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.
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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.


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.
4.60 from 10 votes

Red Velvet Cake

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Cooling Time 2 hours
Total Time 2 hours 50 minutes
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.



  • 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



  • 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.



*ERMINE Frosting recipe should you prefer ermine on your Red Velvet Cake! 

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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. This cake is PHENOMENAL!! Thank you for being such a great baking resource. I always know your recipes will be delicious!

  2. The recipe on your Facebook video is a little different than this one. It uses vegetable oil. Which way do you prefer to make it?

      1. Thank you for your speedy reply. Red velvet is my daughter’s favorite cake. I am making this version for her 21st birthday tomorrow 😁😋

  3. Thank you for your speedy reply. Red velvet is my daughter’s favorite cake. I am making this version for her 21st birthday tomorrow 😁😋

  4. Can I use this recipe to make cupcakes instead? Or would I be better off following the red velvet cupcake recipe you have for the strawberry shortcake, red velvet cupcakes? That one doesn’t have mayo, so I’m hoping this recipe will still work with cupcakes.

  5. I just love that you are sharing these timeless recepies with us. I cant wait to try this cake.
    It looks delicous.

    Your Boston Partner

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