This is my perfect red velvet cake recipe. It’s the best red velvet cake I’ve tried, and it’s most definitely *not* chocolate cake with red food coloring, because that, my darlings, is *not* red velvet cake contrary to what I have heard/seen in my life outside the South. Bless. The mark of a really good red velvet cake is a slight tang from vinegar and buttermilk, just the right hint of chocolate, and an incredibly moist, but not super dense, crumb. This recipe is all of that, and I’ve used it for years as both a layer cake and cupcake recipe with incredible results each and every bake.
While the red velvet cake is largely considered a Southern treat, it appears its roots are in New York City where the Waldorf Astoria hotel created the recipe and called it the Waldorf Astoria cake sometimes around the Depression Era. I’ve always known it to be a distinctly Southern cake though, and it’s rare to find a truly delicious recipe outside of the South.
Red velvet shouldn’t be too sweet, since the cake is often topped with cream cheese frosting, so you want a nice balance of flavors. In some more traditional Southern kitchens, you may also find red velvet topped with a dressing made from a roux with flour, sugar, and water. It’s a different style, but I personally prefer cream cheese frosting, especially since I really love my cream cheese frosting! I’ve included that recipe below for you too.
You will need to add red food coloring to dye the cake, and I’d recommend using a gel color instead of a liquid dye. You need MUCH less of the gel to get a good color in the cake. If you’d prefer a natural alternative, a little beet juice will give the cake a subtle red hue, but don’t add too much so the cake doesn’t have a beet flavor. A little is totally fine though, especially paired with chocolate.
I hope you enjoy this red velvet cake recipe as much as we do!
- 1 cup unsalted butter
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 tbsp sour cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
- red food coloring
- Preheat the oven to 350 F, then butter and line two 8" round cake pans with parchment or place liners in cupcake pans for 2 dozen (24) cupcakes.
- In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and vinegar. Set aside.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fully, then add the eggs, one at a time, scraping the bowl after each addition. Stir in the sour cream and vanilla extract.
- Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa in a separate bowl.
- Add the half the flour mixture to the butter, then half buttermilk. Repeat, and stir all ingredients are just combined. Stir in the red food coloring.
- Pour into your prepared cake pans or use a medium cookie scoop to place batter into your lined cupcake pans.
- Bake 18-24 minutes for cupcakes or 25-30 minutes for cake, until a tester inserted in the center of the cake (or a middle cupcake) comes out clean.
- Allow the cake to set 10 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a cooling rack to cool completely before decorating. You may also double wrap the slightly warm layers in plastic wrap and freeze for up to two months.
- 1/2 lb unsalted butter, 225 g, softened
- 1 lb cream cheese, 450 g, softened
- 5-6 cups confectioner's sugar, powdered, 600-720 g
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- Cream together the butter and cream cheese.
- Add the powdered sugar 1 cup (120 g) at a time, scraping the sides of the bowl after each addition. Once the desired consistency is reached, add the vanilla extract.
- Use immediately, or store up to 4 days in the refrigerator in an airtight container with plastic wrap pressed along the top surface of the icing. Re-whip before using.