Sunday, February 13, 2011

Red Velvet Cake Recipe

What flavour is red velvet cake? That is the most common question I get when I make red velvet for any occasion.

Even though red velvet has been around in New Zealand for some time now I still hear gasps when people see just how red, red velvet can be!

The red velvet flavour is somewhere in the middle of a chocolate and a vanilla cake, made with buttermilk, a tiny amount of cocoa and copious amounts of red food colouring to give it that oh so famous red look.

Red Velvet Cake

Traditionally, the red colour is thought to have come from a chemical reaction of the unprocessed cocoa meeting the buttermilk or vinegar.

The taste that so many people love is not chocolate, nor is it vanilla or red food colouring. It's the mixture of the right quantities of the ingredients paired with cream cheese icing that people really love eating.

Red Velvet Cake
Recipe adapted from Pinch My Salt

2 1/2 C Cake Flour (See substitution here)
1 t Baking Powder
1 t Salt
2 T Cocoa Powder
60ml Red Food Colouring
120g Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
1 1/2 C Sugar
2 Eggs (room temperature)
1 t Vanilla Extract (or essence)
1 C Buttermilk (room temperature)
1 t White Vinegar
1 t Baking Soda

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C and line two 9" round cake tins or three 8" round cake tins.
  • Sift the flour a couple of times before sifting together with the baking powder and salt into a medium bowl then set aside.
  • In a small bowl, mix food colouring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps (I use a whisk) and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (about three minutes) 
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go.
  • Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. 
  • Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. 
  • End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
  • In a cup, mix vinegar and baking soda (It fizzes!) 
  • Add the vinegar mix to the cake batter and fold in to just combine. 
  • Working quickly, divide batter evenly between cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or when skewer inserted come out clean.
  • Cool the cakes in their tins for 10 minutes then remove and place on wire cooling rack before icing.

Recipe notes:
Whenever I make red velvet cake I just KNOW I'm going to end up looking somewhat like Elmo (red that is, not furry and cute). So make sure to wear an apron and be careful with the red food colouring as it tends to get everywhere in my kitchen too!
Don't worry too much if you don't have two cake tins of the same size, this recipe has worked fine for me when I've baked half at a time.
This recipe can just as easily be used to make cupcakes (and makes 24) , just change baking time to 10-12 minutes.
I've also done 1 1/2 times this recipe to make a 9" cake with three cake tins and it's been just the right amount.
If you're wanting to make this layer cake for a fondant covered cake you'll need to pair it with a plain buttercream icing as cream cheese will be far too runny and should be kept in the fridge.

Red Velvet CakeRed Velvet Cake

Cream Cheese Icing Recipe

453g Cream Cheese (softened)
120g Unsalted Butter (softened)
2 1/2 C Icing Sugar
1 t Vanilla Essence
Pinch of Salt
  • Mix the cream cheese and butter until smooth.
  • Sift icing sugar into a large bowl and add to butter mixture one cup at a time.
  • Add the salt and vanilla extract and mix until light and fluffy.

Icing Notes:
If you're not going to use the icing straight away you'll need to refrigerate it, when you need to use it bring it back to room temperature and beat until smooth again. You can add more icing sugar to make the icing sweeter. Red velvet cake can also go with plain vanilla buttercream or cinnamon buttercream.

Red Velvet CakeRed Velvet Cake
Red Velvet Cake

Hopefully as red velvet gets more popular here (and I think it will) people will start to get more educated on it's yumminess.

I remember taking a cake into work once and at first people were a bit unsure about trying a piece but by the end of the day I spotted two very proper office ladies licking the icing and crumbs off the cake stand! Caught red handed -literally!

Have you ever made a red velvet cake? What reactions did you get?


  1. Oh my goodness. How lovely to discover your blog. I've seriously been scrolling through it for the past 15 minutes. Yum. I too like to bake cupcakes but don't think I've quite got mine down to such a fine out. What size nozzle to you use for icing? What brand also? Love your blog! Nice work. P.S. Those chicken, cranberry and Camembert filo parcels look right up my alley too!

  2. Thank you so much for all your lovely comments! The nozzle I like to use the best is the Wilton 1M which make a really nice cupcake swirl, you can also use it working from the inside out to make it look like a rose.
    Yes I still have so filo pastry in the freezer, must make those again some time! Yum yum!