Southern Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Rating ****

Makes one 3-layer 9-inch cake

Red Velvet Cake is beloved throughout the South. It's sweet and moist, with a deep-crimson hue that comes from the addition of red food coloring to the cake batter. In the old days, folks used red beets or red cabbage to dye their cakes. Red Velvet is a buttermilk cake, which is one of the reasons it's so popular with children (that, and the traditional cream cheese frosting). It's red and white, but it tastes black and white, and it's always a stunner when you cut into one.


  • For the Cake:
    Nonstick vegetable cooking spray, for pans
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
  • 5 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups canola oil (Editor's note: That's 1 cup per cake layer!)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons red food coloring (one 2-ounce bottle)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 5 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 recipe Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

  • For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
    3 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 5 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously spray three 9 x 2-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, and line with parchment paper. Spray the lining; dust with cocoa, tapping out any excess. Set aside.

Whisk together the flour, salt and cocoa in a medium bowl; set aside.

Mix the sugar and oil at a medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time; mix well after each addition. Mix in the food coloring and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small nonreactive bowl. Add the baking soda mixture to the batter and mix at medium speed for 10 seconds. Divide the batter equally among the pans. Tap the pans on the counter to remove bubbles. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the pans on a rack for 5 minutes. Invert the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.

To assemble, place one layer top-side down on a cake stand. Using an offset spatula, spread with a 1/4-inch thick layer of frosting. Repeat with the remaining layers. To frost the top and side of the cake, work from the center toward and over the edge, making sure to coat evenly. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a handheld electric mixer in a large bowl, mix the cream cheese and butter at a low speed until incorporated. Add the sugar and vanilla. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Store in the refrigerator before using, until it is somewhat stiff, about 15 minutes. The frosting may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Recipe reprinted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf. All rights reserved.

RecID 10274

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