Red Velvet Cake or Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cake has been around at least since the 1920s but has enjoyed a renewed popularity over the last few years. This cake is soft and has a special flavor from buttermilk, cocoa and vinegar.

an uniced red velvet cake on a cake turntable

About Red Velvet Cake:

So what makes a cake a Red Velvet Cake? Can you just add red food coloring to any cake recipe and call it “red velvet”.

Of course you can do that if you want to. But red velvet cake is not just a red-tinted cake. Red Velvet cake has wonderful and specific flavor and texture.

Traditionally, a red velvet cake recipe should include buttermilk, vinegar and cocoa. In the old recipes, a reaction between those ingredients would create a light reddish brown color, hence the name of the cake.

I use a dutch-processed cocoa in my recipe, so the reaction is not quite the same as the old style cakes. I add food coloring to get the deep red color. Some folks use beets to tint the cake.

If you really want to know more about the history and evolution of this recipe check out the Red Velvet Wikipedia page.

There are a million recipes to choose from, but I like the balance and texture of my recipe. It has just enough oil for moisture without the cake becoming gummy, and enough cocoa to give a slight chocolatey edge to the cake without turning it into a chocolate cake.

Scroll through the step by step process photos to see how to make a great Red Velvet Cake:

flour and cocoa sifted on to a sheet of parchment paper
Sift the dry ingredients onto a sheet of parchment paper. The paper makes it easy to add the ingredients to the batter.
showing the process to tint batter for red velvet cake
Emulsify the wet ingredients, then add the food coloring to tint the batter deep red.
Adding dry ingredients to red velvet cake batter.
Use the parchment to pour the dry ingredients into the batter. Mix just until combined. At this point you can add more food coloring for a deeper color.
three layers of red velvet cake cooling on a rack
Cool the layers completely before filling and frosting. I always trim off the top crust to help the frosting stick to the cake (plus the trimmings are a nice snack!).

FAQs about Red Velvet Cake:

What makes red velvet cake red?

For this recipe it is the food coloring that makes the cake red. Some recipes use beets for a red color. The original recipes relied on a reaction between the vinegar and cocoa powder for a slight reddish color.

What’s the best filling for Red Velvet Cake?

My favorite for Red Velvet Cake is Ermine Frosting. Cream Cheese Frosting is another traditional filling that is also delicious.

Can I use this recipe to make cupcakes?

Yes. This recipe will make 24 standard size cupcakes, which take about 20 minutes to bake.

Can I keep Red Velvet Cake at room temperature?

If you frost the cake with a perishable frosting it should be refrigerated. The unfrosted cake can be stored at room temperature.

Does Red Velvet Cake have to be refrigerated?

The cake itself does not need refrigeration, but if the icing is perishable the cake should be refrigerated.

Can I freeze Red Velvet Cake?

Yes, either frosted or not, the cake can be frozen. To work ahead you can bake the cake layers and freeze them for up to 3 months.

You might also like to try Vanilla Buttermilk Cake or Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake

If you love this recipe as much as I do, I’d really appreciate a 5-star review.

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4.84 from 12 reviews

Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet Cake has been around at least since the 1920s but has enjoyed a renewed popularity over the last few years. This cake is wonderful filled and iced with either Cream Cheese Frosting or the more traditional Ermine Frosting.

Prep Time30 minutes
Bake Time30 minutes
Total Time1 hour
16 servings
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  • 15 oz all purpose flour (3 cups, see note)
  • 16 oz granulated sugar (2 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 9 oz vegetable oil (1 ¼ cups)
  • 8 oz buttermilk (1 cup)
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ teaspoons white vinegar
  • red gel food coloring


  • Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line three 8” cake pans with parchment paper or butter and flour the bottom of pans only. (See note)
  • In a large bowl, sift together 15 oz all purpose flour, 16 oz granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda and 1 teaspoon table salt. Set aside.
  • In a mixer bowl, combine 9 oz vegetable oil, 8 oz buttermilk and 3 large eggs. Mix for a minute or two to emulsify the ingredients. Add 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 ½ teaspoons white vinegar. Add red gel food coloring a little at a time. If using gel color, use a few drops. If using liquid coloring you may need the whole bottle. Tint to your preferred color.
  • Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until completely combined.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake until the middle of the cake springs back when lightly pressed, about 30 minutes.
  • Cool the cakes in the pans for 10 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto a cooling rack and cool completely before filling and icing. Fill and frost with Ermine Frosting or Cream Cheese Frosting.

