The Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe

This moist and tangy homemade Red Velvet Cake is layered with a fluffy cream cheese frosting for a classic dessert that you’ll savor every bite of. It’s super easy to prepare and it makes a wonderful treat for birthdays, Valentine’s Day or any other festive occasion!

A piece of red velvet layer cake on a plate with a metal dessert fork

Treat Yourself to the Best Homemade Red Velvet Cake

This glorious red velvet layer cake has a moist, tender texture and just the right amount of tang to keep you coming back for more. The cream cheese frosting is spread between each layer as well as on top to give you the perfect ratio of cake to buttercream in every bite! The sides of the cake are covered in your favorite sprinkles to complete the look.

My original recipe for this cake was oil-based, but I’ve since changed it to a butter-based cake, as not everyone loves using lots of oil. Plus, when working on new recipes, I arrived at this version by chance and fell in love with it. It’s light and lovely and I know you’ll love it too. Even people who don’t love red velvet will want to sneak seconds of this cake. I nearly devoured the whole thing on my own last time I made it!

What is Red Velvet Cake?

A lot of people think that red velvet cake is just chocolate cake with red food coloring, but that’s simply not the case. While red velvet cake does indeed use some cocoa powder, it also includes buttermilk and vinegar to give it a noticeable tang, which is the trademark of red velvet flavor. When those ingredients react with the batter, they naturally produce a reddish tint – the food coloring is there to enhance that.

A slice of red velvet cake on a plate with one bite missing

Recipe Ingredients

Let’s go over the ingredients you’ll need for the cake and the buttercream frosting. Everything can easily be found at the grocery store or created with ingredients you already have on hand.

For the Red Velvet Cake

  • All-Purpose Flour: Use a food scale to measure your flour in order to ensure accuracy.
  • Cocoa Powder: Natural and unsweetened.
  • Baking Powder & Baking Soda: To help the cake rise. The combination is the two creates the ultimate soft texture.
  • Salt: For flavor.
  • Unsalted Butter: Bring your butter to room temperature before making this cake.
  • Vegetable Oil: This works with the butter to give your cake the most amazing soft and fluffy texture and ideal moisture.
  • Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Large Eggs
  • Buttermilk: I use powder buttermilk, for convenience. You can also make this yourself in a pinch by combining a cup of milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar. If you do this, re-measure the buttermilk after you make it since you only need 1 cup.
  • White Vinegar: It’s important to use both buttermilk and vinegar in this cake – otherwise, it’ll miss the mark on red velvet flavor.
  • Red Food Coloring: I use regular food coloring, but gel icing color would work too.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cream Cheese: Brought to room temperature.
  • Butter: Room temperature.
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Sprinkles: I absolutely adore the sprinkles made by Sweetapolita. They are so unique and beautiful! The ones on this cake though are from Home Goods.
A frosted and decorated red velvet cake on top of a white cake stand

How to Make Red Velvet Cake From Scratch

I like to split my cake batter into three 8-inch pans, but you can make a 2-layer cake with 9-inch pans if you’d prefer. The amount of frosting needed for the cake should remain the same.

Make the Cake

  1. Prep for Baking: Prepare three 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Combine Dry Ingredients: Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl and set the mixture aside.
  3. Beat Butter, Oil, Sugar & Vanilla: Add the butter, vegetable oil, sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and beat until the mixture is light in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
  4. Add Eggs: Add the eggs two at a time, mixing until well combined after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated.
  5. Start Adding Dry Ingredients: Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until combined.
  6. Add Buttermilk, Vinegar & Food Coloring: Add the buttermilk, vinegar and food coloring and mix until well combined.
  7. Finish Adding Dry Ingredients: Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until the batter is well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over-mix the batter.
  8. Bake: Divide the batter evenly between the three pans and bake the cake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  9. Let Cool: Remove the cake layers from the oven and allow them to rest in the pans for about 2-3 minutes, then transfer them to cooling racks to cool completely.

