So what is red velvet cake? Basically, it’s an extremely moist cake with soft layers that feel “velvety” in the mouth. The red velvet flavor is like vanilla with only a hint of chocolate.
It took me a few tries to get this one right. I didn’t want the recipe to be exactly like the cupcakes but I did want the results to be the same. A soft, fluffy, moist cake that is in line with traditional velvet cakes.
Classic recipes like this are suitable for any holiday or special occasion and I think you’ll highly enjoy this one. It’s certainly better than the cake you get at grocery stores.
A classic Red Velvet Cake with cream cheese frosting. The cake layers are incredibly moist, soft, and velvety. It's my absolute favorite.
For the cake
1 cup (240 ml) canola or vegetable oil
½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons red food coloring, 1-ounce bottle
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups (369 g) cake flour, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
1 cup (240 ml) whole buttermilk, room temperature
For the frosting
12-ounces (340 g) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 cup (226 g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
6 cups (720 g) confectioners' sugar, sifted
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Make the cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the inside bottom and sides of two 9-inch round pans. Line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper cut to fit. Lightly grease the parchment paper. Dust the inside bottom and sides of the pan with flour, then tap out any excess. (For more chocolate flavor, you can dust the pans with cocoa powder instead.)
In a large bowl, beat the oil, butter, and sugar together on medium-high speed until well combined, about 3 minutes. Add the cocoa powder, food coloring, and vanilla. Mix on low speed until well mixed.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 20 seconds after each addition.
Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir with a whisk and add it all to the cocoa mixture.
With the mixer on low speed, add the vinegar and buttermilk. Continue to beat on low until just combined. Take care not to over mix.
Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.
Cool in the pans for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before frosting.
Make the frosting
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth. Add the butter and mix for about 1 minute until smooth and creamy
Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue mixing until fully combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Assemble the cake
Use a serrated knife to carefully level the tops of the cake layers. Save the scrap cake pieces.
Place one cake layer onto a serving platter, top side up. Spread about ⅓ of the frosting over the top.
Top with the second cake layer, bottom side up. Cover the top and sides of the cake with the remaining frosting.
Decorate with leftover cake crumbs if desired.
Oil: Oil is important for this recipe because it adds moisture. Canola or vegetable oil work best.
Cocoa powder: Use natural cocoa powder. Dutch-processed will not work with this recipe.
Food coloring: Most modern red velvet cake recipes call for food coloring. I used McCormick's brand in the 1-ounce bottle and have not tested the recipe with natural coloring. If you have an aversion to food dye, simply leave it out.
Vinegar: Is necessary for the cake to turn out properly. If you don't have vinegar, lemon juice can be used.
Buttermilk: Whole buttermilk is required for a moist cake.
Bake time: Every oven is different! Start checking for doneness about 5 minutes sooner so you don’t accidentally overbake the cake. There should be no wet batter on a toothpick but you do want a few moist crumbs to stick. A clean toothpick means the cake will be dry.
Make ahead tips
Once the cake has been assembled, cover and store it at room temperature for up to 3 days. Or store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Bring it to room temperature just before serving.
The frosted cake can be frozen for up to 2 months. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator and allow it to come to room temperature just before serving.
The frosting can be made 1 day in advance. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Allow the frosting to come to room temperature for a couple of hours, then beat it with an electric mixer before using it.
Wrap baked and cooled cake layers tightly in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator. Assemble and frost the cake within 2 days.
The layers freeze well. Wrap them tightly in two layers of plastic wrap followed by two layers of aluminum foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Set on the counter to thaw for couple hours before using.
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The nutrition information provided is for convenience and as a courtesy only. It is not guaranteed to be accurate because nutrition information can vary for a variety of reasons. For precise nutritional data use your preferred nutrition calculator and input the exact ingredients you used in the recipe.
How much batter will this recipe yield? I plan on using an 8″ hemisphere cake pan by fat daddio’s. thanks. Jackie
I’d say roughly 6 cups.
Hi Jen! I would like to half your recipes (it’s just my hubby & me). So would (1) 9” pan be ok? Because I want to do the same with your Nutella cheesecake recipe.
Yes, one 9-inch pan will work perfectly if you halve the recipe.