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The most incredible Classic Red Velvet Cake is topped with the silkiest creamy cream cheese icing! The cake is moist with that hint of chocolate and the most perfect velvet texture you will ever take a bite of.

This southern red velvet cake recipe is super easy to make and just slightly adapted from the original recipe given to me by a sweet friend years ago. A made from scratch recipe that I have been making ever since. And for good reason, it gets rave reviews from family and friends alike!

Definitely my most requested cake for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or the Holidays in general. If you love red velvet cake you are in for a treat! Red velvet fans will also love Red Velvet Cupcakes or Red Velvet Brownie Cups!

A upclose image of a slice of red velvet cake on a white plate with a fork in front of the cake.

Like I mentioned before several years ago a friend shared this recipe with me. She wanted to remain anonymous because this was a “secret” family recipe.

This recipe also was in my Stewart family cookbook and almost identical to my friends, with just a little less oil in the recipe (However, I recommend keeping the amount in my recipe here).

Actually, our family cookbook has two versions one with white icing made with flour and another with cream cheese icing made by two different family members. It seems this recipe is passed down by many families, and rightfully so. It’s a keeper!

I did make a few adaptions to an already perfected recipe. I added a little more cocoa powder for a slightly more chocolatey version and most often I make a little more icing than originally called for.

After years of making this, I have to say this is my absolute favorite red velvet cake I have ever had.

What exactly is Red Velvet Cake?

Red Velvet Cake is not just a red cake or a chocolate cake that has red coloring added in. The cake is soft and moist and has a velvet-like texture. The chocolate is mild (although I add a little more than most recipes). It is almost a little mysterious in taste. Not vanilla and not full-on chocolate. It has a subtle tang from the buttermilk and that dash of vinegar.

A fluffy cream cheese frosting tops this off making one of the most unique and delicious cakes!

Perfectly Imperfect Cake:

If you have been following along here for any amount of time. You know I don’t usually do anything too fancy or at least I don’t proclaim to make things picture-perfect. I like to say my desserts have a rustic flair. Well, the same goes here.

This Southern Red Velvet Cake tastes delicious even though I don’t always slice it perfectly or keep crumbs at bay. I am sure you will do a much better job at that than I do. But I do promise it tastes AMAZING my friends!

Here’s what you need to make the perfect southern red velvet cake!

Ingredients Needed:

Cake Ingredients

  • All-Purpose Flour: This is the base of the cake.
  • Unsweetened Cocoa: That hint of chocolate that makes this cake famous. I add a little more than most recipes. I find this amount delightfully delicious.
  • Baking Soda: Baking soda works much like baking powder, but it is more powerful. You do need acid to activate it. The buttermilk will do that for this recipe. The vinegar aids in this as well.
  • Kosher Salt: Salt balances out the sweetness and adds to the special flavor in this cake.
  • Granulated Sugar: Sugar adds sweetness to this red velvet cake.
  • Buttermilk: Adds a tanginess and buttery flavor to the cake. It also adds moisture. It’s a must-have in this recipe.
  • Vegetable Oil: This recipe calls for a little more oil than most cakes, and I believe it is one of the reasons this one is extra special. Don’t be alarmed it doesn’t taste oily at all. You get the moistest and most amazing cake!
  • Eggs: This recipe uses just enough to hold the cake together while not giving it too much of an eggy taste.
  • Vanilla Extract: This will add flavoring to the cake and to the icing.
  • Red Food Coloring: 2 bottles of the classic red food coloring. You can find this in most grocery stores. It really gives a nice deep red color.
  • White Distilled Vinegar: Some say vinegar originally was put in this recipe to react with the cocoa to get a red tint. It also adds acidity to react with the baking soda. In either case, the combination creates an amazing texture.
  • Block Cream Cheese: Make sure to use the block cream cheese for the right consistency. The containers are a little softer in texture. This gives a nice tang to the icing too! So yummy!

Icing Ingredients:

  • Block Cream Cheese: Make sure to use the block cream cheese for the right consistency. The containers are a little softer in texture. This gives a nice tang to the icing too! So yummy!
  • Butter: Butter makes everything better and butter in icing is no exception. It adds a creamy and airy factor making icing so dreamy.
  • Powdered Sugar: This is also known as confectioners sugar. It’s airy and soft and creates the perfect icing.
Image of all the ingredients needed for red velvet cake and icing.

How to make the Best Red Velvet Cake!

Be sure to see the recipe card below for exact ingredients and full recipe instructions!

Step 1 | Mix Dry & Wet Ingredients

Sift together all the dry ingredients to get a nice lump-free fluffy mix. Set aside.

