red velvet cake

red velvet cake


  • 1/4 cup red food coloring (2 ounces/60 grams)
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (10 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening, or ¼ cup shortening and ¼ cup softened butter (65 to 67°F) (3.5 ounces/100 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (10.5 ounces/300 grams)
  • 2 large eggs (6 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon/3.5 ounces/100 grams)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour or 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted (8.75 ounces/250 grams)
  • 1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (1 tablespoon white vinegar or lemon juice plus milk to equal 1 cup) (8.5 ounces/240 grams)
  • 1 tsp distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

  • 1 cup cream cheese, softened (8 ounces/225 grams)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, or Mascarpone cheese, at room temperature (65 to 67°F) (1 stick/4 ounces/115 grams)
  • 1 lb confectioners' sugar, sifted (4 cups/455 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Whipped Roux Frosting Ingredients (optional frosting choice)

  • 5 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour (1.25 ounces/35 grams)
  • 1 cup milk (8.5 ounces/230 grams)
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened, or ½ cup butter and ½ cup vegetable shortening (8 ounces/225 grams)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (7 ounces/200 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


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Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (325°F for a convection oven). Grease and flour two 9- by 2-inch round or three 8- by 1½-inch round baking pans.

To make the batter: In a small bowl, gradually stir the food coloring into the cocoa until smooth. Add the vanilla.

Red food coloring stirred into cocoa powder.

In a large bowl, beat the shortening and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Creaming shortening and sugar with a mixer.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time.

Beating eggs into cake batter.

Beat well after each addition.

Beating eggs into cake batter.
Blend in the cocoa mixture and salt.

Adding red food coloring to cake batter.
Add the flour alternately with the buttermilk (4 portions for the flour; 3 portions for the milk) beginning and ending with the flour. Overbeating produces a tough cake.

Adding flour to wet cake batter.
Stir the vinegar into the baking soda. (It will foam.) Quickly fold it -— do not beat -— into the batter.

Combining baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl.
Immediately divide the batter equally between the prepared pans and place in the oven.

Cake batter divided into two round pans.
Bake until a wooden tester inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake springs back when lightly touched, about 30 minutes for the 9-inch pans or about 25 minutes for the 8-inch pans. Do not overbake or it will be dry.

Two round cake pans.
Let cool in the pans for 15 minutes, then remove the cakes to wire racks and let cool completely, at least 1½ hours.

Two round cake layers cooling on a rack.
For thinner layers, the 9-inch rounds can be cut in half horizontally using a serrated knife. The cakes can be wrapped in plastic wrap and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days or the freezer for up to 2 months. Refrigerating or freezing the layers makes it easier to frost them without tearing or cracking.

To make the cream cheese frosting: In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 1 minute.

Beating cream cheese with a mixer.
Gradually add the sugar and beat until fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the vanilla.

Creaming sugar into cream cheese.
To assemble: For 2 thick layers, leave the 9-inch rounds as is – for 4 thinner layers, cut them horizontally in half. Place a cake layer on a serving plate, spread with a layer of frosting. (Note - for 4 layer cake you will need more frosting, an extra half recipe should be enough).

Round cake layers split into thinner layers.
Frost, then arrange the next cake layer on top.

Frosting round cake layers.
Continue the layering, then spread the top and sides with the remaining frosting. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

A traditional recipe and history for Red Velvet Cake from food historian Gil Marks on The History Kitchen


To make Whipped Roux Frosting: In a medium saucepan, place the flour and gradually whisk in the milk until smooth. Stir over medium-low heat until it thickens and forms a mound, about 5 minutes. (This was once done over an asbestos hot plate to prevent scorching.) Scrape into a small bowl, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface, and let cool completely (it must be cool or the butter will melt), at least 1 hour. Do not chill. If there are any lumps, process in a blender. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until the frosting develops the consistency of whipped cream and no sugar granules remain, at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Substitute 1 cup vegetable oil for the shortening and increase the all-purpose flour to 2½ cups (10.5 ounces/300 grams).

Red Velvet Cupcakes: Divide the batter between 24 (2½-inch) cupcake tins lined with paper liners and bake for 15 to 20 minutes. After cooling, spread a layer of the frosting over top.

Red Velvet Sheet Cake: Pour the batter into a greased and floured 18- by 12-inch sheet cake pan and bake for about 20 minutes.

Heart-shaped Red Velvet: Cut a heart-shaped template from parchment paper or waxed paper, place it over each layer, and trim. (Mix any crumbs with enough frosting to moisten and shape into small balls for truffles.) Or bake the batter in 1 circular pan and 1 square pan; after cooling, cut the circular cake in half, then arrange each half against 2 sides of the square cake to form a heart.

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