Make the Frosting

  1. Beat Cream Cheese & Butter: Add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until well combined and smooth.
  2. Start Adding Powdered Sugar: Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
  3. Add Vanilla: Add the vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  4. Finish Adding Powdered Sugar: Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until the frosting is well combined and smooth.

Build the Cake

  1. Remove Cake Domes: If needed, use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cake layers so that they’re flat.
  2. Frost Initial Layer: Place the first cake layer on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake.
  3. Finish Layering: Add the second layer of cake and another cup of frosting, followed by the final cake layer.
  4. Frost Exterior: Finish spreading buttercream onto the top and outside of the cake.
  5. Decorate: Press sprinkles into the sides of the cake, then pipe shells of frosting around the top edge of the cake and the bottom. Add additional sprinkles on top if desired.
A slice of homemade red velvet cake on a plate with a bowl of sprinkles behind it

Tips for Success

I have a few little tricks up my sleeve when it comes to homemade red velvet cake. Here they are!

  • Measure the Flour Accurately: If you don’t have a food scale you can use to measure the flour, fluff it up and spoon it into the measuring cup rather than scooping it up directly. Once your measuring cup is overflowing, level it off with a butter knife. This prevents the flour from getting packed in.
  • Use Room Temperature Ingredients: Make sure you let your ingredients come to room temperature whenever indicated. Otherwise, you’ll have a hard time combining them into the cake batter or the frosting.
  • Adjust the Amount of Cocoa Powder to Your Liking: I prefer using 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder for a tangier red velvet cake, but if you want to taste more of that rich chocolate flavor, you can add up to 4 teaspoons of cocoa powder. Just keep in mind that using more will darken the color of your cake.
  • Finesse Your Frosting Skills: Frosting cakes can be a challenge if you don’t have much experience. Refer to my Tips and Tricks for Frosting a Smooth Cake if you’d like to refine your skills.

Variation Ideas

Feel free to put your own spin on this classic layer cake if you’re in the mood to switch things up. Try one of the tempting variations below!

  • Use Chocolate Frosting: This cake would be just as tasty with chocolate buttercream in place of the cream cheese frosting. Especially if you follow this recipe!
  • Make Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake: You seriously have to try this indulgent homemade Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake! A creamy vanilla cheesecake filling is stuffed between two layers of this moist and fluffy cake.
A cake stand holding a completed red velvet layer cake with a red kitchen towel underneath it

Storage Instructions

Because of all the cream cheese in the frosting, this cake should be refrigerated in an airtight container. It will stay fresh for up to 3 days – but I have a hunch that it’ll get gobbled up sooner!

Does This Cake Freeze Well?

The red velvet cake layers on their own freeze well. To freeze your cake layers, wrap each one tightly in plastic wrap and freeze them in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. Thaw them out in the fridge before building the cake.

If you’d like, you can find the original Red Velvet Cake Recipe here.

Print
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A slice of homemade red velvet cake on a plate with a bowl of sprinkles behind it
Recipe

The Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe

  • Author: Lindsay
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Yield: 14
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This moist and tangy homemade Red Velvet Cake is layered with a fluffy cream cheese frosting for a classic dessert that you’ll savor every bite of. It’s super easy to prepare and it makes a wonderful treat for birthdays, Valentine’s Day or any other festive occasion!


Ingredients

For the Red Velvet Cake

  • 2 1/4 cups (293g) all-purpose flour
  • 24 tsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (112g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 4 tsp red food coloring

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 oz (452g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (172g) butter, room temperature
  • 10 cups (1150g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Sprinkles

Instructions

Make the Cake

  1. Prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C).
  2. Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium-sized bowl and set aside.
  3. Add the butter, vegetable oil, sugar and vanilla extract to a large mixer bowl and beat together until light in color and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
  4. Add the eggs two at a time, mixing until well combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  5. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until combined.
  6. Add the buttermilk, vinegar and food coloring and mix until well combined.
  7. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined and smooth. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Do not over mix the batter.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the three pans and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  9. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 2-3 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks to cool completely.

Make the Frosting

  1. Add the cream cheese and butter to a large mixer bowl and beat until well combined and smooth.
  2. Add about half of the powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  4. Add the remaining powdered sugar and mix until well combined and smooth.

