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Recipe

Red Velvet Cake

From the 2017 Thanksgiving Guide
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Ellen Silverman

Yield: Makes one 9-inch cake.

Red velvet cake is a dessert that everyone oohs and aahs over—it’s tall, dark, and handsome, with deep crimson cake layers and a thick coating of cream cheese frosting above, around, and between. This red velvet cake recipe excerpted from David Guas and Raquel Pelzel’s DamGoodSweet, is about as southern as a cake can be, but their version veers a bit from tradition.

Browse our special collections for more impressive layer cakes and recipes perfect for Valentine’s Day or your Mardi Gras celebration.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) plus 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 (1-lb.) box light brown sugar (about 2-1/4 cups)
  • 3 Tbs. red food coloring
  • 2-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-3/4 cups buttermilk

For the frosting

  • 1-1/4 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2-1/2 sticks (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 (2-lb.) bag confectioners’ sugar (about 7-1/4 cups)

Preparation

To make the cake

  • Heat the oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch cake pans with 1 Tbs. of butter each. Add 2 Tbs. of the flour to each pan and shake the pans to coat the bottom and sides. Tap out the excess flour and set the pans aside.

    Sift the remaining 3 cups of flour with the cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and set aside.

    In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer) cream the remaining butter with the brown sugar, food coloring, and vanilla on low to combine. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and pale, about 2 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly between each addition and using a rubber spatula to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and add one-third of the dry ingredients followed by half of the buttermilk. Repeat, finishing with the final third of the dry mix. Scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl and divide the batter between the two prepared cake pans, spreading it out as evenly as possible.

    Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the center of the cake resists slight pressure, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes, and then run a paring knife around the edges of each pan to release the cake from the sides; invert the cakes onto the cooling rack. Cool for 1 hour, and then wrap each cake in plastic wrap for at least a few hours.

To make the frosting

  • Beat the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl if using a hand mixer) on low speed to combine. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add a few cups of the confectioners’ sugar, incorporating it into the cream cheese mixture on low speed until combined. Repeat with the remaining sugar, adding it to the mixer in two additions. Once all of the sugar is added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

To assemble the cake

  • Unwrap the cake layers. Slice off the rounded top 1/8 inch of each cake and place the trimmed-away portion in the bowl of a food processor. Slice each cake in half horizontally (you’ll end up with 4 layers), working over a baking sheet to catch any crumb. Add the crumbs to the food processor and pulse until fine.

    Place one cake layer on a cake round or large plate (make sure that the diameter of the plate is at least 1 inch larger than the cake). Use an offset spatula to evenly spread a heaping 3/4 cup of frosting on the first cake layer. Repeat with the remaining three cake layers, ending with a bottom half of a cake on top, browned-side up (so you don’t get cake crumbs in the frosting). Spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake (the sides don’t have to look perfect—you’re going to cover them with cake crumbs anyway). Gently press a handful of the reserved crumbs into the side of the cake until all of the sides are evenly coated. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Make Ahead Tips

You can make the cake layers up to 3 days in advance. The filled and frosted cake keeps for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. Let it stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes before slicing.

Red velvet cupcakes: Follow the recipe on the facing page, making a half-batch of the batter (unless you have two 12-cup muffin tins, in which case you can make a full-size batch) and decreasing the baking powder to 1 tsp. Bake until the cupcakes are domes and resist slight pressure, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool completely before frosting with a half batch of the cream cheese frosting.

Reviews

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Reviews

  • jzed22 | 02/08/2015

    The best red velvet cake we've ever tried! My kids & hubby loved it... We'll definitely make this from now on... The search is over ??

  • user-3017872 | 03/01/2014

    This was fantastic! I made it for Valentine's Day and shared it with several of my family members. Everyone LOVED it and told me it was better than a bakery cake. It was a nice balance of dense red velvet (which I prefer) and moist cake. I made the cake part the day before and assembled it the morning of the day I served it. I actually think this tasted better the second day. This will be one of my go-to special occasion cakes.

  • cheryloberg | 02/16/2013

    Really great red velvet. As to the complaint about the frosting not being original, I prefer cream cheese frosting so that's what I always use.

  • Sylvie_H | 01/19/2013

    My 11 year old daughter made this cake for my birthday last November. I sliced the cakes for her but she pretty well did the rest herself. Major hit! Super presentation and delicious!

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