Ok, not to like, brag, or toot my own horn, but this is seriously THE BEST red velvet cake ever! First off though, I’ve got to come clean. These pics are from the first time I’d ever made a red velvet cake myself. I know, I KNOW. How the hell can I be proclaiming it’s the BEST RED VELVET CAKE EVER the first time I make it?
Easy. I have eaten a verifiable shit ton of red velvet cake slices and cupcakes in my 37 years. Also, I’ve made it a few more times since the summer, and haven’t changed a damn thing. This baby, she’s the bees knees.
Seriously though, why didn’t I make a red velvet cake sooner? Umm, I may have been a little scared, thinking it was going to be a complicated process. I assumed there were tons of steps. I was positive that getting the red colouring right would be a pain in the ass. It was none of those things.
If I’m being completely honest, I was happy enough before to just buy a slice when I felt like it. I didn’t realize the kids were such fans until we threw a Toronto Raptors driveway party last summer and the neighbours brought red velvet cupcakes over (thanks again Elisa and Ramzi!)
The Road To Red Velvet Cake
But then, Oliver turned 10 this summer. Literally THE DAY BEFORE HIS PARTY he asked me to make him a red velvet cake (on top of the 4 other cakes I was already making). Awesome Mom that I am, I told him “Of course hunny!”. Then I started quietly stomping (yes, this is a thing Mom’s have perfected) into the other room. I may have also been cursing under my breath.
Into the office I went, and off the shelves came every one of the seventy-two thousand cook books I own. That’s another reason this red velvet cake turned out so damn good. I put in the work on this baby!
Hours were spent pouring over red velvet cake recipes. Post it note scribbles of what was the same in all of them (buttermilk, vinegar, cocoa powder) were sticking out of dozens of cookbooks. The same goes for what was different (how much of all that crap, holy variation!). I really didn’t have time to mess this one up.
What Makes Red Velvet Cake So Damn Special
I even spent time reading up on WHY red velvet cake is so special, especially in the Southern US. So many people think this is just a chocolate cake loaded up with red food colouring (it’s not). Other people refer to it as vanilla cake with red food colouring. For the record, those people are wrong too.
Red velvet cake is totally its own thing. There’s such a small amount of cocoa powder, it just kinda kisses the batter with chocolate. The chocolate flavour isn’t over-powering at all.
For me, this cake is all about the tang. You won’t even really notice it’s there unless you’re looking for it. The buttermilk and vinegar add just enough tartness that the cake doesn’t feel overpoweringly sweet. It’s also what makes red velvet cake the perfect base for a thickly swirled cream cheese frosting.
Other favourite cakes of mine
Just incase you’re a nut like me who makes multiple cakes at the same time, I’ve got to share my absolute favourite cake with you. This salted caramel cake is the one I make for my birthday every year. It is PHENOMENAL!
I’m also a sucker for a galvanized steel cake stand, as you can see in the picture below.
Red Velvet Cake Recipe
Alright, I hope I’ve got you excited about trying this recipe. The entire family went bananas for it at the birthday party. With the holiday’s right around the corner now, I feel like it’s just begging to be made again. I mean, it’s red and white, it’s basically a Santa cake without any fuss!
Hit me with any questions you have down in the comments, I feel like I’m a red velvet cake expert at this point. When you make it, make sure to let me know what you thought too!
3 Layer Red Velvet Cake (2 layer cake in notes)
- 4 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup butter
- 3 cups white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 6 large eggs (room temperature), whites and yolks separated
- 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 - 3 teaspoons red gel food colouring
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 packages of cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- 4 1/2 cups icing sugar
- 1 tablespoon milk
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
Red Velvet Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F using the convection setting. Grease and line three 8" or 9" round cake pans with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Set aside.
- In your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the oil, egg yolks, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat on high for an additional 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- With the mixer on low, add half of the flour mixture, followed with half of the buttermilk, Repeat with the remaining flour mixture and buttermilk.
- Add the red gel food colouring and beat on medium speed just until combined.
- Take the bowl off of the stand mixer and use a spatula to gently fold in the egg whites.
- Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans, and bake for 30-35 minutes, depending on your oven. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Let the cakes cool completely on wire racks before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
While the cakes are cooling make the cream cheese frosting. This gives you enough to do the rustic style like I did. If you want to cover the side of the cake as well, you should 1.5x the recipe for the frosting.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat together the butter and cream cheese on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Sift the icing sugar into the bowl of the stand mixer to avoid any lumps.
- Add the milk and vanilla, then beat on low speed for 30 seconds, just until incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to high, and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes more.
- If the frosting seems too runny, you can add some more icing sugar, a few tablespoons at a time. If it's too thick to spread, add a little bit more milk.
Make sure the cake layers are completely cool before assembling. If they're still warm they will melt the frosting.
- Level the cake layers. Use a bread knife to slice off the top of each cake so that it's nice and level. Save the scraps for decorating the top.
- Put the first layer onto your serving dish cut side up. Top with a layer of cream cheese frosting about 1/2" thick.
- Put the second layer onto the cake, cut side down. Top with another 1/2" of frosting. Top with the third layer, cut side down.
- Put a thin layer of cream cheese frosting on the outside of the cake, then a thicker layer on the top.
- Store the cake in the fridge until ready to serve.
Two Layer Cake: If you want to make this a two layer cake, reduce the cake ingredients as follows:
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
2 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs (room temperature), whites and yolks separated
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons red gel food colouring
Buttermilk: If you don't have buttermilk on hand, you can make your own. However, I really do feel it's worth it to buy actual buttermilk for this recipe. When I make it at home in a jam, it never quite packs the same punch. If you're in a jam though, for every 1 cup of buttermilk you need, put 1 tablespoon of white vinegar into a glass measuring cup, and fill up with milk to the 1 cup mark. Stir together, then let sit for 5 minutes to thicken up a bit.
Make It Ahead: If you want to save a bit of time, you can make the frosting a couple of days ahead of time. Just store it in an air tight container in the fridge, but take it out an hour before you need to use it so it can soften enough to spread. You could also put it back in the mixer and give it a quick whip to soften it.
The cake can also be made a day ahead of time. Just let cool completely after baking, then wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and store in a cool, dry place on your counter.