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or large bowl (using a hand mixer), mix together all the wet ingredients until combined (minus the red food coloring and vinegar). I like to add that in at the very last.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until incorporated. Turn down the mixer to low and add in food coloring and vinegar. Once incorporated turn to medium speed and mix until fluffy. (Don’t overmix)

Tips

  • Measure your flour correctly: Adding too much flour to the recipe is the most common mistake. This will cause the cake to be dry. Make sure to fluff your flour with a spoon, sprinkle it into your measuring cup, and use a knife to level it off.
  • Buttermilk – Buttermilk is a key ingredient and flavor in this recipe. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own substitution. To do this, add 1 ½ teaspoons of fresh lemon juice or white vinegar to a liquid measuring cup. Add enough whole milk to make 1 cup. Stir the two together, then let it sit for 5 minutes before using. (Note: You will still need the additional vinegar in the recipe as well.)
  • Make sure buttermilk, eggs, cream cheese and butter are at room temperature. This allows everthing to mix together evenly and give a nice smooth texture.

Step 2 | Pour into can pans and bake.

Pour red velvet cake batter into prepared cake pans and bake in preheated 350° oven.

  • Prepare Cake Pans Well: Make sure to spray the cake pans well with baking spray (the one with flour in it) or use oil or butter and flour to coat the pan. If desire you can place a parchment circle in the bottom of the pan and spray it as well.
  • If you want taller thicker layers use 8-inch cake pans.
  • For a 3 Layer Cake: Make 1.5 times the recipe and divide into 3 cake pans.
  • The best cake pans: I like to use a heavy light colored cake pan. I find they cook more evenly. These USA pans are my favorite. They come in 8 or 9-inch options.
  • If you want your cakes absolutely even in size you can weigh your pans and cake batter on a kitchen scale. Just eyeballing the amount is fine too, that is what I usually do.
  • Start checking at about 20 minutes the first time you bake. Oven temperatures vary and this will help you gauge how yours is cooking.

Tips

Collage image of stages of red velvet cake preparation.

Step 3 | Icing the Cake

Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy, and then slowly add in powdered sugar until combined. Add in vanilla and mix until combined and icing is creamy and spreadable.

Optional: If desired cut the top (dome) of each cake to level or make layers flat.

Spread the top of one of the cakes with some of the icing. Top with other cake. Spread top and sides of cake with remaining icing.

Collage image of stages of red velvet icing preparation.

Tips

  • For the icing, you want room temperature or softened cream cheese and butter. For the butter, you want an indention when you touch it but it shouldn’t be so soft you press right through it. Same with the cream cheese. If the icing gets too soft just place it in the refrigerator for a bit until the icing firms back up.
  • Add a dollop of icing to the base of serving dish then spread out a little. This will hold the bottom cake layer in place and keep it from moving around on the serving dish.
Overhead image of red velvet cake iced with cream cheese icing and garnished with chopped pecans on a wooden cake plate.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is red velvet cake hard to make?

No, it may look a little fancy, but the cake really is easy to make. Just measure out your ingredients as directed and you are good to go.

Why do you add vinegar and buttermilk?

The cocoa reacts with the addition of vinegar along with the buttermilk to create the perfect texture. Don’t skip either of these!

What kind of food coloring do you need to use?

I always use the McCormick bottled food coloring. It comes in a 1-ounce bottle and yes 2 bottles are what you need. It gives that deep rich color and it does not alter or give a bitter taste to the cake. However, there are all kinds of colorings you can try. Gel colorings work well. There are also natural colorings available like beet powder. Feel free to experiment if you would like. I just stick to the basics here.

How do you make the frosting with the flour in it?

While I love and recommend a cream cheese frosting with this cake, you can make a flour-based frosting by using 1 cup milk, ¼ cup all-purpose flour, ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt, 1 cup butter (room temperature), 1 ½ cups powdered sugar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla.

In a medium saucepan whisk milk, flour, and salt together on medium-low heat until it thickens (like a gravy). Remove the pan from heat and allow it to cool (stirring occasionally). In the bowl of a stand mixer beat butter until light and fluffy. Add in cooled flour mixture and vanilla, and mix until combined (2-3 minutes). Frosting will be thick and smooth.

Slice of red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and pecans set on a red cloth.

Variations and Substitutions:

  • Add nuts to the icing: Add toasted pecans or walnuts to the cream cheese icing for a little crunchy texture.
  • Keep the icing simple or add pecans around the edges. You can take them all the way around the sides of the cake too.
  • Pipe beautiful roses or swirls on top with an icing tip! Take this cake to the next level by making it even fancier!
  • If you want to cut the domes off of the cake to keep it flat you can do that and reserve the crumbs to sprinkle on top and/or around the sides of the iced cake. If you do this I recommend using an 8-inch cake pan so that your layers are not too thin. These crumbs are really beautiful on the cake.
Image of whole red velvet cake partially sliced.

