Red Velvet Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red velvet cake is so much more than a white or chocolate cake tinted red. This iconic cake is a masterpiece of flavors, textures, and frosting. Learn all my tricks and tips to perfecting this classic recipe at home!


I’m out of control excited to share this recipe with you.

This is the holy grail of layer cakes. The most romantic, gorgeous, vibrant cake of all time. The “I can’t quite put my finger on the flavor” cake. Dense, yet soft ‘n light. The sweet marriage of buttermilk and vanilla with a little cocoa on the side. Tall, dramatic, and completely covered in tangy cream cheese frosting.

This, everyone, is one and only red velvet.

As I’ve told you many, many times before, I’ve always been unsure about red velvet. Quite honestly, I don’t really trust a cake that has a mystery flavor. Is it vanilla? Is it chocolate? Is it just a butter cake colored red? Why is dessert so confusing! Whatever, I’m ordering cheese fries.

Enough red velvet rambling, let me tell you about my specific recipe. There are reasons I use specific ingredients, certain amounts, and unique mixing techniques, so pay attention if you’re looking to recreate this cake at home.


I love to use cream cheese frosting on my red velvet cakes. You can use another frosting you like such as vanilla or chocolate. In my opinion, cream cheese pairs best with the flavor of red velvet. I decorate the cake with cake crumbs. These are crumbs from the cake layers themselves. The cakes bake up to be quite tall, so I level them off with a large serrated knife and then crumble up that thin piece of cake to use as garnish. Pretty easy, right? Waste not want not.

Here is my favorite recipe for tender and soft red velvet layer cake with cream cheese frosting. Learn all my tricks and tips to perfecting this classic recipe at home! I urge you to read the recipe in full before beginning, as well as reading the recipe notes. It's a lot of text, but I'm careful to explain the recipe as best I can so you can have red velvet success. Enjoy!


Ingredients:


Cake

  • 3 cups (345g) cake flour (spoon & leveled)1
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons (10g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature2
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (240ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 large Eggland's Best eggs, room temperature and separated
  • 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons (22ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • liquid or gel red food coloring3
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk, room temperature4

Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 16 ounces (450g) full-fat cream cheese, softened to room temperature5
  • 1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) confectioners' sugar
  • 2-3 Tablespoons (30-45ml) cream or milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Spray or lightly butter two 9x2 (deep dish) cake pans6. Set aside.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the oil and beat on high for 2 minutes. The butter may look "piece-y" and not completely combine with the oil. This is normal and ok.
  4. Add four egg yolks and the vanilla. (Set the egg whites aside.) Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the vinegar and the food coloring-- until you reach your desired color. I used 3 and 1/2 Tablespoons. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Vigorously whisk or beat the 4 egg whites until thick and foamy as pictured above, about 3 minutes. Fold into cake batter with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The batter will be silky and slightly thick. (If there are still small pieces of butter - again, this is ok. They will melt inside as the cakes bake. Making them even more buttery tasting.)
  5. Pour batter into cake pans filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 30-32 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. If the cakes need a little longer as judged by wet crumbs on the toothpick, bake them for longer. However do not overbake; your cakes may dry out. Remove from the oven and allow cakes to cool in the pans set on a wire rack. Cool them completely.
  6. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the confectioners’ sugar and 2 Tablespoons of cream. Beat for 2 minutes. Add the vanilla and 1 more Tablespoon cream if needed to thin out. Beat on high for 2 full minutes. Taste the frosting and add a pinch of salt if it is too sweet.
  7. Assemble and frost: First, using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Set these thin pieces of cake aside. Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with frosting. Top with 2nd layer and spread remaining frosting all over the top and sides. Crumble the thin pieces of cake you sliced off in a large bowl. Decorate the sides and top edges of the cake with these crumbs-- this is optional! Slice and serve.
  8. Cover extras up tightly and store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Unfrosted cake remains fresh covered tightly at room temperature for 3-4 days. Store frosted cakes in the refrigerator for up to 7 days and allow to come to room temperature before serving.
  9. Make ahead tip: Prepare cakes and frosting 1 day in advance. Keep cakes at room temperature, covered tightly. Refrigerate prepared frosting in an airtight container until ready to use. Frosted or unfrosted cakes may be frozen up to 2 months, thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature if desired before serving.