The Southern American classic Red Velvet Cake is the perfect cake for celebrating St Valentines Day, a Birthday or just when you want to spoil someone special!
Red Velvet Cake is undoubtedly the Dolly Parton of the cake world – a true showstopper!
This is my tried and tested recipe for the Southern American classic cake. It’s moist, light and quite frankly, dreamy to eat.
I first heard of red velvet cake many years ago in the movie “Steel Magnolias“, where Shirley Mclaine’s bolshy character cuts herself a slice of a red velvet armadillo cake at a wedding.
I have to admit it didn’t appeal to me at all at the time. I didn’t even taste red velvet cake until many years later when I had children.
After experimenting with a couple of recipes and failing miserably, I almost gave up on finding a great red velvet recipe until I found Nigella Lawson’s red velvet cupcakes – they were perfect and my kids went crazy for them.
But this particular recipe is a game changer! It was given to me by a lovely American lady who used to live next door to me. I’ve slightly tweaked the recipe over the years and it’s now one of my most requested cakes.
Here’s the deal – you’ll be making a two layer cake, but you need to bake a third, thin layer for the crumbs.
Once you spoon the batter into the cake tins, you will have a small amount leftover. As soon as the cake layers are ready, I bake the crumb layer. Because this layer is thinner, it’s ready in about 20-25 minutes.
what flavour is a red velvet cake?
Red Velvet is basically a very light, moist chocolate flavour cake. It’s the perfect cake for people who aren’t a fan of rich, heavy chocolate cakes – like my husband!
Ingredients you will need:
(You’ll find ingredient amounts and detailed instructions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post but this section contains important information!)
- Plain Flour
- Caster Sugar – plain old granulated sugar will also work fine but you will have to cream the butter and sugar for a bit longer to dissolve the sugar granules.
- Bicarbonate of soda
- Fine Salt
- Cocoa Powder – not drinking chocolate
- Espresso Powder – not a traditional ingredient in red velvet, but I like to add it because it enhances the chocolate flavour. You won’t taste coffee at all!
- Soft Unsalted Butter
- Medium Eggs
- Sour Cream
- Vanilla extract
- Distilled white or white wine Vinegar
- Red food colouring paste – NOT liquid. I used Squires Food Colour paste “Christmas Red”
For the cream cheese frosting:
- Full Fat Cream Cheese – I use Philadelphia
- Soft Unsalted butter
- Icing Sugar
- Vanilla Extract
How to make a red velvet cake
- Mix together the flour, bicarbonate of sofa, salt and cocoa powder in a large mixing bowl.
- Cream the butter and sugar together until the mixture is very soft and light.
- Gradually add beaten eggs to the creamed butter and sugar, beating until well combined.
- Stir in the sour cream and vanilla extract. Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little curdled.
- Using a large metal spoon, fold in half the dry ingredients, followed by half the buttermilk, then repeat until everything is just incorporated.
- Fold in the vinegar and red food colouring paste. Just look at that colour!
- Pour this vivid coloured batter into two greased and lined 20cm round (5cm deep) cake tins. Remember to keep a little batter for the crumb layer.
- Technically if you had three 20cm cake tins, you could bake them all at the same time, but I don’t recommend this. Because the crumb layer is much thinner than the other sponges, it takes half the time to bake. This would result in having to open the oven door before the cakes are ready and they would very possibly collapse.
- So it’s much more wise to bake the crumb layer once the main sponges are out of the oven.
- Bake in a preheated oven (180C/160Fan/350F) for 40-45 minutes (20-25 minutes for the crumb layer) until a cake tester inserted in middle of the cakes comes out clean and the sponges spring back to the touch.
how to make the cream cheese frosting
- Make the cream cheese frosting by mixing sieved icing sugar with very soft butter, room temperature full fat cream cheese and vanilla extract. The mixture will be quite thick, so add a little milk, just 1 Teaspoon at a time until you have a soft and spreadable frosting.
- Don’t overbeat or the mixture could become too runny.
- When the cakes have completely cooled, place one of the sponges on a plate and spread with half of the frosting.
- Place the other cake on top (carefully – the sponge is rather fragile) and cover with the remaining frosting.
- Crumble the thin cake layer into small pieces.
- Use the cake crumbs to decorate the top of the cake. If you have any cake crumbs leftover, you could make these red velvet cake pops!
I really hope you enjoy this recipe! If you have any questions or need any help, please don’t hesitate to message me.
Don’t have time to make a large cake?
Try these easy Red Velvet Cupcakes instead!
want to see more classic cake recipes?
- 380G Plain Flour
- 75G Cocoa Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
- 1/4 Teaspoon Fine Salt
- 1/2 Tablespoon Espresso Powder
- 225G Soft Unsalted butter
- 350G Caster Sugar
- 4 Medium Beaten Eggs, at room temperature
- 120ml Sour Cream
- 200ml Buttermilk
- 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
- 1 Tablespoon distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons Red Food Colour paste - I used Squires paste in Christmas Red
FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
- 500g Icing Sugar
- 125G Full Fat Cream Cheese (Remove from the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using)
- 125G Soft Butter
- 1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1-2 Tablespoons Milk
- Preheat the oven to 180C/160Fan/350F. Grease and line 2 20cm/5cm deep round cake tins.
- Combine the plain flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
- Cream the butter and sugar together for about 5 minutes or until very light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten eggs, beating all the time until the mixture is well incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract and sour cream.
- Fold in half of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk, then repeat until you have a smooth batter. Stir in the vinegar and red food colour paste.
- Divide the mixture evenly between the cake tins. You will have a small amount of batter left over. This batter will make a thin cake layer for your cake crumbs (for decorating the cake.)
- Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes or until they are risen, spring back when pressed and a cake skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Don't turn off the oven yet.
- Transfer the cake tins to a wire rack and leave the sponges in the tins for 10 minutes before turning out of the tins and leave to cool completely. Wash and re-line one of the cake tins and fill with the leftover cake batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until risen and skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. I tend to leave this layer to cool in the tin since it's just for the crumbs.
- For the Cream Cheese Frosting, Sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl. Beat in the soft butter, cream cheese and vanila extract. The mixture will be quite thick, so start to add the milk, just 1 teaspoon at a time until you are happy with the consistency. Try not to overbeat it or the mixture could become too thin.
- When the cakes are completely cold, place one sponge on a plate or cake card. Spread with half of the cream cheese frosting and place the other sponge on top. Cover the top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Crumble the thin layer of cake into small pieces and use to decorate the top of the cake along with any other sprinkles of your choice.
It's very important that all of your cake and frosting ingredients are at room temperature before you start making the cake.
I used Squires food colouring paste in Christmas Red.
Take care not to overbeat the cream cheese when making the frosting or it could separate, making the frosting runny and unusable.
Nutrition InformationYield 14 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 605Total Fat 27gSaturated Fat 16gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 114mgSodium 148mgCarbohydrates 86gFiber 2gSugar 61gProtein 6g