cake for her birthday but wants it pink…. Will this recipe work. I make this I have pink gel dye I’m thinking I may need to omit egg yolks for color change?

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — September 16, 2022 at 8:38 am

      Hi Alexis! I’m sorry, we haven’t tried that, so I can’t say for sure! The cocoa powder and coffee will definitely give this cake more of a brown-ish hue than most pink dyes will be able to cover, but you still may be able to get sort of a pink-ish color! Alternatively, you could use this recipe as-written, and add pink coloring to the frosting? If you give this cake a try, let us know how it goes! Happy baking 🙂

  7. #
    Carlin Cameron — September 6, 2022 at 2:48 pm

    Will this Bake okay in a regular cake pan 13X9 Don’t have the round pans.
    thanks

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — September 7, 2022 at 9:53 am

      Hi Carlin! While we have not tried that, many of our other readers have done so with success! Check out some of the comments below! 🙂

  8. #
    Alaina — August 27, 2022 at 10:32 am

    So moist and delish! This is officially my go-to red velvet cake! Added lots of food gel to get it red since my coffee-chocolate mix made things quite dark! Made it in a 9×13″ pan and baked it for 30 minutes in a metal dish at 325. Turned out great!

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — August 29, 2022 at 1:06 pm

      Yay! So thrilled this was so delicious, Alaina!!

  9. #
    Pamela — August 26, 2022 at 3:02 am

    I am also not a lover of red velvet cake but a colleague requested this treat to celebrate her birthday. It was an easy recipe to follow and was a tremendous hit. I received so many compliments. It was very good. The coffee makes a nice difference, you cannot taste it but it does enhance the chocolate. For the ease of transporting to work, I made this in a 9 x 13 and adjusted the bake time. Thank you for sharing.

    • #
      Kiersten @ Handle the Heat — August 26, 2022 at 1:03 pm

      Yay!! So happy to hear this, Pamela! So glad this red velvet cake was a hit 🙂

  10. #
    Josie Daniels — July 31, 2022 at 2:37 pm

    I made this recipe as cupcakes and baked them at 325 for about 18-19 minutes. The tops fell and were crispy on the edges, but moist throughout the rest of the cupcake. Any advice to prevent this? They were terrific otherwise!!

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