The best red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting – an iconic, much-loved classic that has been around for decades! Every pastry chef has their recipe for this visually stunning cake! The red color is courtesy of plenty of red food coloring and cocoa powder. My simple recipe made with homemade buttermilk yields a moist, tender and delicious cake! I frost the cake with a simple cream cheese frosting and to garnish the cake, chocolate covered strawberries! I love the simple yet elegant finish. This cake is perfect for special occasions or for the holidays!
My Red Velvet Cake Video Tutorial!
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History of Red Velvet Cake
The history of the original red velvet cake can be traced back to the 1920’s, when this cake was served in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. Housewives picked up the recipe and began serving it for Christmas and Valentine’s Day. The color of the cake comes from cocoa powder and red food coloring, which lends this cake that deep rich red mahogany color. A cake that has been around for almost a hundred years deserves a special place in every baker’s kitchen. I’m proud of this beautiful version!
Ingredients for Classic Red Velvet Cake
Here are the main ingredients you’ll need to make this cake:
- Butter, Sugar, Eggs, Flour, Milk: for making the cake batter.
- Cocoa Powder: for giving the cake that signature chocolate flavor.
- Red Food Coloring: I recommend using concentrated gel food coloring for the brightest red color.
- Cream Cheese: soften the cheese at room temperature for about 30 minutes prior to using. It will much easier to mix it.
- Butter: use unsalted butter for making the cream cheese frosting.
- Confectioner’s Sugar: for the frosting.
- Strawberries: for garnishing the top of the cake.
Making the Red Velvet Cake Layers
This rich, red-colored cake is actually a chocolate cake in disguise! I make my cake layers with buttermilk, sugar, eggs and butter. The buttermilk helps intensify the red color of the cake! Since buttermilk is not readily available everywhere, I created this recipe with homemade buttermilk – whole milk and vinegar/lemon juice. If you are able to get buttermilk, use that instead.
Next, add in the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. The cocoa powder will add amazing chocolate flavor! This recipe calls for just 2 tablespoons of cocoa. You don’t want to add too much cocoa, otherwise you’ll love the beautiful red color of the cake! Allow the cake layers to cool completely before adding the frosting!
Making the Cream Cheese Frosting
You’ll love the simple and delicious cream cheese frosting I used for this red velvet cake! I even have this recipe in my ‘Back to Cake Basics’ series. For an in-depth tutorial for making this frosting, check out my ‘5-Ingredient Cream Cheese Frosting’ recipe.
- For best results, beat the softened cream cheese for 5 to 7 minutes, until it’s really smooth and creamy. You don’t want any clumps in the frosting! To ensure it’s smooth, scrape down the sides of your mixing bowl often to get everything incorporated!
- If the frosting is too soft, place it into the refrigerator and let it chill for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
How to Make Red Velvet Cake
Here’s how to assemble this delicious red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting:
- Allow the red velvet cake layers to cool completely! Place them into the refrigerator to cool faster. Once they’re chilled, use a serrated knife to level the top of each layer.
- If you want the cake layers to be more moist, lightly soak each layer with a simple syrup using a pastry brush. To make the syrup, combine 1/4 cup sugar with 1/2 cup boiling water, mix and let it cool completely.
- Spread a generous amount of cream cheese frosting between each cake layer. If desired, also frost the sides of the cake. I recommend frosting the sides if you need to make the cake ahead of time, or need to keep it in the refrigerator for a couple days.
- Garnish the top of the cake with fresh strawberries, if desired. I recommend adding these on top when you’re ready to serve so they’re fresh.
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Enjoyed this classic red velvet recipe? Check out some of my other recipes you’re sure to enjoy!
- Red Velvet Crepe Cake – rich and red-colored chocolate crepes layered with a fluffy whipped cream frosting!
- Strawberry Red Velvet Cheesecake – rich chocolate cheesecake topped with strawberry mousse and strawberry whipped cream!
- Red Velvet Brownie Cheesecake – you’ll love this red velvet cheesecake prepared on top of a brownie crust, topped with strawberries and cream!
The Best Red Velvet Cake Recipe (video)
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- 3/4 cup butter, melted
- 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- red food coloring
For Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 16 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 4 cups confectioner's sugar
- 2 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- strawberries, for garnish
For Red Velvet Cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line 3, 8-inch cake pans with parchment paper (or, 2, 9-inch cake pans); set aside.
- Combine the milk and vinegar; set aside for 5 to 7 minutes to sour the milk. Meanwhile, prepare the remaining wet ingredients. Place the sugar and butter into a mixing bowl and using stand mixer or hand mixer, whisk the two ingredients together until fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and keep whisking the mixture for a few more minutes. Pour in the soured milk and mix again.
- Prepare the dry ingredients. Combine the flour, baking powder and cocoa powder in a large bowl. Using a fine-mesh sifter, add the flour into the cake batter, whisking after each addition. Be careful not to over-mix the batter; mix just until combined! Add the food coloring. The amount you will need depends on the type of food coloring you use. Gel food color tends to be more concentrated.
- Divide the cake batter between prepared pans. Bake in preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove cakes from pans and onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting.
For Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Prepare the frosting. Place the softened cream cheese and butter into a mixer bowl. Whisk on high speed for 5 to 7 minutes, scraping sides of bowl often, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add a few tablespoons of cream and the vanilla extract. Begin adding the confectioner's sugar 1 cup at a time. Beat the frosting for about 5 minutes until light and airy. If the frosting is too soft, refrigerate it for 1 hour.
Assembling the Cake:
- Assemble the cake. Use a sharp, serrated knife to even off the top of each layer. Preserve the scrapes if you wish to garnish the cake with crumbs. Spread a very generous amount of frosting between each layer and on top and sides. Garnish top with cake crumbs or strawberries.
- Keep cake covered and refrigerated. Remove from refrigerator 1/2 hour prior to serving.