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 CakeHomemade Funfetti Cake, and Yellow Cake with Chocolate Frosting!

Table of Contents
  1. What is Red Velvet Cake?
  2. Why this recipe for Red Velvet Cake Works
  3. Homemade Red Velvet Cake Ingredients
  4. How to make Red Velvet Cake
  5. Decorating Ideas for Red Velvet Cake
  6. Recipe Tips
  7. Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe Storage
  8. FAQs for Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe from Scratch
  9. More Cake Recipes
  10. More Favorites from House of Nash Eats
  11. Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe Recipe

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!

What is Red Velvet Cake?

Red velvet cake is a classic cake flavor developed and popularized in the southern United States that uses a small amount of cocoa powder, buttermilk, and vinegar along with red food coloring (affiliate link) for its unique color and taste. It's tangy and light, with a moist, tender crumb and most commonly frosted with cream cheese frosting these days, although ermine frosting is another popular choice.

Why this recipe for Red Velvet Cake 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.

Homemade Red Velvet Cake Ingredients

  • 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 Red Velvet Cake

  1. 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.
  2. Whisk all the dry ingredients together first - flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt - and set them aside.
  3. 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.
  1. Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition, and vanilla. Then mix in the vinegar and food coloring.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. Cool completely before leveling off the tops of each cake layer, if needed. Frost with cream cheese or ermine frosting.

Decorating Ideas for Red Velvet Cake

I'm a big fan of keeping things simple when it comes to cake decorating. My favorite approach is to sprinkle some of the red velvet cake crumbs from leveling off the cake layers on top of the cake to indicate what is inside. You could also pipe swirls of frosting around the border of the cake for a more decorative look. Another approach would be to decorate the cake with red or white flowers like baby's breath or roses, which is particularly lovely if you are making this for a wedding cake, shower, or other special occasion.

Recipe Tips

  • 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.

Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe 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.

FAQs for Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe from Scratch

When was red velvet cake invented?

The history of the original red velvet cake recipe goes all the way back to the 1800's. Back then cocoa powder was processed differently and the chemical reaction between it, the buttermilk, and the baking soda produced a natural reddish hue that is more intense than what we see today. Nowadays we use red food coloring to achieve the same result. This New York Times article has even more interesting history about it if you are curious to know more.

What frosting goes with red velvet cake?

The two most popular frosting choices for red velvet cake are cream cheese frosting or an ermine buttercream frosting (the original choice for most velvet cakes and what I use on my black forest cake if you want to try it here). Ermine frosting is a light, less sweet frosting, which is fantastic if you find most frostings too sweet. But vanilla buttercream frosting, rainbow chip frosting, cookies & cream frosting, or swiss meringue buttercream (from my San Jose Burnt Almond Cake) would also all work well here.

What's a good buttermilk substitute?

If you don't have buttermilk on hand for this red velvet cake recipe, you can make an easy substitute by pouring 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into a 1 cup measuring cup, then fill the rest of the way with milk and let it sit for 5 minutes to curdle. Or you could whisk ¾ cup plain yogurt with ¼ cup of milk instead.

Is red velvet chocolate?

Although there is cocoa powder in red velvet cake, the flavor isn't one that you could describe as chocolate. It is more of just a hint of cocoa unless you add extra cocoa powder or chocolate chips to boost the chocolate flavor.

What makes red velvet cake red?

Historically it was the reaction of vinegar with non-Dutch processed cocoa powder that created the reddish hue that famously gave red velvet cake its name. But cocoa powder is no longer processed the way it was when the cake was originally invented, so to achieve the vibrant red color bakers need to add red food coloring to their red velvet cake batter.

What flavor is red velvet?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer because red velvet is a flavor all its own! I think of it as a buttery, sweet, mild cocoa flavored cake. My recipe does use a little bit more cocoa powder than some other red velvet cake recipes in order to boost that chocolate flavor a smidge, since that's how we like it best.

An image of a moist homemade red velvet cake made from scratch.

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Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe

4.96 from 150 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 people
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.

