When I want to make a dessert that I know will be perfect for a special occasion, I turn to this moist red velvet cake recipe. With its bold red color and irresistible tangy cream cheese frosting, this cake is as gorgeous as it is delicious.
I have some family or friends who will request this one on occasion, but I also like to make it for the holidays. It freezes well, so I can always revisit the leftovers (if there are any!) from time to time.
The next time you’re looking for a homemade red velvet cake recipe, look no further than this one. Whether you’re a novice baker or an experienced cake maker, this easy red velvet cake recipe will be at the top of your regular rotation of cakes to make.
Common Questions about Red Velvet Cake
Why is it called red velvet cake?
This cake’s moniker is largely derived from the velvet texture imparted by the cocoa powder.
According to various accounts of the history of red velvet cake, it was originally red because of the use of beet juice or puree that were used in place of other ingredients that were hard to find during times of economic depression.
What does red velvet cake taste like?
Red velvet cake has a mild chocolate taste. The cream cheese frosting gives it a slightly sweet tangy flavor.
Is red velvet a Southern cake?
The debate has gone on for years about where red velvet cake originated. That said, even if it didn’t originate in the southern portion of the United States, it’s an extraordinarily popular dessert in the region.
Making Red Velvet Cake Ahead of Time
There’s little preparation that you can do ahead before you make the cake. However, you can make the cake ahead of time and frost it when you’re ready — store the individual layers wrapped tightly in a large piece of plastic wrap.
Since this cake has a cream cheese frosting it has to be kept in the fridge or freezer. However, it’s best served at room temperature.
Refrigerator – Keep the leftover cake stored in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.
Freezing – Store red velvet cake in the freezer for up to 3 months either whole or individually sliced and placed in freezer bags.
Tips For The Best Red Velvet Cake
Red Velvet cake is a gloriously rich and beautiful cake. Here are some ways to make sure yours is the best.
- Avoid overmixing. While you want to make sure all ingredients are completely incorporated, take care to not overmix the batter so that it has the perfect texture.
- Using room-temperature ingredients is key to creating quality baked goods. It makes for easier mixing but it also allows all of the ingredients to evenly disperse when mixing.
- Be sure to adequately grease your pans so that the cakes are able to be removed smoothly.
The most important thing about this ingredient list is to make sure that the dairy ingredients are softened so that they mix easily and evenly.
- Unsalted butter (softened)
- Granulated sugar
- Sour cream
- Liquid red food coloring or red gel food coloring
- All-purpose flour
- Cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
- Baking soda
- Cream cheese (softened)
- Butter (softened)
- Sour cream
- Confectioner’s sugar
Kitchen Supplies You’ll Need
You only need a few basic kitchen supplies to whip up this cake.
How to Make Red Velvet Cake
Even if you’re new to baking this recipe is an easy one to follow.
- Add the butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer)
- Cream the two together on high speed.
- Turn the mixer to medium speed and add the eggs.
- Once the eggs are completely combined, add the remainder of the wet ingredients (sour cream, milk, food color, and vanilla).
- Beat until all ingredients are evenly dispersed.
- Turn the mixer to low speed.
- Gradually add the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt) until completely combined.
- Pour the cake batter into all 3 of the prepared round cake pans ensuring that you divide batter evenly. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to get all of the batter into the pan.
- Bake the cakes in the preheated oven until they pass the toothpick test. Alternatively, you can check their doneness by seeing if they spring back when you press the center.
- Remove the red velvet cakes from the oven and allow them to cool briefly.
- Invert the pans so that the cake settles onto your work surface.
- Allow the cakes to completely cool so that they are at room temperature.
- Add the cream cheese, butter, and sour cream to a large mixing bowl.
- Beat the ingredients until smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue to beat until the mixture has reached a silky, smooth consistency.
- Place the first layer of the cake on a serving dish.
- Use a third of the frosting to cover the top of the cake using an offset spatula.
- Repeat with the next two cake layers, stacking each on top of the other.
*See notes on the recipe card for various frosting options if you want to decorate the outside of the cake.
What to Serve With Red Velvet Cake
Any of your typical cake accompaniments will be delicious with this gorgeous cake.
- Frozen desserts – Like any good cake, red velvet pairs well with ice cream, gelato, or sorbet.
- Coffee – Brew your favorite roast and serve it with cream or spike it with the likes of Bailey’s, Frangelico, or something a little harder if you like.
- Tea – Black tea, herbal tea, and chai all work well with this cake.
- Berries – Fresh fruit is a perfect pairing with this pretty cake.
Why You Should Make This Recipe
Nearly everyone loves a red velvet cake! Here are a few other reasons to bake this delicious cake.
- Pretty – This cake is a show-stopper at any gathering. Rich red cake is a gorgeous contrast to the bright white icing.
- Versatile – You can make this cake for nearly any event.
- Customizable – Make some subtle switch ups to make it your signature dessert. You can also dress it up for special occasions like Valentine’s Day or July 4th with fruits or chocolates.
- Easy – As cakes go, this is a fairly easy recipe with a beautiful final result.
Variations and Add-ins
While the traditional cake is a crowd-pleaser already, you can customize it, too.
- Chocolate chips – Gently fold in dark, milk, or white chocolate before pouring the batter into the pan. Or, try sprinkling miniature chocolate chips on top.
- Nuts – Mix crushed pistachios, pecans, or walnuts into the batter or sprinkle them over top.
- Extracts – Replace some or all of the vanilla extract for the extract of your choice. Almond extract is a good substitute and coffee extract will impart unique flavor.
- Fruit – Garnish with fresh fruit like raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries.
- Cupcakes – Instead of making a full cake, use muffin tins and make cupcakes instead.
More Great Red Velvet Recipes
- Red Velvet Cream Cheese Brownies
- Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies
- Easy Red Velvet Cake Mix Crinkle Cookies
If you love this easy Red Velvet Cake recipe, you’re going to love these other red velvet treats too. Please click each link below to find the easy, printable recipe!
Other Delicious Cakes
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Red Velvet Cake
- 1 cup butter softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- ½ cup milk
- 1 oz liquid red food coloring or 1 tbsp gel red food coloring
- 2 tsp vanilla
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup cocoa powder not Dutch processed
- 1 tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp salt
- 8 oz cream cheese softened
- 4 tbsp butter softened
- 2 tsp sour cream
- 3½ cups confectioner’s sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- Prepare three 8-inch round cake pans by spraying them with shortening or softened butter and then adding a light coat of flour or cocoa powder. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
- Beat in the eggs.
- Mix in the sour cream, milk, food color, and vanilla.
- Slowly blend in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
- Divide the batter between the 3 prepared round cake pans.
- Bake at 350°F for 24 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean OR until they spring back when gently pressed in the center.
- Allow the cakes to cool for 15 minutes before flipping them out of the pans and onto your work surface.
- Allow to cool completely before assembling or decorating.
- Beat the cream cheese, butter and sour cream together in a large mixing bowl.
- Add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth.
- Place one layer of cake on a serving dish.
- Cover the top with 1/3 of the frosting.
- Add another layer of cake on top of that frosting, followed by another layer of frosting.
- Add the final layer of the cake and decorate the top with the remaining frosting.
- 3 8" cake pans
Nutritional information for the recipe is provided as a courtesy and is approximate. Please double-check with your own dietary calculator for the best accuracy. We at Taste of the Frontier cannot guarantee the accuracy of the nutritional information given for any recipe on this site. Erythritol carbs are not included in carb counts as it has been shown not to impact blood sugar. Net carbs are the total carbs minus fiber.