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If measuring the flour by volume use the “dip & sweep” method. That is, dip the measuring cup into the flour bin, overfill it, then sweep away the excess.
If you don’t have 3 pans you can bake 1/3 of the batter in one pan and 2/3 of the batter in the other pan. When the cakes are completely cooled split the larger cake horizontally into two layers.
This recipe can also be baked as cupcakes. The recipe makes 24 standard size cupcakes which take about 20 minutes to bake.


Serving: 1slice | Calories: 369kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 32mg | Sodium: 275mg | Potassium: 65mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 29g | Vitamin A: 68IU | Calcium: 26mg | Iron: 1mg
Have you tried this recipe?Mention @eileen.bakingsense or tag #bakingsense!

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Recipe Rating


  1. Another great cake, thank you for sharing the recipe. The cake was very good, but my two of my layers came about a little crunchy around the edges and a little sunken in the middle. The third was a little crunchy but it was not sunken. Can you give me a clue to what I might be doing wrong.? This seems to be an on going issue for me. I have two identical tins and one taller tin. The taller tin layer was the one that was not sunken. All tins are made of aluminum. My first guess is that I might be over baking them. Thank you!

    1. Hi Jennifer, it sounds like the cakes in the shorter pans are baking a little too fast. That could be why the sides are overbaked and the middle underbaked (sunken). Do you have an oven thermometer to ensure that your temp is accurate? I know that mine tends to run about 25F hot so I rely on my oven thermometer to monitor the temp. If it does seem to be baking at the right temperature perhaps you need to reduce the temp by 25F when using the shorter pans. Personally, all of my cake pans are 3″ tall. This way I can fill them no more than 2/3 full and still have room for the cake to rise within the pan. Also, you don’t need to grease the sides of the pan. Either just use a round of parchment at the bottom or butter and flour just the bottom of the pan. Greasing the sides could make the sides of the cake “crunchy”. Finally, another option would be to use “cake strips”. They are wrapped around the sides of the pan to promote even baking by creating a heat shield on the sides of the pan. Cakes will bake flatter when you use cake strips. (As an Amazon associate I earn commission on sales.)

    1. Both measurements are correct. The weight of a cup of flour is not an absolute. How you fill the cup will determine how much flour is in the cup. I use the “dip and sweep” method for filling the cup. That is, I “dip” the cup into the bin, overfill it, then “sweep” away the excess flour. Using that method I always get 5oz of ap flour per cup. 5oz x 28.3 (gram conversion) = 424g. If you fluff up the flour then lightly spoon it into the cup you can get up to an ounce less per cup. That’s why using weight measurement is always more accurate for baking.

  2. Thanks For Sharing this Amazing Recipe. My Family Loved It. I will be sharing this Recipe with my Friends. Hope They will like it.

  3. Hi I love that so far all your recipes that I have come across, call for Buttermilk as apposed to Yogurt or Sour Cream (which my family & I don’t like)
    Question this recipe calls for 1 1/2 tsp. Vinegar. Is that in the Buttermilk mix or extra?
    (What I’m getting @ is I make my own Buttermilk using Lemon juice cuz I’m ALERGIC to vinegar . Is the extra vinegar needed & if so, can I use MORE Lemon juice? )
    Thanks again!

    1. Buttermilk is one of my FAVORITE baking ingredients. I love the flavor it brings to the batter and the slight acidity is a tenderizer. The vinegar in this recipe is in addition to the buttermilk.

  4. Hello Eileen and THANK YOU for the incredible amount you’re teaching us (read me). I have been wracking my brain to understand the intricacy of cake-baking and, through you, I finally understand so much more!
    So before messing up yet another batch (I have dubbed our kitchen the “test kitchen” from all my baking learning curves, hahaha) – am I able to divide this recipe between two 9 inch pans? And what would the baking time be? Thanks in advance 🙂

    1. Hi Summer. You can bake this recipe in two 9″ pans. Since the cakes will be a little thicker the baking time will probably be a bit longer. But remember that baking times are always an estimate and you should always go by what the cake looks like, not the exact time. I would start checking at 25 minutes and look for the center of the cake to spring back when pressed lightly.

  5. Hi Eileen,
    How do you prevent or fix the crunchy edge on a round layer cake after baking. Cutting the edge with a knife seems so daunting, but I don’t like to feel that hard edge when eating.

    1. I always use a serrated knife to trim cakes. Just use a slow, steady sawing motion to break the crust and then continue trimming the bits you don’t like. Also, if you refrigerate the cake for a couple of hours after baking, those crusty bits will soften quite a bit.

      1. Hello this cake uses oil but whenever I use oil in my cakes they never bake into a fluffy cake but rather a really stodgy and dense cake with a terrible texture please can you tell me what’s wrong