Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Red Velvet Cake

This is the first red velvet cake recipe I'm sharing on my blog, and although I do like red velvet, I suppose it's not a distinctive flavor in my opinion or one that I crave, unlike rich dark chocolate cake.  And red velvet cannot in any way be considered chocolate, with such an inconsequential amount of cocoa powder added to the batter.  Red velvet is, essentially, simply a very moist buttermilk cake with a beautiful, signature red color and a nice tang from the buttermilk.

Before there was food coloring, the red color was actually achieved by the combination of the buttermilk, vinegar and cocoa powder, with an acidic reaction between the buttermilk and vinegar bringing out the natural red hues in the cocoa powder.  With that chemical reaction alone, I'm not sure just how vibrant the resulting red color would be, so I did add a good dose of food coloring to ensure dramatically red results.

I baked this cake for a birthday party, and as it was for a man's birthday, I kept the decorating simple, clean and classic, with no girly ruffles or polka dots, tempting as it would be on such a pretty cake.  I've heard back that he loves his cake so much, he's been standing in the kitchen, eating it straight from the box for breakfast.

A few days before baking the cake, I thought a trial run would be a good idea, to make sure my from-scratch recipe yielded good results, and I think you'll like what I did with that cake.  But you'll have to wait until my next post to find out...

One Year Ago:    Rosemary Parmesan Wheat Crackers with Herbed Ricotta
Two Years Ago:   Lemon Cream Cheese Tart

Red Velvet Cake
printable recipe

  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour or all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 2/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • red gel food coloring
Cream Cheese Buttercream:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 4 1/2 - 5 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons meringue powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • milk, if needed

Baker's Note:  I have experimented with swapping out some of the oil for more buttermilk (1 cup oil with 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk), which works just as well, if you don't want to use quite that much oil.

Bake the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray the bottoms only of three 8-inch cake pans with non-stick spray, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and spray the paper also.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and red food coloring.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk vigorously for several minutes until smooth and well blended.  Divide batter between the pans.

Bake on the middle rack for 25-28 minutes, until the centers spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick comes out clean.  Set on wire racks, cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and cool completely.

Make the Frosting:
In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the butter and cream cheese on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Gradually add the powdered sugar and meringue powder, mixing on low to combine.  Add the vanilla.  Increase speed to medium and beat for several minutes until smooth and creamy; add milk if needed to reach the desired consistency for spreading or piping.

Remove the cakes from the pans and discard the parchment paper; level the tops of the cakes, reserving the cake scraps.

Place one layer of cake on a serving plate or cake pedestal.  Frost with a thin layer of buttercream.  Repeat with the other layers of cake, then frost the cake all over with a thin "crumb coat" of buttercream.  Refrigerate for 15 minutes to set the crumb coat, then frost all over with a final coat of buttercream, reserving some of the buttercream for piping swirls on top.

Take the cake scraps from leveling the cake and break them up into fine crumbs, either with a fork or in the food processor.  Press the crumbs around the sides of the cake.  Pipe swirls of buttercream on top of the cake to finish, and sprinkle a few more crumbs on top.

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen


  1. Wow!!! Your cake look amazing!! I love the history of red velvet cake! Very interesting!

  2. Yes, there's some interesting stories about the history of red velvet. Apparently, the cocoa powder used then was a little different, too, than what we have today, which also contributed to a redder color without food coloring.

  3. How much red gel food coloring should be added to the cake?

    1. I've never measured it, but a few teaspoons at least, I would guess. just use as much as you need to to get the color you want.


I love comments, and I read and appreciate every single one. Please review my comment policy under my Baking & Blog FAQs page.