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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.

Red Velvet Cake or Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cake or Cupcakes

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

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.


  • 3 cups (15 oz, 420g) all purpose flour
  • 2 cups (16 oz, 448g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (9 oz, 270ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (8 oz, 240ml) buttermilk
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • red food coloring


  1. 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)
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer bowl, combine the oil, buttermilk and eggs. Mix for a minute or two to emulsify the ingredients. Add the vinegar and vanilla. Add the 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.
  4. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until completely combined.
  5. Divide the batter evenly between the pans. Bake until the middle of the cake springs back when lightly pressed, about 30 minutes.
  6. 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.


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.

Did you make this recipe?

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Tuesday 28th of February 2023

You call for 3 cups of flour, which would weigh 360g not 420g. Which is correct- the cups or the weight?

Eileen Gray

Wednesday 1st of March 2023

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.


Wednesday 30th of December 2020

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


Saturday 21st of November 2020

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!

Eileen Gray

Sunday 22nd of November 2020

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.

Summer Britton

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

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 :)

Eileen Gray

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

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.


Saturday 25th of April 2020

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.

Eileen Gray

Saturday 25th of April 2020

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.

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