Make Ahead and Storage Instuctions:

Make-Ahead Instructions: 

The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight.

The frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting.

Storage:

Cover leftover cake tightly or with a cake dome or carrier and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

Freezer:

Frosted or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen for 2 to 3 months. Wrap with freezer-safe wrap and place in a freezer-safe zip bag (or double wrap cakes). This will keep freezer burn at bay and keep other odors away.

Thaw cake overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.

Up close image of classic red velvet cake with another slice in background set on a red cloth with cake server.

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Recipe
4.73 from 22 votes

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Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 12 slices
Author: Nikki Lee
The most incredible Classic Red Velvet Cake is topped with the silkiest cream cheese icing! The cake is moist with that hint of chocolate and the most perfect velvet texture you will ever take a bite of.
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Ingredients 

Red Velvet Cake

Dry Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 ounces red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

Cream Cheese Icing (See NOTE section)

  • 12 ounces block cream cheese, softened
  • ¾ cups butter, softened
  • 5 to 6 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Red Velvet Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°F and spray with baking spray or oil and flour – 2 (8 or 9-inch) round cake pans. You can also line with parchment rounds in the bottom and spray if desired.
  • In a large bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl), mix together oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and eggs until combined.
  • Add in sugar and mix until combined. Then slowly add in flour mixture and mix until combined.
  • Slowly add in food coloring and then vinegar, then mix until combined.
  • Divide evenly into 2 prepared 8 or 9-inch round cake pans.
  • Bake for 25 to 32 minutes (this will depend on cake pan size and oven) or until a wooden pick comes out clean or lightly crumbed. The cake should slightly pull away from the edges of the pan.
  • Once the cake is done remove it from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 to 15 minutes. Then turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to completely cool.

Cream Cheese Icing * (see note below)

  • Beat cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes it will change from a yellowish color to an almost white color).
  • Slowly add in powdered sugar until combined. Add in vanilla and mix until combined and icing is creamy and spreadable.

To Ice or Frost the Cake

  • Optional: If desired cut the top (dome) of each cake to level or make layers flat.
  • Spread the top of one of the cakes with 1 to 1½ cups of icing. Top with other cake. Spread top and sides of cake with remaining icing.
  • Optional: Use crumbles cut off of cake or toasted pecan pieces to decorate the top rim and sides or base of the cake as desired.
  • Refrigerate the cake for at least 30-60 minutes before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.

Notes

Cake Sizes: 

3 Layer Cake: Divide the batter between 3 – (8 or 9-inch) cake pans. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Use a toothpick to test for doneness
Bundt Cake: This cake batter fits into a 10-cup or larger bundt pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time (likely around an hour), but use a toothpick to test for doneness. 
Sheet Cake: This batter fits nicely into a 9×13 inch cake pan or 12×17 inch or jelly roll pan. Same oven temperature. Bake for about 35-40 minutes for 9 x 13 or 20-25 minutes for jelly roll pan. Keep your eye on the cake and use a toothpick to test for doneness.
*Original Icing Recipe: I adapted to 1 ½ of the recipe as my family likes a little more icing. Feel free to cut back if desired.
  • 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick (½ cup) butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
 

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1slice Calories: 548kcal (27%) Carbohydrates: 82g (27%) Protein: 9g (18%) Fat: 14g (22%) Saturated Fat: 8g (50%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g Monounsaturated Fat: 4g Trans Fat: 1g Cholesterol: 67mg (22%) Sodium: 620mg (27%) Potassium: 179mg (5%) Fiber: 1g (4%) Sugar: 77g (86%) Vitamin A: 448IU (9%) Calcium: 138mg (14%) Iron: 2mg (11%)

Nutritional Disclaimer

Soulfully Made is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.

©️Soulfully Made

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8 Comments

    1. Yes. In a preheated oven at 350 degrees F, bake in cupcake pan for 12 to 15 minutes or until a wooden stick inserted into the center comes of mostly clean. You can decrease to 325 degrees for a nonstick or darker pan.

  1. 5 stars
    This Red Velvet Cake is delicious!

    I love how you have it all broke down, where it’s easy to understand the Recipe.

    Making it for my sweetheart!!
    And might as well make one today!

    1. Thank you, Julie! So glad the instructions are helpful and easy to understand! Your sweetie will love it almost as much as he loves you ;)!