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!

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!

Why This Recipe 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.

Ingredient Notes

  • 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 This Recipe

  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.

Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition, and vanilla. Then mix in the vinegar and food coloring.

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.

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.

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.

Cool completely before leveling off the tops of each cake layer, if needed. Frost with cream cheese or ermine frosting.

Recipe FAQ's

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.

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

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Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe

5 from 38 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 1 hr
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 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.
  • 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
    This is one of my favorite cakes of all time. I've had good red velvet cakes but this looks so delicious! What an awesome recipe and I can't wait to try it.

  2. 5 stars
    I am always on the hunt for delicious red velvet cake! I love how smooth the frosting is on this cake, which is tough when it comes to cream cheese frosting. A delicious classic recipe for sure!

  3. First red velvet cake for me was received with rave reviews. Followed the recipe with the following two modifications; I added one extra tablespoon of cocoa and replaced some of the oil with a single portion container of unsweetened applesauce.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful recipe!

  4. My frosting is too soft, almost liquid... what’s the secret? Do you use 2 8 ounces or totally 8 ounces of cream cheese?

    1. It's definitely a soft frosting, but it shouldn't be liquid. Yes, it's 2 8-ounce packages of cream cheese for a total of 16 ounces. I would suggest completely omitting the cream or milk and increasing the powdered sugar by 1/2 cup increments if you are having difficulty with the frosting being too soft and see how that does. That said, I've made it this way many times and haven't had problems with it.

  5. Thanks Amy, this is a great recipe! I used it for the bottom tier of a wedding cake, and it worked brilliantly. I found that one batch of the recipe was perfect for a single 10 inch cake, which came out at a little over 2 inches. These larger cakes took 65-70 minutes. I used two cakes, sandwiched and crumb coated with buttercream (I love cream cheese frosting but I’ve found it can be too soft to hold up to the weight of fondant). The only change I made to the cake was to use caster sugar instead of granulated sugar.

    1. You are welcome, Matt! I'm so glad it worked out so well for the wedding cake. And thank you for the additional info on the bake time for the larger cakes!

  6. Hi Amy, could you please help to covert the ingredients in grams?
    Would love to try this amazing recipe.

  7. Hello! I’m currently using your recipe to make an anatomy project for class! If you were to make one 9inch on instead of two, would you still heat it to 350 degrees?

    1. Hi Aaliya! Yes, you will want to keep the temperature at 350 degrees. I'm not clear on whether you are attempting to make one larger cake (in which case it will take longer to cook through) or if you are just doing a half batch (and maybe using the rest for cupcakes or something?). If you have more questions that I can help you with, let me know!

  8. The cake came out dense even though I followed the recipe to the T. I used both butter and oil. I used the freshest eggs from a local farmer. The cake also developed quite a hard crust as it was cooling. It tasted nice but was not 100% happy with the outcome.

    What could have gone wrong?

    1. I'm not sure why you would end up with a hard crust - that sounds like possibly an oven issue to me because I haven't had that happen with this recipe. If it was dense, my guess is that the batter got mixed too much when adding the flour and liquid.

  9. Was trying some different recipes to see what I liked better for an upcoming wedding. Yours are the Cats Pajamas, Girl!!! Thank you so much. Such a tender cake with a beautiful flavor.

  10. Simply awesome. As this one is my favorite cake, so I loved this. Yummy and delicious
    Thank you for sharing such a great recipe.

  11. It help a lot if you list the ingredients first rather than the directions. Way too much to scroll through just to find the ingredients list.

  12. Hi, in the article you say you are using 3 tablespoons of cocoa but in the recipe it is only 2 ?! Is it important? I made the cake today and the frosting was very runny and on top of it it was at least a1/3 too much and I discover the cake very thickly.what did I do wrong....confused in Germany 

    1. Eek! Sorry about that typo in the ingredient list! I've fixed it to say 3 tablespoons, which is the correct amount, although as mentioned in the article it's very typical for red velvet cakes to only use 2 tablespoons. If your cake is thick, there could be a few issues. One is that I would make sure to start with room temperature ingredients and be sure to cream the butter and sugar very well so it's light and fluffy. If the frosting is runny, either reduce the amount of cream cheese or increase the amount of powdered sugar, although this is definitely a much softer frosting that you won't be able to pipe onto the cake. I hope this is helpful!

  13. I don't have any type of vinegar on hand. I saw online that you can use lemon juice instead of apple cider vinegar. Can I do that?

  14. 5 stars
    Baked this cake for my birthday and it was an absolute hit! So moist and tasty. Thank you for doing what you do

  15. This looks fantastic! How do you think ermine frosting will pipe? I’m thinking of doing cupcakes. Also, do you think the crumbs will dry out too much? Or is that the point to have more of a crunch? I’ve never done this before 🙂 excited to try new things! Also, I love the story about your aunt Becky and the Black Forest cake!

  16. 5 stars
    This Red Velvet cake is one of the best delectable cakes I have ever tasted. The taste is so unique and delicious I just loved to have it again and again. Thanks for sharing !!!

  17. Your recipe sounds very nice and I want to use it for making a tall 7" cake with maybe 4 layers. What quantities should I use if I want to make enough for 1 x 7" cake pan at a time? Also, what size are the eggs? Large or medium? UK or US sizes?
    Thanks very much.

    1. I'm using large eggs in U.S. sizes. I'm not familiar with 7-inch cake pans as I only have 8- and 9-inch pans, but I think you might need to double the amount and just plan on making cupcakes with the extra batter.

  18. Why I love this red velvet is it's yummy looks and the tasty velvety layering. Can we also change it into a rainbow cake by giving different color layering.

  19. 5 stars
    Thank you for this informative recipe dear , i prepare this cake on my anniversary party by own and everyone in the party like that alot.

  20. 5 stars
    Hi,
    Thank you for sharing this recipe. This recipe is very delicious and also very easy to make. I make this recipe very easily. Such a nice recipe.

  21. 5 stars
    hi thanks for the recipe. really a delicious recipe. I Made it and my family loves this red velvet cake very much. you are doing such a great thing.

  22. 5 stars
    Thank you so much for sharing this amazing red velvet cake recipe! Will surely have this again! It's really easy to make and it tasted so delicious! Highly recommended!

    1. If you want to make a three layer cake, no you don't need to adjust the ingredient amounts. You could just divide the batter evenly between three 8-inch pans (it would be 2 cups of batter per pan since the recipe makes 6 cups of batter) and bake for about 5-8 minutes less. The layers will be slightly thinner than what you see here, but still a good size. If you want the exact same thickness of layers but three instead of two, then you would need to make 1.5x the recipe. If you are talking about a three tier cake like a wedding cake, then yes, you could need to double or triple the recipe depending on the size of the cake you are wanting to make (but I don't think that's what you were asking). Sorry if that explanation is too long or detailed!

  23. I made this today and the cakes sunk in the middle. Any suggestions on how to make sure this doesn’t happen next time.

    1. Sorry to hear that, Julie! If your cakes sunk in the middle, it's usually because the ingredients were cold instead of room temperature, the batter was mixed at a high speed after adding the flour, or something happened while the cakes were in the oven (if I get antsy and open the oven door to check the cakes too often or if the oven wasn't fully preheated before baking they will sometimes sink). I hope this helps!