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:
- Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with parchment rounds, spraying parchment and sides of pans generously with nonstick cooking spray.
- 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.
- 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.
- Whisk in the vinegar and coffee mixture. Sift the flour mixture in thirds into the batter until incorporated.
- Pour the batter evenly between your prepared pans. Tap the bottoms against the counter several times.
- Bake at 325°F for 25-30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- 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:
- Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until light, creamy, and smooth.
- Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure no clumps remain.
- Add vanilla and beat until combined.
- 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.
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!):