Ingredients
  

Cake

  • 3 cups cake flour, scooped & leveled (354g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (22g)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup salted butter, softened (113g)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (400g)
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (224g)
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons red liquid food coloring (or 1 Tablespoon gel food coloring)
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (240g)

Frosting

  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup salted butter, softened (113g)
  • 4 cups powdered sugar (520g)
  • 2-3 Tablespoons cream or milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions
 

For the cake

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line two 9-inch or 8-inch cake pans with circles of parchment paper in the bottoms and spray the sides. Set aside.
  • Whisk the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together on high speed for 3-4 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until light and creamy. Add the oil and mix again, scraping the sides of the bowl.  
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and vanilla, beating on medium-high speed between each addition until combined. Add vinegar and food coloring, using as much food coloring as needed to get the desired color.
  • Turn mixer to low speed and add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk in 2-3 additions, mixing just until combined between each addition and scraping the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.  
  • Transfer batter to the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes (for 9-inch pans) or 38-43 minutes (for 8-inch pans) until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean with just a few crumbs. Do not overbake. Remove from oven and cool completely.

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.

Assembly

  • Level the cakes (if needed) so the tops are flat. Save scraps to crumble and use for decorating. Frost with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle the top of the cake with the reserved crumbs. Slice and serve.

Video

Notes

  • Cake Flour Substitute: If you don't have cake flour, use 2 ⅔ cups all-purpose flour with ⅓ cup cornstarch instead.
  • Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners ½ to ⅔ of the way full. Bake for 19-21 minutes until the tops spring back at a touch or a toothpick inserted into the center of one comes out clean.
  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 593kcal | Carbohydrates: 97g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Cholesterol: 87mg | Sodium: 363mg | Potassium: 86mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 73g | Vitamin A: 600IU | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 0.6mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

This post was originally published in January, 2019. The photos and content were updated in January, 2022.

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. 5 stars
    My granddaughter requested this for her birthday. Although I have never been a real fan of Red Velvet Cake, I made it. I have to say, this was the most delicious, moist, gorgeous cake! I have officially changed my position on Red Velvet, lol. Thank you so much…it was amazing!

    1. YAY!!! This is the best endorsement for my red velvet cake recipe ever! Thank you, Carrie, for sharing! I'm so glad you feel that way. 🙂

    1. 8X2 is the more traditional shape but I am sure you can still do 8X3. I would just make sure you fill the cake pans evenly.

  2. This is not the best Red Velvet cake. Mine is the best I know of. This calls for too much added stuff. Mine makes 3 very moist layers got it in 1972 from an italian family use Wesson oil. And people are so anxious for it. Just saying every cake taste different they think they are eating the best until they taste another cake.

    1. 5 stars
      If you think you already have the best recipe…why are you looking for and leaving nasty comments on other red velvet cake recipes, Elaine?

  3. I made this cake for my daughters birthday. It was a hit with everyone. We gave some to the wait staff and they came out to say how good it was.

    1. Yum! I love that you shared it with the staff! I have some red velvet cake lovers in my house and sometimes my daughter requests this for her birthday as well! It's a good one!

  4. 5 stars
    This recipe has been my go-to since restarted my baking business. I love it so much and have gotten a lot of positive reviews. Thank you.

    Just this weekend, a customer asked if i could make the cake less crumbly. Do have an idea in what to do? I use cake flour and it comes out really light. I have tried normal flour but it. Mostly feels like the oil seeping through after it’s baked.

    I also just use 1 tablespoon of the cocoa powder, could that be the issue?

    Your view will be highly appreciated.

    PS: your one bowl chocolate recipe is the star of my business at the moment. Thank you so much!!!

    1. I'm so, so glad you love this recipe and the one bowl chocolate cake recipe! Congrats on your baking business! This is a tough question about how to make it less crumbly - I wouldn't think adjust the cocoa powder slightly would make that big of a difference. I almost wonder about replacing some (maybe 1/3?) of the oil with applesauce? I feel like when I do that for things like muffins it makes them less crumbly, more chewy, but I honestly can't say how it would affect this cake. I wish I had a better answer for you!

  5. Hi Amy, love this cake! Only red velvet cake I make! Would I need to double or 1.5 recipe to get 4, 8-inch layers that are about 1.5 inches thick? Planning to use as middle tier for my niece's wedding cake. Thanks!

    1. Yes, you would. I'm guessing you would need to double it for that amount. If you have extra you could always trim the layers a bit and make cake pops with the scraps!

