Red Velvet Cake is a soft, moist layered cake with a beautiful crimson color and cocoa flavor, topped with a soft and smooth cream cheese frosting. For similar flavors in a cookie form, try my Red Velvet Sugar Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Piece of Red velvet cake on a plate with the whole cake behind it in the background.

What is Red Velvet Cake?

Red Velvet Cakes have been around forever and started out with simple ingredients like cocoa, buttermilk, and vinegar. The red color was added later, resulting in the vibrant colors we see today. It is traditionally paired with cream cheese frosting like this recipe, but red velvet cake purists often prefer an ermine (what I call cake gravy) frosting.

Top of a red velvet cake with the cream cheese frosting swirled.

Ingredients

Room Temperature Ingredients: Using room temperature ingredients, specifically mayonnaise, eggs, and buttermilk in this recipe, is important for the best results.

Cocoa Powder: Look for regular unsweetened cocoa powder for the cake. You could use Dutch-processed cocoa instead, but it could have a slightly different chocolate flavor.

Mayonnaise: Before you judge adding mayonnaise to this cake, try it! It prevents the cake from becoming dry and gives it a soft and moist texture. I recommend using full-fat mayonnaise, but you could use a light variety if that is all you have on hand. Or, make your own!

Buttermilk: Just like you can make your own mayonnaise to use, you can also make your own buttermilk if you don’t have any on hand.

Food Coloring: Red food coloring puts the ‘red’ in red velvet cake. Use as much or as little as you prefer. If using gel food coloring, you will not need as much as if using liquid coloring. And yes, you can leave it out; the cake will still be delicious (but look like a light chocolate cake).

Pouring red velvet cake batter into round baking pan.

What Does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like?

In most recipes, red velvet cake tastes like a chocolate cake. But it shouldn’t taste AS rich as a traditional chocolate cake because of the addition of buttermilk and vinegar, which cut into the richness of the cocoa. However, all of that depends on the quality and selection of the ingredients. You could use a special dark cocoa or apple cider vinegar or extra-rich vanilla which would all impact the flavor.

Small offset spatula smoothing cream cheese frosting over layered red velvet cake.

Can I Make this Cake Ahead of Time?

Yes! You can get both the cake and the frosting made a little bit in advance. The baked cakes can be cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap, and stored at room temperature overnight. The cream cheese frosting should be stored in the refrigerator.

Piece of red velvet cake on a plate with a bite removed.

How to Store Red Velvet Cake

Once this cake has been frosted, it should be stored in the refrigerator, and covered. It will last up to 5 days. You could also freeze the frosted cake for up to 3 months.

Spatula picking up a cut piece of red velvet cake showing the layers.
4.43 from 7 votes

Red Velvet Cake

Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 40 mins
Cooling Time 2 hrs
Total Time 2 hrs 50 mins
Red Velvet Cake is a soft, moist layered cake with a beautiful crimson color and cocoa flavor, topped with a soft and smooth cream cheese frosting.

Ingredients

Cake

  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • cup (39 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (232 g) mayonnaise, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 cup (245 g) buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ounce red food coloring, more or less depending on how deep you want the color
  • ½ cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ½ cup (1 stick / 113 g) salted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups (500 g) confectioners' sugar

Instructions

Cake

  • Preheat oven to 325°F. Spray 2, 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray and line each with parchment paper. Set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, red food coloring, hot water, and vinegar.
  • Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
  • Divide the batter equally between the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out mostly clean. A few crumbs are what you want for a MOIST cake!
  • Allow the cakes to cool for 10-15 minutes in the pans. Then, turn the cakes out onto a rack to cool completely. After the cakes have cooled completely, make the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • To a large bowl, add the butter, cream cheese, and vanilla. Using a handheld mixer on medium speed, blend until the ingredients are fully incorporated and smooth.
  • Add confectioners' sugar, one cup at a time, until the frosting is light and creamy.
  • Cover the cooled cake in a thin layer of frosting, putting it between the layers and around the outside of the cake. Serve.

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Meet Amanda Rettke

Amanda Rettke is the creator of I Am Baker, and the bestselling author of Surprise Inside Cakes: Amazing Cakes for Every Occasion – With a Little Something Extra Inside.Over the course of her 15+ year blogging adventure, she has been featured in and collaborated with the Food Network, New York Times, LA Times, Country Living Magazine, People Magazine, Epicurious, Brides, Romantic Homes, life:beautiful, Publishers Weekly, The Daily Mail, Star Tribune, The Globe and Mail, DailyCandy, YumSugar, The Knot, The Kitchn, and Parade, to name a few.

Reader Comments

  1. I run out of my americolor soft gel color.
    Which one will you tell me to use instead of this brand?? I really love it but here in Spain is very difficult to get. Any advise, lovely people??
    Thanks to you all

  2. OH. MY. GOODNESS. (Emphasis on goodness!) Moist and luscious (and can even be frozen after it’s frosted!!). I have found the perfect red velvet cake!! Thank you, Amanda!

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