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This Red Velvet Cake recipe is made from scratch for the best flavor and a moist, tender crumb that pairs wonderfully with a tangy, sweet cream cheese frosting. This is a classic cake recipe for a 2-layer red velvet cake that is quite possibly the best red velvet cake recipe in the world.
If you agree that making cake from scratch is far superior to any box mix, then you should definitely check out my Best Homemade German Chocolate Cake, Homemade Funfetti Cake, and Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting!
We are a house divided on red velvet cake. Some of us love it, while others turn up their noses at it for being inferior to chocolate cake. Food normally brings us together, but every now and then it proves divisive, and this cake flavor just happens to be one of those controversial desserts for some people.
But if you DO love it, this easy red velvet cake recipe is made from scratch and is pretty darn incredible. It makes the softest, most tender, moist, fluffy, impossibly velvety (it’s aptly named, after all) cake ever. We love it in cupcake form too!
Red velvet cake is more than just a white cake dyed red, but it’s also not a full-fledged chocolate cake. Instead, it has buttery, slight chocolate undertones. Red velvet cake has a pretty unique flavor with an old-fashioned, from scratch quality that I love. Truly no boxed red velvet cake mix can compare.
I set out to find my favorite red velvet cake recipe once and for all, and this is definitely it!
Why This Recipe Works
- Super moist! We use a combination of butter and oil for the best flavor and texture.
- Hint of cocoa. This red velvet cake recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder which is double or triple the amount in most other versions. It helps those cocoa notes come through a little bit more. Even with that slight adjustment, this still doesn’t taste like a chocolate cake to me.
- Perfectly red. The chemical reactions of buttermilk, cocoa powder, baking soda and vinegar give this cake it’s flavor and subtle red tint, which is enhanced with some red food coloring (affiliate link).
- Holiday favorite. Red velvet cake is perfect for almost any occasion, but the bold red and white colors make this the perfect cake for Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and patriotic holidays like the Fourth of July or Memorial Day.
- Flour: If you don’t have cake flour, you can use all-purpose flour with a little cornstarch to help improve the texture. But cake flour really does result in a lighter, softer cake with the classic velvety texture that is this cake’s namesake.
- Use a combination of oil and butter: Like many baked goods, when deciding on the fat to use you sometimes have to weigh flavor with texture. I find that using some butter with some oil rather than all of one or the other gives me the best of both worlds – the added moistness from oil with the wonderful flavor from the butter.
- Food coloring: Red food coloring is needed for the vibrant red color. You can use either liquid or gel food coloring (affiliate link), but you will need more of the liquid kind (2-3 tablespoons) to get the vibrant red color that is the hallmark of red velvet cake.
- Cocoa powder: Both Dutch-process or natural cocoa powder will work for this red velvet cake recipe. I use 3 tablespoons for a slightly more noticeable chocolate taste to the cake, but 2 tablespoons is pretty standard for most red velvet cakes.
How to Make This Recipe
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and prep your cake pans by lining them with circles of parchment paper in the bottoms, then spray bottoms and sides with cooking spray.
- Whisk all the dry ingredients together first – flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt – and set them aside.
- Beat butter and sugar together until light and creamy – about 3-4 minutes using a hand mixer or stand mixer. Then add the oil and beat again, scraping down the sides of the bowl. The mixture will look a little curdled, but there’s nothing to worry about.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition, and vanilla. Then mix in the vinegar and food coloring.
Alternately add ⅓ of the dry ingredients with ⅓ of the buttermilk, mixing just until combined after each addition and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl, repeating until everything has been added.
Pour the batter evenly between the two cake pans, then bake for 30-35 minutes (for 9-inch pans) or 38-43 minutes (for 8-inch pans), or until a cake tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean with just a few crumbs. Be sure not to overbake.
For the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter together in a large bowl using a handheld mixer until smooth, about 1-2 minutes. Add the powdered sugar and cream or milk and mix on low speed until incorporated, then increase speed and beat for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and salt and beat again.
Cool completely before leveling off the tops of each cake layer, if needed. Frost with cream cheese or ermine frosting.
- Storage: Red velvet cake should be stored in the refrigerator because of the cream cheese frosting. It will stay good for about 5 days. We think it is best when it has 1-2 hours to sit out of the fridge to come up to room temperature before serving.
- Freezing: You can freeze the assembled cake or individual slices. I recommend freezing them for 1-2 hours until the frosting on the outside is solid before wrapping in a couple of layers of plastic wrap to protect it. Thaw on the counter or in the fridge before enjoying.
- Make-Ahead: You can make this red velvet cake in advance by baking the cake layers and freezing them for 2-3 months before thawing and assembling with freshly made frosting.
- Cake Pans: This recipe can be made with either two 8-inch or 9-inch baking pans to create two layers. I like using my 8-inch pans for nice, thick layers like you see in these photos. The baking time is 30-35 minutes for 9-inch pans and 38-43 minutes for 8-inch pans.
More Cake Recipes
- Vintage Cherry Chip Layer Cake
- Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting
- Oreo Cookies & Cream Cake
- Best Carrot Cake
This post was originally published in January, 2019. The photos and content were updated in January, 2022.