I've had so many requests for a Red Velvet Cake recipe, so I'm very excited to share this recipe with you all! It's super light and fluffy, while also being perfectly moist - surely everything you want in a cake?! It has a lovely vanilla flavour, with a hint of cocoa. This easy recipe can be enjoyed any time of year, but I do always end up associating red velvet with Valentine's Day for some reason!
Although I adore the sponge of this cake very much, the cream cheese frosting is the star of the show for me. It can be hard to make thick and perfectly pipeable cream cheese frosting in the UK, as we don't have the cream cheese blocks that are sold in the USA. However, this recipe solves that issue and this cream cheese frosting is truely epic!! It pipes like a dream and is so thick and creamy.
Ingredient Tips & Equipment Information
- Make sure all your ingredients (particularly the butter, buttermilk and eggs) are at room temperature before you start baking.
- I used unsalted butter for the buttercream, for the cake I used a baking spread.
- You will need to use a professional grade food colouring to get the same shade of red that you can see in my photos. Brands I recommend are Pro Gel and Sugarflair. I have also heard good things about Colour Mill and Americolor.
- I prefer to use Philadelphia full fat cream cheese for the buttercream as it gives me the best results.
- Although I provide cup measurements, I highly recommend weighing your ingredients out using digital kitchen scales*. It is the most accurate way to measure ingredients and will ensure the best results. Digital scales are very low cost and can be purchased for around £12 ($16.50) .
- For teaspoon (tsp) and tablespoon (tbsp) measurements, please use measuring spoons* and not the type of spoons you eat with. Again this will ensure accuracy and provide the best results.
For the full recipe with measurements, head to the recipe card at the end of this post.
How to make Red Velvet Cake
To make the cake sponge, whisk together the butter and sugar, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract.
Whisk in the buttermilk, red food colouring, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and self raising flour until smooth. Then divide the mixture between the cake tins.
Bake them for 40 minutes, then leave them to cool. To make the cream cheese frosting, mix together butter and icing sugar, then add cream cheese and vanilla extract and mix until smooth.
What is the best food colouring to use?
To get a bright red shade that remains strong after the cake is baked you need to use a professional grade gel food colouring. You can buy these easily from many online shops, including Amazon. I used the brand Pro Gel for this cake. Sugarflair, Colour Mill and Americolor are other popular brands.
What if you can’t get hold of buttermilk?
If you can’t hold of buttermilk, you can use the same amount of milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice added (or cider vinegar), leave it for a few minutes until it goes lumpy then it’s ready to use!
Can you make the cake with plain/all purpose flour?
Self raising flour, which is very commonly used in the UK where I am based, already contains a raising agent and a little salt too. Therefore if you want to swap it for plain or all purpose flour, you will need to add some additional baking powder and also a little salt if you like. Some people like to add salt to cake recipes and some don't, so I'll leave that up to you as it won't affect the bake. The general advice is to add 2 teaspoons baking powder (a measuring teaspoon, not the kind you stir your coffee with) per every 200g plain or all purpose flour. So for this recipe you'd need to add 3 teaspoons baking powder. Please note, I have not tested this recipe using plain or all purpose flour.
How long does the Red Velvet Cake last for and can you freeze it?
The cake will keep in an airtight container for 3 days in the fridge. You can freeze the sponges either alone, or decorated. Once the sponges are fully cool, wrap them well with cling film or put them in an airtight container with some baking paper between them. You can freeze the frosting on it’s own in a tub, or you can decorate the cake and freeze it fully assembled. To do this and avoid damage to the decoration, freeze it either in an airtight container. Or let it freeze solid on a cake board or plate, then wrap in cling film. Remove the cling film when you take it out to defrost it, if you don’t it could damage the decoration as it defrosts and softens. You can also freeze slices of the cake, again well wrapped in cling film or in airtight containers.
Can this recipe be made into cupcakes?
Yes! Please head over to my Red Velvet Cupcakes post for a recipe.
Can this cake be made in different size cake tins?
Yes! If you would like to make this cake in different size tins, please check my Conversion Guide to find out how to adjust the recipe.
Can this recipe be made gluten or dairy free?
Yes! For gluten free you can replace the self raising flour with a gluten free self raising flour blend. If you only have a gluten free plain flour blend, you will need to add additional baking powder. The general advice is to add 2 tsp baking powder per 200g flour, so for this recipe you'd need to add 3 teaspoons baking powder. You may also like to add ½ tsp Xantham Gum for better texture. For a dairy free version, use a dairy free baking spread for the cake and buttercream. You can make dairy free buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice (or cider vinegar) to dairy free milk. You will also need to use dairy free cream cheese for the buttercream.
More tips for making the Red Velvet Cake:
- I used a Ateco 828 piping nozzle to pipe on the frosting.
- I don’t recommend baking this cake in one deep tin, as it may not cook evenly. It is best to bake it in two sandwich tins (make sure the sides are at least 2" deep).
- Make sure to store the cake in the fridge once it's been frosted.
Recommended equipment & ingredients*
- 8″ cake tins
- Mixing bowls
- Kitchen scales
- Electric hand mixer
- Cooling rack
- Piping bags
- Ateco 828 piping nozzle
- Red food colouring
*I earn a small amount of money if you buy the products after clicking on the links. You will not be charged anything extra for this. Thank you for supporting The Baking Explorer!
More red velvet recipes...
Red Velvet Cake
For the cake sponge
- 300 g Butter or baking spread
- 300 g Caster sugar
- 4 Eggs large
- 2 tsp Vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp Cocoa powder
- 2 tsp Red food colouring I use Pro Gel
- 330 g Self raising flour
- 1 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
- 170 ml Buttermilk
For the cream cheese frosting
- 225 g Butter unsalted, softened
- 225 g Icing sugar
- 450 g Full fat cream cheese I use Philadelphia
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- Pre-heat your oven to 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4, and grease and line two 8" cake tins (that are at least 2" deep)
- Mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy, ideally with an electric mixer, or you can mix in a bowl with a wooden or silicone spoon
- Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and whisk until fully incorporated
- Add the cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, red food colouring, buttermilk and self raising flour, and whisk in gently until fully combined
- Divide the mixture between the tins, use scales for accuracy
- Bake them for 40 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave them to fully cool either in the tins or on cooling racks
- If the cakes have domed on top, level them off with a cake leveller or a serrated knife - you can use some of the crumbs from doing this for decoration
- To make the cream cheese frosting, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until smooth. Then mix in the icing sugar until the mixture is smooth
- Next, add the cream cheese and the vanilla extract and mix in until the frosting is thick and smooth. Be careful not to over mix as this can make the frosting sloppy, and you won't be able to get it thick again
- Put one of the sponges on your plate or cake stand, and pipe or spread a layer of the frosting over it
- And the second sponge on top, pipe larger rosettes of buttercream all around the edge and smaller ones in the centre
- Decorate with cake crumbs or sprinkles
- Serve immediately, store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and eat within 3 days