Red Velvet Cake Recipe

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4.88 from 8 votes
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The BEST Red Velvet Cake recipe makes a signature red layer cake with rich buttery, vanilla, and a bit of cocoa flavor, along with the tang of buttermilk, all topped with creamy Heritage or cream cheese frosting. A delicious, classic cake that is easy to make and tender with a perfect velvet crumb.

Image of red velvet cake with a lit gold candle.

Red Velvet Cake is certainly an impressive cake! Standing tall and topped with either Heritage Frosting or Cream Cheese Frosting, it’s a favorite for Christmas and other holidays, birthdays, and special occasions. While it’s simple to make from scratch, it’s much more than just a red-colored layer cake. The flavor of this cake is unique and scrumptious, and the texture is velvety delicious!

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Classic Red Velvet Cake. This recipe makes the iconic cake that everyone loves for Christmas, Valentine’s, and so many other special occasions.

Easy. It is an easy cake recipe that yields an impressive, gorgeous cake! You’ll love that it is made from scratch, yet easy as can be!

Flavor. Red Velvet Cake is the perfect combination of butter, vanilla, and cocoa with the tangy buttermilk flavor and sweetness from the creamy frosting.

Photograph of red velvet cake with white frosting with a slice cut so that you can see the three layers of the rich, velvety cake.

BEST Red Velvet Cake Recipe

My mother always made this delicious red velvet cake, usually topped with heritage frosting, for my birthday and Christmas. Seeing this velvety red cake piled high with fluffy white frosting was always a special treat. When Sam was little, he decided that he wanted it to be his birthday cake when he celebrated with my side of the family, too. (And Caramel Cake when he celebrated with my husband’s side of the family! Did I mention how smart he is?)

Birthday cake with candles.
Sam: Birthday 2008

How to Make Red Velvet Cake

Flour, baking soda, butter, shortening, sugar, vanilla, eggs, buttermilk, red food coloring, and other ingredients ready to make red velvet cake.

Ingredients for Red Velvet Cake

To make this cake, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • shortening – Shortening yields a tender, moist cake. I use an organic shortening, but you can use your favorite brand.
  • sugar – Granulated sugar is used in this cake recipe.
  • eggs – Use room temperature eggs for better mixing into the cake batter
  • red food coloring – Use your favorite red food coloring in this recipe. You can find natural and organic red food coloring options, but note that red may fade during baking.
  • cocoa powder – You’ll use a little cocoa powder in this recipe. Not enough to make the cake a chocolate cake, but enough to lend a bit of flavor.
  • flour – You can use all-purpose or cake flour in this recipe. [How to Make Cake Flour]
  • salt – Just a little salt helps to flavor the cake and balance the sweetness.
  • vanilla extract – I love to use my homemade vanilla extract for the incredible flavor, but use your favorite pure vanilla extract. I don’t recommend using imitation vanilla flavoring.
  • baking soda – The baking soda reacts with the acid in the buttermilk and white vinegar in this cake recipe.
  • buttermilk – Not only does the buttermilk work with baking soda to help the cake rise, but it also adds flavor and tenderness to this cake.
  • distilled white vinegar – This vinegar works with the buttermilk and baking soda to help the cake rise. It also adds to the tenderness of the cake.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Photo of eggs added to creamed shortening and sugar in a glass bowl.

Cream together the shortening and sugar. Then, add the eggs one at a time.

Photo of cocoa powder and red food coloring combined for red velvet cake recipe.

Mix together the cocoa powder and red food coloring in a small bowl.

Overhead photograph of dry ingredients and buttermilk ready to be combined with wet ingredients for red velvet cake.

Add the cocoa powder mixture to the shortening and sugar mixture and mix well. Sift together the flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Stir together the vanilla extract and buttermilk in a measuring cup.

Alternately, mix flour mixture and buttermilk mixture into shortening/sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour.

Photograph of red velvet cake batter evenly distributed in three cake pans.

Distribute the cake batter between the three prepared cake pans. Bake the cake layers for 25-30 minutes, until the cake layers are baked throughout. You can follow my tips for how to tell when your cake is done.

Photo of baked red velvet cake layers ready to cool on wire rack.

Remove the cake pans from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.

Photograph of three layered red velvet cake with white fluffy frosting in between the layers.

While cooling, prepare the frosting you’ll be using – either heritage frosting or my easy cream cheese frosting recipe. Once the cake layers have cooled, spread the frosting on top of each layer as you assemble the cake. Then, spread the outside of the cake with frosting.

How to Store Red Velvet Cake

To store. You’ll need to keep this cake in the refrigerator due to the frosting used. The cake will store well for up to 5 days.

To freeze. Wrap each cooled cake layer with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw and frost the cake and serve as normal.

Slice of red velvet cake sitting close to cake plate and another slice nearby.

More Favorite Cake Recipes

Looking for more cake recipes?

I think you’ll love my chocolate cake recipe, white cake recipe, and Mother’s cream cheese pound cake. They are all delicious and easy!

If you are a red velvet cake fan, try my Red Velvet Cookies, Chocolate Velvet Cake, or Blue Velvet Cake that’s a baby shower favorite!

Here’s my Mama’s Red Velvet Cake recipe. I know you’ll love it!

