Red velvet cake isn’t just any cake. This cake, with its stunning red color and hint of chocolatey goodness, is a total showstopper and way easier to make than it looks. This recipe promises a moist, flavorful cake with a delicate crumb that’s sure to impress. But the real crowning glory? The creamy, tangy cream cheese frosting that pairs perfectly with the cake’s rich flavors, adding a luxurious finish that makes this dessert truly unforgettable.

Can’t get enough red velvet? You need to make these fabulous red velvet cupcakes! Don’t love food coloring? Check out our naturally red velvet cake!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • The stunning red hue makes for a show-stopping dessert.
  • Achieves the perfect balance between moistness and fluffiness.
  • Customizable to easily adjust the cocoa for a brighter red color.
A slice of red velvet cake on a white plate with a gold fork.

Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Red velvet cake is a blend between chocolate and vanilla, but neither flavor dominates. The cocoa powder imparts a subtle chocolatey hint without making it as rich as a full-blown chocolate cake. Meanwhile, the buttermilk and vinegar introduce a faint tanginess, balancing out the sweetness. This cake’s delicate dance of flavors, complemented by the creamy tang of cream cheese frosting, renders it unmistakably distinctive. It’s neither overtly chocolate nor purely vanilla, but rather a delicious in-between.

Ingredients & Substitutions

Overhead view of a clean countertop with measuring cups and bowls filled with raw baking ingredients.
  • All-purpose flour: The main structural component. It provides the cake’s texture and body. Cake flour can be used, though it is more fragile than all purpose flour and needs to be handled gently to prevent over-mixing.
  • Cocoa powder: Imparts a slight chocolate flavor, giving depth to the cake’s taste. It also plays a role in the cake’s color. Dutch-processed cocoa can be used. Reduce amount of cocoa to 1/4 cup for a brighter red hue.
  • Buttermilk: Adds acidity, tanginess, and moisture. Reacts with baking soda to help the cake rise.
  • Eggs: Provides structure, moisture, and richness. Also aids in leavening.
  • Vegetable Oil: Adds moisture and ensures a soft texture. Substitute with melted butter or canola oil.

Using substitutions can affect final taste and texture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I don’t have a stand mixer?

While a stand mixer makes the process smoother, you can still achieve a delightful cake without one. A hand mixer or even some good old-fashioned elbow grease and a whisk will do. The key is to ensure your ingredients are well combined and the batter is smooth.

Should I let eggs and dairy come to room temperature before mixing?

We always recommend letting your ingredients come to room temperature, but if you don’t, your cake will still turn out delicious!

What kind of food coloring should I use?

Historically, a chemical reaction between the acidic ingredients and cocoa gave the cake its reddish hue. However, with the advent of Dutch-processed cocoa, this changed, leading to the introduction of red food dye. For a natural red, consider using beet or pomegranate juice.

This recipe was made and tested using red liquid food coloring. You can also use gel food coloring or a natural red food coloring made from beets. You can find a wide variety of natural food dyes on Amazon.

What size cake pan should I use?

You can use almost any size or style pan. Different sizes will require slight changes to the baking time and you will also need to make sure you have enough frosting on hand. See our cake conversion guide below for your preferred baking pan size.

A cake conversion text guide for changes to baking time, temperature, and how much frosting is needed for various sized cake pans.
A collage of six images showing the process of how to make red velvet cake from start to finish.

Egg Substitutes in Cake Baking

  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar + 1 teaspoon baking powder, whisked together
  • 1/4 cup mashed banana
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • Commercial egg replacer

What frosting should I use on red velvet cake?

Red velvet cake pairs beautifully with a variety of frostings, though I just can’t imagine red velvet cake without cream cheese frosting. Here are a few delicious frosting options to choose from:

  • Cream Cheese Frosting: The classic choice for red velvet cake, cream cheese frosting offers a rich, tangy complement to the cake’s subtle cocoa flavor. Its creamy texture and decadent taste make it a perennial favorite.
  • Ermine Frosting: Also known as boiled milk frosting, Ermine frosting provides a lighter alternative with a fluffy texture and a subtle sweetness. It’s a traditional choice that pairs wonderfully with the cake’s hint of chocolate.
  • Buttercream Frosting: For those who prefer a silky smooth and sweet option, buttercream frosting is ideal. It’s versatile enough to be flavored or colored and provides a classic, elegant finish to the cake.


  • Cake is too dry: Keep a close eye on your baking time and use a toothpick to test for doneness. Ensure you’re using the correct measurements of liquid ingredients like oil and buttermilk.
  • Cake layers sunk in the middle: Avoid opening the oven door during the initial stages of baking. Check the accuracy of oven temperature with an oven thermometer and ensure leavening agents are fresh.
  • Cracks on the top of the cake: Mix the batter just until combined. Double-check measurements of baking agents and verify oven temperature with an oven thermometer.

Tips From the Chef

  • To achieve a smoother batter, let your eggs and dairy ingredients come to room temperature before mixing.
  • If using gel food coloring, remember it’s more concentrated. Adjust the quantity accordingly.
  • Always preheat your oven. An oven that hasn’t reached its set temperature can affect the cake’s rise and texture.
Close up view of a slice of red velvet cake being pulled from the whole cake.

Red Velvet Cake Storage & Make Ahead Instructions

Make Ahead

  • Cake Layers: Bake the cake layers up to two days in advance. Once cooled, wrap each layer tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature until you’re ready to frost and assemble.
  • Frosting: Cream cheese, Ermine, or buttercream frosting can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator. Cream cheese and Ermine frostings can be kept for up to three days, while buttercream can last up to a week. Before using, let the frosting come to room temperature and give it a good stir to ensure it’s smooth and spreadable.


  • Cake Layers: For longer storage, wrap the cooled cake layers individually in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting and assembling.
  • Frosting: Most frostings freeze well. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator, then bring to room temperature and rewhip if necessary to restore texture.
  • Assembled Cake: A fully assembled and frosted cake can also be frozen. Freeze the cake uncovered until the frosting is firm, then wrap in plastic wrap followed by foil. To serve, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and then bring to room temperature.


  • Room Temperature: A fully assembled cake can be kept at room temperature for up to 24 hours, as long as it’s in a cool place and covered to protect it from drying out.
  • Refrigerator: For longer storage, keep the frosted cake in the fridge. Cover it with a cake dome or an inverted bowl to prevent it from absorbing fridge odors. It can last for up to 5 days. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for an hour before serving to ensure the best flavor and texture.
  • Note on Cream Cheese Frosting: Cakes frosted with cream cheese frosting should be stored in the refrigerator due to the perishable nature of the frosting.

More Amazing Cake Recipes

Watch the video below where Rachel will walk you through every step of this recipe. Sometimes it helps to have a visual, and we’ve always got you covered with our cooking show. You can find the complete collection of recipes on YouTube, Facebook Watch, or our Facebook Page, or right here on our website with their corresponding recipes.