Build the Cake

  1. Use a large serrated knife to remove the domes from the top of the cakes so that they’re flat, if needed.
  2. Place the first cake on a serving plate or a cardboard cake round.
  3. Spread about 1 cup of frosting evenly on top of the cake,
  4. Add the second layer of cake and another cup of frosting.
  5. Top the cake with the remaining layer and frost the outside of the cake. Refer to my tutorial for frosting a smooth cake, if needed.
  6. Press sprinkles into the sides of the cake, then pipe shells of frosting around the top edge of the cake and the bottom. Add additional sprinkles, if desired.

Notes

  • Makes 12-14 slices.
  • To Store: Refrigerate cake in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
  • To Freeze: Wrap each cake layer tightly in plastic wrap and freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw on the counter before building cake. Freezing frosting is not recommended.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 853
  • Sugar: 107.6 g
  • Sodium: 252.3 mg
  • Fat: 37.6 g
  • Carbohydrates: 126.2 g
  • Protein: 6.6 g
  • Cholesterol: 131.4 mg

Keywords: red velvet cake from scratch, what is red velvet cake, how to make red velvet cake

More Easy Red Velvet Recipes

Can’t get enough red velvet? Today must be your lucky day! The recipes below are sure to keep you satisfied.

Red Velvet Berry Trifle
Red Velvet Ice Cream Cake
Creamy Red Velvet Cheesecake

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Recipe rating

190 Comments
    1. Lindsay

      I don’t think I’ve actually tried it as cupcakes yet, but I would expect it to do very well as cupcakes. The bake time should be 15 to 20 minutes.

  1. Lilia Mihailova

    Hi there, I have tried a couple of your cakes and all came out delicious.
    Do you think that I can cover this red velvet cake with fondant? I will do a white chocolate ganache under the fondant, but would it hold the weight? Decorations on top are not heavy. Thank you so much for the advice. Lilia

    1. Lindsay

      I really don’t work with fondant cakes, so I’m probably not the best one to ask. I typically hear people talk about dense cakes for using fondant and I would not describe this cake as dense. But I would think that if you have a firm layer of white chocolate ganache underneath that it should be fine.

      1. Lilia Mihailova

        Thanks a lot, I might give it a try. Btw. It worked out well with you lemon layer cake :).

  2. Lauren

    Is there a way to get the other red velvet recipe with out the butter? I use that one all the time and it’s my families favorite. I thought it was this one but noticed this one has butter

    1. Lindsay

      If you look right above the recipe card, there’s a link to the PDF of the old recipe. It’s a shame more people didn’t let me know that they loved that recipe before. I may not have changed it lol.

  3. Nadya Soal

    I tried this recipe for the first time and it’s better than one I used to use with only butter.
    I made two small cakes, and used the rest of the batter to make cupcakes.
    Would you know why the cupcakes shrink after cooling? This happens to me lots with cupcakes, but for your recipe, perhaps you have some idea of why. I’d appreciate any tips. But a really soft and light and lovely tasting cake!

    1. Lindsay

      So glad you enjoyed it! I’m not sure exactly how much the cupcakes shrank. If the cake layers didn’t shrink, it would seem like the batter was fine. It’s not uncommon though for cakes and cupcakes to do that a little bit when they cool. Did it feel excessive?

      1. Nadya Soal

        Thanks so much for responding!! I did some Googling and some suggestions were over beating, which with me is entirely possible. Opening the oven was also suggested, but I have to rotate my trays. Not a great oven. Freshness of raising agents etc. It was the same shrinkage I used to get with my old red velvet recipe. The difference is mine was all butter so also much more dense. I always look for recipes that use oil or more oil than butter, as where I live the price of butter is out of the park. It definitely gave a softer crumb which I think is better. Thanks again,

    1. Lindsay

      You could try making your own. You’d need one cup of milk minus one tablespoon and then one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice.

      1. Holly

        Thank you I will make some. Also do you need to crubcoat this cake before adding all the frosting?

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

Scripture I’m Loving

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12