Red Velvet Cake

By • May 26, 2011 8 Comments

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Author Notes: Cake recipe adapted from Deb Perelman's Smitten Kitchen, originally from “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook” by Elisa Strauss via the New York Times 2/14/07.
Yields 9-inch round 3 cake layers OR one 9x13 inch sheet cake and 12 cupcakes.

Serves 12


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (Dutch/natural)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners/icing/powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy whipping cream (double cream, 35-40% butterfat)
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Grease a 9x13x1 inch baking sheet or jelly roll pan and line the bottom with parchment. Line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with cupcake liners. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
  2. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric stand mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. Take care, the batter may splash. Add in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches (starting and ending with the flour). Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
  3. Place the baking soda in a small bowl, stir in vinegar and add immediately to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
  4. Divide 2/3 of the batter onto the baking sheet and the rest into the muffin tin. Place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes each for the sheet cake and cupcakes. Let cool in pans for at least 20 minutes. Remove the sheet cake from the pan by flipping it over and peel off the parchment. Trim of the curved sides if necessary (doing this will yield an 8x12 inch sheet) and divide the cake along the longer side into three 8x4 inch portions. Cool completely cakes completely before frosting. (I froze the sheets for two hours before icing.)
  5. In the bowl of your electric stand mixer or with a hand mixer, at medium speed beat the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese until smooth. Add in the vanilla and icing sugar and beat until smooth. Using the whisk attachment, gradually add in the heavy cream and whip at increasing speed until the frosting is thick enough to spread. Be careful not to overwhip or you'll end up with mascarpone butter. If necessary, add more sugar or cream as needed to get the right consistency. Chill to thicken before using.
  6. To assemble the cake, remove the layers from the freezer and frost each layers with about 4 tablespoons of cream in between each layer. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake with a crumb coat and freeze uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour. Repeat with a second crumb coat if necessary before frosting the final coating. Decorate accordingly, I used some cocoa nibs on the sides and top of this cake. I find that refrigerating the frosted cake overnight keeps the frosting stable at room temperature for many hours when the cake was served the next day. Cakes keeps covered and chilled for up to 3 days.

More Great Recipes: Chocolate|Cakes|Desserts|Chocolate Cake

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Comments (8) Questions (0)


6 months ago Heidi

Any suggestions for a substitute for the red food coloring? My son adores red velvet cake and wants one for his birthday and we don't use artificial food dye. Thanlk you!


9 months ago Geraldine

First layer cake I've ever made, and it was incredible. Got so many compliments from the hubby and his coworkers, I couldn't believe it! It was very simple just took some time to put together. I added the baking powder to the flour at the onset, since there was no mention of it elsewhere. I used 3 pans because I'm a novice and it seemed easier than tackling cutting the pieces. I chilled the frosting a few hours before icing the cake. I froze all 3 layers about an hour before assembling. Staked the cake with kebab skewers to hold all 3 layers in place while icing then froze it all another hour before decorating & serving. The result was perfect, but all those steps chilling and freezing the individual items made it all more manageable.


about 2 years ago Laurelb

Baking soda is in step three, cupcakes are referenced in the notes, crumb cakes are separate from cocoa nibs. I read the cocoa nibs as an option


about 2 years ago gretchen.ulrich

The item not mentioned in the steps is baking powder...not soda. These are different but thanks for your understanding of the recipe Laurelb. As an update, the recipe is fabulous. I did not use the powder. The taste of the red cake was exactly what I was looking for and we will be making again. I have made several red velvets and think this is my favorite recipe so far the mascarpone and cream combination is amazing and the cake was very moist and rich.


about 2 years ago Laurelb

You're right Gretchen. I couldn't get the mascarpone and cream to thicken so used it as a sauce instead.


about 2 years ago gretchen.ulrich

Midway through baking and this recipe appears to contain several errors 1) Ingredient list calls for 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder but the directions do not reference using baking powder. 2) What do you do with the muffins? Are they just to deal with the extra batter? 3) "what are the "crumb coats;" they appear different than the "cocoa nibs." The copy editing is horrible! Let's hope the cake turns out.


over 2 years ago Laurelb

I made this yesterday and well, it didn't turn out as I hoped. The icing was virtually liquid. I put it in the freezer but it didn't thicken up enough until too late. I cut the cake recipe in half, baked in 2 9 inch pans, and then split each layer in two. Next time I would use three pans or else cut the recipe to a 1/3.


over 3 years ago shortnmorose

This cake is the BEST red velvet cake I've had and my first cake to ever bake - directions were extremely easy to follow! Bought buttermilk from the Vons nearby but it was spoiled so subbed heavy cream and 2% milk. Then ran out of oil so used olive oil. But seriously the best cake ever - didn't even need more than 2 TB of food coloring - came out a nice brown red.