  6. First time making this recipe
    I have no regrets tried it on my family and co-workers, and they all loved it cake was very moist and flavorful lm not sharing this recipe lol

  7. It's been very hard to find a red velvet cake pop recipe that is made from scratch and not a cake mix. Do you happen to have one?

    1. I don't have a specific cake pop recipe other than to crumble a from scratch cake and mix it with frosting like any other cake pop recipe made with a box mix. You will be just fine using this recipe in place of the box mix!

    1. You could make them up to 2 months in advance and freeze them! Or do them the day before and just keep them wrapped in plastic wrap until you are ready to assemble.

        1. Yes, absolutely! Just make sure they have time to come to room temperature before serving. Sometimes cold cake can taste stale when it's really just cold.

  8. Hi, I want to make this cake tomorrow but I only have white vinegar. I know it's more acidic than distilled, but will it still work for this cake? Thanks in advance!

  9. I haven't ate the cake yet....made it for my granddaughter's birthday....but the frosting was so runny... any thoughts??

    1. If the frosting is runny, try beating it less with the hand mixer next time. Cream cheese frosting gets runnier the longer you mix it.

  10. 5 stars
    I gave this a 5 star because it turned out to be a very nice, moist sponge. A few modifications I made, I used the entire bottle of red food color, added extra cocoa powder and mixed the baking soda and vinegar together at the end and mixed them into the finished batter for about 20 seconds, this was enough batter for me to divide between 3 - 9x2 cake pans.

    The frosting I also modified to be more stable and to be able to accommodate all 3 layers, I mixed 1 cup butter, 2 8 oz pkg of cream cheese, 1/2 c vegetable shortening, 8 c 10x sugar, 1 tbsp vanilla

    This cake was made for a work luncheon and it had great reviews, will make it again

  11. I must have done something wrong :(. I tried the recipe last night for my daughter birthday cake and it didn't come out super fluffy and it has a hint of bitter. I am guessing it's the cocoa powder I used (Ghirardelli Unsweetened Cocoa). Also the batter was extremely thick and not pourable. I followed every step and measure to the T. 🙁

  12. Followed recipe to the T- the color of my cake batter looked nothing like this cake. I used 1 Tbsp of red gel food coloring and the batter looks mauve -colored. Wish I had picked up more at the store... Would like to know how much food coloring was used by others to get this intense bright red color.

  13. 5 stars
    I made this recipe for my grandson’s 16th birthday. He requested a red velvet cake, and this is the best recipe I’ve found. Everyone loved it, and the birthday guy ate two pieces.

  14. 5 stars
    This is my go to red velvet recipe. So amazing. If I’m using unsalted butter… how much salt should I put in?

    1. Oh thank you! It is a good one! Per every 1/2 cup of unsalted butter you just need to add 1/4 teaspoon of salt. It's a pretty small amount!

      1. Thank you for getting back to me!! This recipes calls for 1/2 tsp salt with salted butter? Should I do the same with unsalted?

        1. A 1/2 cup of salted butter just has an extra 1/4 teaspoon of salt compared to unsalted butter. Honestly, the difference is so slight that in most recipes you won't even notice it, but you could add an extra 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the amount called for (so 3/4 teaspoon salt total) here to make up for it. I never bother purchasing unsalted butter anymore and make all of my recipes using salted butter.

          1. I’ve definitely noticed your desserts all have salted butter and honestly thats my vibe. All of your desserts are just a bit more flavorful than other recipes I’ve used. Thanks for taking the time! Baked it this morning and it was beautifully delicious per usual! Thank you!

  15. This red velvet cake recipe is absolutely divine! The cake itself is incredibly moist and velvety, and the tangy cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement to the rich chocolate flavor. I couldn't get enough of its indulgent taste and beautiful presentation! Thank you for sharing this amazing recipe, it's become a new favorite in my household.

  16. 3 stars
    I filled the recipe as written and the cake turned out just ok. I felt that the cake itself didn’t have a lot of flavor but the frosting was excellent. The cake was crumbly and not as dense as I would’ve liked. I was very careful to not over bake so I know it wasn’t dried out. It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t the flavor I would have liked.

  17. Hello I was curious if you can use this recipe in 6 inch cake pan? Maybe split into 4 layers. Do you know what the cook time would be?