A moist, classic Red Velvet Cake!! Made from scratch, and surprisingly easy when a few simple steps are followed – watch how to make it in the recipe video. This has a soft “velvet” texture, just like what you get from top end fine bakeries, and is topped with soft, cream cheese frosting. UK readers: Please read note 7.
This Red Velvet Cake has been taste tested and given a big thumbs up by many people because it’s a rather large cake and I’ve made it 5 times in the last two weeks.
“FIVE TIMES??!!”, I hear you exclaim (out loud or in your head). “You’re MAD!!”
If getting this cake exactly to my taste, as close as I can get it to the cakes you get from posh bakeries, and ensuring it works using both US and metric (i.e. rest of the world!!) measures means that I’m a mad baker, I’ll take that title. 😉
Besides, I’m really enjoying baking at the moment. There is something so satisfying about making something as pretty as Red Velvet Cake.
To tell you the honest truth, the reason I made it so many times in recent weeks is because my original recipe got a “so-so” response from the two toughest taste-testers I know: my mother and brother.
“The sponge is zara-zara”, my mother declared on first bite.
What the….?? Zara-zara? What on earth does that mean??
“Zara-zara” means “rough” in Japanese. The Japanese language has a handful of words which sound like what it means. “Zara-zara” being a perfect example. Usually it cracks me up. Not that day.
I gasped, indignant, and grabbed a spoon to shovel a bite into my mouth, ready to argue. And I realised – she was right. It was not as velvety as it could be. As it should be.
So I improved it. 🙂
What is Red Velvet Cake?
Red Velvet Cake is not just a chocolate cake with red food colouring added. This cake is softer than most, “velvet-like”, and the chocolate taste is actually quite mild. It’s more like a cross between a vanilla and chocolate cake with a very subtle tang from buttermilk. And it is generously smothered in a fluffy cream cheese frosting.
It’s wildly popular in America and there’s a cult following in Australia. Give it a few years, it will become a firm favourite soon!
The cake tastes buttery and moist, because it has butter in it for flavour, and oil for moisture. Yes, you need both, I promise you. It is not the same if you use only one of them.
There are 3 more specific things about this recipe which might be a bit different to other Red Velvet recipes you have seen, but there’s a reason for it.
1. Cake flour – it’s a must! It’s key to achieving that soft silky sponge, just like what you get from posh bakeries. However, if you really can’t find it, please see the notes for a substitute;
2. Only 2 eggs – I’ve seen some recipes call for up to 5 eggs. I only use 2. It’s enough to hold the cake together just fine – any more than 2, and find the cake begins to start tasting “eggy”; and
3. Buttermilk – For almost every other baking recipe that I make using buttermilk, I say that you can substitute with lemon juice + milk which, when left for 5 minutes, curdles to have the same effect as using buttermilk. Not for this recipe – sorry! It is just not the same – part of the reason mine was “zara zara”. ?
Oh, and one more rule. There is no substitute for Philadelphia Cream Cheese for the frosting. I’ve tried better value store-brand cream cheese before. It is never the same. Promise. ❤
I bake the layers in 2 separate tins, but if you don’t have two tins, you can make one big one and cut the cake in half. And to make the layers nice and neat, I cut the dome top off.
I like to crumble the off cuts and use it to decorate the cake. I think it looks pretty, don’t you? But that’s purely optional!
I promise you, there is nothing tricky about this cake. All you have to do is ensure you measure the ingredients properly, rather than just eye-balling it. 😉 As long as you do that, it’s actually easy to make, no more difficult than an ordinary sponge cake.
Putting aside fiddly fancy decorated cakes, Red Velvet Cake is surely one of the most striking and stunning cakes around. If you’ve never tried it before, you’re in for a real treat! – Nagi x
PS Just to explain, my family’s cake standard is rather high because we have been thoroughly spoilt by cakes in Japan. It’s not widely known around the world, but Japanese cakes and baked treats generally are extraordinary, far superior to the typical bakeries here in Australia. A suburban bakery in Japan would make a high end French patisserie chef proud. Truly. ❤
Recipe VIDEO below. The classic, iconic Red Velvet Cake! The sponge is soft and velvety, true to it's name, with a buttery flavour, moist with a hint of chocolate, vanilla and tang from buttermilk. UK: Please read notes 7 and 9.