Red Velvet Cake Recipe

4.88 from 8 votes
The BEST Red Velvet Cake recipe makes a signature red layer cake with rich buttery, vanilla, and a bit of cocoa flavor, along with the tang of buttermilk, all topped with creamy Heritage or cream cheese frosting. It is a delicious, classic cake that is easy to make and tender with a perfect velvet crumb.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
Servings: 24

Ingredients 

  • ½ cup (92 g) shortening
  • 1 ½ cups (297 g) sugar
  • 2 large (100 g) eggs, room temperature
  • 2 ounces (56.7 g) red food coloring
  • 2 tablespoons (10.5 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 ¼ cups (270 g) flour, all-purpose or cake flour
  • 1 scant teaspoon (2.8 g) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (4.7 g) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon (6 g) baking soda
  • 1 cup (227 g) buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon (14.37 g) distilled white vinegar

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 350º F. Prepare three (8-inch) cake pans with nonstick baking spray or by thoroughly greasing and flouring. Set aside.
  • Cream vegetable shortening and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add eggs one at a time, completely incorporating after each addition.
  • Make a paste of food coloring and cocoa powder and add to the mixture. 
  • Sift together flour and salt in a separate medium bowl, set aside. Pour buttermilk and vanilla into a measuring cup, set aside. 
  • Alternately, mix flour mixture and buttermilk mixture into shortening/sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down sides of mixing bowl to ensure all ingredients are well incorporated.
  •  Reduce speed of mixer and stir in baking soda, making sure incorporated into batter. Then, stir in the vinegar, taking care not to beat hard or over mix.
  • Evenly distribute into cake pans and bake 25-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Cool cake thoroughly before frosting.

Notes

We prefer to frost with Heritage Frosting or Cream Cheese Frosting.
from Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers, Desserts Edition, 1963

How to Store Red Velvet Cake

To store. You’ll need to store this cake in the refrigerator due to the frosting used. The cake will store well for up to 5 days.
To freeze. Wrap each cooled cake layer with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To serve, thaw and frost the cake and serve as normal.

Nutrition

Calories: 142kcal | Carbohydrates: 22g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 78mg | Potassium: 38mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 13g | Vitamin A: 36IU | Calcium: 16mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

This cake will be a favorite on your holiday dessert buffet, next birthday celebration, or family dinner.

Enjoy!
Robyn xo

This recipe was originally published on November 7, 2010.

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About Robyn

Robyn Stone is a cookbook author, wife, mom, and passionate home cook. Her tested and trusted recipes give readers the confidence to cook recipes the whole family will love. Robyn has been featured on Food Network, People, Southern Living, and more.

4.88 from 8 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Review




79 Comments

  1. Lee Jewell says:

    can I make this in bundt pan?

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Lee, you can make this as a Bundt cake. Hope you enjoy!

  2. Becky Miles says:

    hey Robyn, I was wondering if I can use butter shortening for the red velvet cake recipe, or does it have to be plain shortening?

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Becky, I haven’t made this cake with butter shortening. I don’t see why you couldn’t but there may be a slight difference in the flavor of the cake.

  3. mvmoore1968@gmail.com says:

    Hi Robyn,

    I first had your Best Chocolate Cake Recipe (Ever), when my daughter made it for my grandsons birthday years ago. I decided to start making cakes from scratch and made it in October of last year for a baby shower I did, and it was a hit. I have since made it several times for co-workers birthdays and everybody loves it. I am going to be making the red velvet cake for a co-workers birthday and was wondering if this recipe will work well for a 1/2 sheet cake and if so how long should I bake it for?

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes with us.

    Marie

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Thank you, I appreciate you letting me know how much you like my chocolate cake. You can make the Red Velvet Cake in a half sheet pan. I would bake at 350ºF for 25-30 minutes. I hope you enjoy!

  4. Rachel Pestano says:

    hey, can I use this recipe to make 12 cupcakes

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Rachel, this recipe would make 24 cupcakes. Hope you enjoy!

  5. Funbi Akinsanya says:

    Can I replace the vegetable shortening with butter?

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      You can but the cake texture will be a little different.

    2. Kayla Albert says:

      Would I switch out the shortening with the same amount of butter?

    3. Robyn Stone says:

      Kayla, if using all butter, you would use the same amount as the shortening in the recipe.

  6. nagwanlashin@gmail.com says:

    Hello Robyn, Can I make this in a 9 inch pans? I bought them for your chocolate cake “the best one ever” and it was yummy . Thank you

  7. Megan says:

    I’m so excited to make this! I was thinking about making cupcakes instead of a cake. How many cupcakes would a full recipe make? BTW – I’ve made a number of your other recipes and they’re all AMAZING! 

  8. bee choca says:

    Hi Robyn thanks for this. I tried your chocolate cake recipe and its d best so far. Can I replace vegetable shortening with vegetable oil. Same measurement?

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Hi Bee, I’ve not tried vegetable oil in this cake yet. I’m so thrilled you love the chocolate cake! xo

  9. Monica says:

    I absolutely love your chocolate cake recipe. Tried the red velvet cake recipe for cupcakes and they were really good but would rather use a different recipe for cupcakes? I’m making them again right now with the cake recipe.

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      So glad you enjoyed the cakes, Monica! The chocolate cake makes wonderful cupcakes! Enjoy! Thanks!

  10. Lucy says:

    Hello Robyn! Thank you so much for the recipe. I haven’t tried it out yet but I know I can always trust your recipes. Please i’ll like to ask for what type of food coloring to use for this red velvet cake? Is it liquid, powdered or gel coloring?

    1. Robyn Stone says:

      Hi Lucy,
      This is a family favorite recipe we have loved for years! I usually use liquid food coloring and its what my mother has used for the many years that she’s been making this. I hope you enjoy this cake as well. Thanks! xo