Red Velvet Cake

After many requests from friends, I finally made my first attempt at Red Velvet Cake.  I intended to make the Dark Chocolate Red Velvet Cake from the All Cakes Considered book by Melissa Gray, but after reading some negative reviews (e.g., ) and noticing that the ACC recipe used much more butter and sugar and many more eggs than any other recipe I could find, I decided to do one of my “recipe-mergers” where I combine the ingredients and techniques from several recipes into one that makes sense to me.  Links to the three recipes I ended up combining are at the end.  The only thing I retained from the All Cakes Considered version was using sour cream instead of buttermilk (because I had already bought sour cream for the cake and didn’t want to waste it).  I also used her Frosting Recipe (see below), but it is pretty standard.

Here’s what I came up with:

You will need:
Two 9″ round cake pans (or three 8″ round pans)
Several mixing bowls of various sizes
A sifter or large sieve
Parchment paper

1/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
3 Tbsp red food coloring (the liquid, not the gel)
3 Tbsp hot water

2-1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (softened)
1-1/2 cup sugar [I used extra fine baker’s sugar]
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream or buttermilk

1 tsp vinegar (white or apple cider)
1 tsp baking soda

For the Frosting (you may want to double this)
4 Tbls. unsalted butter, softened
One 8-oz. package of cream cheese, softened
One 16-oz. bag/box of confectioner’s sugar (approx. 3-1/2 cups)
1 tsp. vanilla


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.  (Your oven rack should be in the center of the oven.)
  2. Cut two parchment circles the size of the bottom of your cake pans (9″ round).  [I trace the bottom of the pan onto the paper and then cut on the inside of the line so no ink gets near the cake.] Grease two 9″ round cake pans.  Line the bottoms of the pans with the parchment paper rounds.  Grease the top of the parchment paper.  Sprinkle a little flour into each pan and tap until the sides and bottom of the pan are evenly covered.  Discard any remaining extra flour.  [Do all of this BEFORE you start mixing the batter.  You will want to get the batter into the pans and into the oven as quickly as possible after it is mixed. And YES, you must still do all of this even if you have “nonstick” pans.  TRUST ME!!]
  3. In a medium bowl whisk together the cocoa powder, food coloring, and hot water.  Set aside to cool.
  4. Sift the cake flour  [yes, I know the box says you don’t have to, do it anyway[.  Measure 2-1/2 cups of the sifted cake flour back into your sifter.  Add the salt and baking powder.  Sift together into a medium bowl.  Set aside.
  5. In the large bowl of your mixer (with whatever beaters or paddle arrangement you have), cream butter until smooth (1-3 minutes).  Scrape down bowl.  Gradually add the sugar, mixing and scraping until the mixture is light and fluffy (3-5 minutes).  [The goal is to dissolve the sugar in the butter.  I’ve found that often my house is too cold for this to happen, but do your best to get the two combined.]  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  6. To your bowl of cooled cocoa/food coloring, add the vanilla and the sour cream or buttermilk.  Stir or whisk until well combined.
  7. With the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture (in 3 parts) and the cocoa/food coloring mixture (in 2 parts) to the butter/egg mixture.  Beat until incorporated.  Stop and scrape the bowl to make sure anything left in the bottom of the bowl is incorporated too.
  8. Combine the vinegar and baking soda in a small bowl until the baking soda dissolves.  It will fizz.  Add to batter and stir until just combined.
  9. Working quickly, divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon.  Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.
  10. Cool the cakes in their pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes.  Place a wire rack on top of the cake pan and invert, lifting off the pan.  Once the cakes have completely cooled (approx. 2 hours), wrap in plastic and place the cake layers in the refrigerator for at least an hour (or overnight).

To Make the Frosting

Cream the butter and cream cheese together at medium speed.  Add the vanilla.  Gradually add the confectioner’s sugar, beating until light and fluffy.


  • If you want a blood-red cake, you will need to cut back on the cocoa and add more food coloring.  The many recipes I examined varied the amount of cocoa from 1 tsp up to 1/4 cup (I used the full 1/4 cup) and the food coloring from 1 tsp to 2 oz. (I used a 1 oz. bottle which was approx. 3 Tbls.).  If you add more food coloring, cut back on the hot water.
  • According to All Cakes Considered, if you use Dutch Process Cocoa, you must have baking powder in the mix (something about acids and alkalines).  Some recipes have it, others don’t.  If you use regular cocoa powder, you may not need it.  I included it just to cover my bases.
  • This cake was the first time I used my “EvenBake” strips that you soak in water and then wrap around the cake pans before baking.  They definitely worked!  No doming.  Nice even cakes!  You can find several different styles pictured at: Golda’s Kitchen
  • I used 1-1/2 batches of frosting on this cake.  If you get fancy and divide each cake layer into two thinner layers, you will need two batches.  Apparently you can freeze the frosting, though I’ve never had enough extra to try that 🙂
  • Frosting recipes vary widely in how much confectioner’s sugar they use.  I’ve seen the same amount of butter and cream cheese combined with from 1-5 cups of sugar.  Use your taste and judgment. One thing to watch for: at a certain point (and depending on the temperature) if you add more sugar the frosting will start to get runny and may require refrigeration to firm up.

Copyright © 2011, Lucinda DeWitt

Recipe adapted from:


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