- 2 2/3 cups / 400 g plain cake flour (Note 1)
- 2 tbsp / 10g cocoa powder, unsweetened
- 1 tsp / 5g baking soda / bi-carb soda, , NOT baking powder (Note 2)
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup / 115 g unsalted butter, softened (1 US stick)
- 1 1/2 cups / 330 g caster / superfine white sugar (Note 3)
- 2 eggs, at room temperature (around 2 oz / 60g each)
- 1 cup / 250ml vegetable oil
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (or essence)
- 1 cup / 250 ml buttermilk, at room temperature (Note 4)
- 2 1/2 tbsp red food colouring liquid (UK: use Gel, Note 7)
- 14 oz/ 400g Philadelphia Cream Cheese, block (not spreadable tub, UK see Note 9)
- 1 stick / 1/2 cup / 115g unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 4 cups / 450 g soft icing sugar / powdered sugar sifted
Preheat oven to 180C/350F (all oven types). Butter 2 x 21cm / 8" round cake pans (sides and base) and dust with cocoa powder.
Sift the Dry Ingredients and whisk to combine in a bowl.
Place butter and sugar in a bowl and beat with electric beater or in stand mixer until smooth and well combined (use paddle attachment if using stand mixer).
Add eggs, one at a time, beating in between to combine. At first it will look curdle - keep beating until it's smooth.
Add vegetable oil, vinegar, vanilla, buttermilk and red food colouring. Beat until combined and smooth (Note 5).
Add Dry Ingredients. Beat until just combined - some small lumps is ok, that's better than over mixing.
Divide batter between cake pans. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes on the same shelf, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. (Note 6)
Rest for 10 minutes in the pan then turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to cool.
Beat together cream cheese, butter and vanilla for 3 minutes (this makes it really smooth and changes from yellow to almost white). Add icing sugar and beat for 2 minutes or until frosting is light and fluffy to your taste. If your frosting seems too runny (depends on quality of cream cheese/ if the cream cheese was too soft), just add more icing sugar.
Cut the top off the cake using a serrated knife (to make the layers neat).
Spread one cake with 1 1/2 cups of frosting. Top with the other cake. Spread top and sides with remaining frosting.
Optional: Crumble offcuts and use to decorate the top rim and base of the cake.
1. Cake flour is lighter and has a lower protein content that all purpose / plain flour. It produces cakes with a very soft crumble and minimal "bounciness", like what you get from posh bakeries.
It is not readily available in all countries, though it can be found in Australia in supermarkets (Coles, Woolworths).
SUBSTITUTION - If you can't find cake flour, substitute as follows: Measure out 2 2/3 cups / 400 g plain (all purpose) flour into a bowl. Remove 5 tbsp / 60g plain flour, then add 5 tbsp / 60g of cornstarch / cornflour.
CAN'T USE CAKE FLOUR? This recipe will work just fine if you make this with just all purpose / plain flour. The cake just won't be quite as tender. 🙂 Still delicious though!
2. Baking Soda is also called bi-carb soda. It works like baking powder but it is 3 times stronger. It needs acid to activate it (buttermilk in this recipe). It cannot be substituted with baking powder in this recipe.
3. Normal white sugar will also work just fine, it is just that caster sugar blends in easier, faster and better. 🙂
4. Buttermilk - for most baking recipes, buttermilk can be substituted with milk + lemon juice left to curdle. But for this recipe, it does not work as well so please use buttermilk!
5. Don't worry if it separates slightly because of the oil, it will come together when the flour is added.
6. CAKE SIZE: This can be made in one cake pan (but 2 cake pans is better/easier). Just pour batter into one cake pan and bake for around 45 minutes in total, maybe even 1 hour, but you must cover with FOIL at around 30 minutes, otherwise the top may get too brown. Use a skewer to test if the inside is baked. Then cut cake in half.
CUPCAKES: This makes 22 standard cupcakes. Divide between paper patty lined muffin tins. Bake 25 minutes or until skewer comes out clean.
7. If you are in the UK, please use GEL not liquid food colouring. The liquid colouring sold in the UK tends to be natural rather than artificial so it is not as intense as the liquid colouring we have here in Australia and the US. So to achieve the intense bright red colour, you will need to use gel.
8. OIL SPLITTING: A few readers had a problem where the base of the cake was oily once removed from the pan. To ensure this does not happen, ensure the batter is beaten well after each ingredient is added. See video for how the batter should look.
9. Philadelphia Cream Cheese in the UK is softer than what we have here in Australia (and in the US, Canada). In the UK, it has a lower fat % and comes in tubs, and it's spreadable. We also have Philly that comes in tubs that are specifically made to be spreadable. This recipe calls for Philadelphia cream cheese that comes in blocks and is firmer. If you are in the UK, get 2 x 180g Original Philadelphia cream cheese and start with just 250g instead of the 400g called for in the recipe. After beating, if your frosting consistency is soft / fluffy but still holds its shape, add more (for more cream cheese flavour). Also, ensure your butter is softened but NOT super soft, that will also help. And don't worry, even if you used 250g, the frosting still tastes like cream cheese frosting!
WATCH HOW TO MAKE IT
How to make Red Velvet Cake – quick tutorial video!
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