The ultimate Black Velvet Cake is made with dark and moist black cocoa powder cake layers frosted with a black cream cheese frosting. It’s the perfect black cake recipe to spook your way through the Halloween season! 

If you’ve tried my Black Velvet Cupcakes then you’ll love this delicious black velvet cake recipe! It’s a scaled up version of the recipe for 6-inch cake pans. Be sure to be creative with the decorations! Mummies, ghosts, spiders, bats, witches, or colored sprinkles — the options are endless! 

Three layered black velvet cake topped with black frosting, with two slices leaning against each other on a white background.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Made with black cocoa powder. This black velvet cake recipe uses black cocoa powder which makes the cake deeply chocolate and dark in color. 
  • Moist black velvet cake. The combination of vegetable oil, buttermilk and sour cream ensures a smooth and moist cake texture. 
  • Silky black cocoa buttercream. The rich and silky black cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement to the dark cake layers, creating the ultimate black cake. 
  • Halloween cake. This rich black velvet cake recipe is the perfect Halloween cake recipe to make for a Halloween party! Decorate with bats, spiders, ghosts and more! 

Ingredient Notes

Black Velvet Cake ingredients portions into glass bowls on a silver baking sheet.
  • Cake Flour: Cake flour has a lower protein content than other flours. It is also finely milled this will give the cake a lighter and more delicate texture. 
  • Black Cocoa Powder: For more information on the different types of cocoa powders, when to use them and why, read my post on the Best Cocoa Powder for Baking and my Black Cocoa Powder Guide.
  • Vegetable Oil: The vegetable oil will make the black velvet cake layers extremely moist. 
  • Sour Cream: The added sour cream will provide additional fat to make for a super moist crumb texture. You can substitute Plain Greek Yogurt instead if preferred. 
  • Buttermilk: The buttermilk’s acidity will help provide a tender texture and help add a lightness to the cake. 
  • White Vinegar: The vinegar is a key ingredient in velvet cake recipes. 
  • Black Food Coloring: I recommend using gel food color as it’s more concentrated and doesn’t add additional liquid to affect the texture of the cake. 
  • Cream Cheese: The black buttercream has the perfect balance of cream cheese flavor. 
  • Powdered Sugar: Adding the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time will help make the frosting smoother.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Prepare the cake pans. Preheat oven to 350ºF and place the oven rack in the middle of your oven. Spray three 6-inch cake pans with cooking spray with flour. Set aside. 
  2. Combine dry ingredients. To the bowl of a stand mixer add 1 3/4 cup cake flour, 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 2/3 cup black cocoa powder, 3/4 tsp baking soda, and 1/2 tsp salt. Whisk to combine.
  3. Combine wet ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup vegetable oil, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/2 cup buttermilk, 2 large eggs, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp white vinegar, and black gel food coloring.
  4. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the stand mixer with the dry ingredients. Using the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until ingredients are combined. 
  5. Pour into cake pans and bake. Using a kitchen scale, pour the batter equally among the three prepared cake pans. Use an offset spatula to spread into an even layer. Bake for 25-28 minutes. Remove when a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs but no wet batter. Remove and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature. 
  6. Make the black cream cheese frosting. Beat 12 tablespoons butter and 8 oz cream cheese on medium high speed until smooth in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time. Mix in 1/4 cup black cocoa powder, 2 tsp vanilla extract and black gel food color. Add 1 tablespoon heavy cream (if needed). Whip until smooth. 
Four photos showing the process of how to make Black Velvet Cake batter.
  1. Layer the black velvet cake. Place a small dollop of frosting on a cake stand or plate. Place 1 layer of black velvet cake on top. Add a heaping amount of black cream cheese frosting on top and spread in an even ayer. Place another cake layer on top and repeat with another layer of frosting. Top with the final cake layer. 
  2. Apply the crumb coat. Add a thin layer of frosting around the entire cake and top of the cake. Chill in the freezer or fridge for 10 minutes until set.
  3. Frost the black velvet cake. Using the rest of the frosting, completely frost the black velvet cake, decorating as desired. Top with sprinkles like I did, if you’d like! Enjoy! 
Two photos, top photo is a crumb coated Black Velvet Cake against a black background, the bottom image is a Black Velvet Cake full frosted and covered with black sugar sprinkles against a black background.

Recipe Tips

The cake will be more moist if you don’t over bake it, so I like to remove it when the toothpick has moist crumbs on it– but no wet batter

Ensure that your buttermilk and eggs are at room temperature, as this helps create a smoother batter and more consistent results.

Use gel food coloring for the black cake and frosting, as it provides a deep, consistent color without affecting the texture.

Be precise when measuring your ingredients, especially the cake flour and cocoa powder, to achieve the best texture and flavor.

Allow the cake layers to cool in the pans for 10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely; this prevents them from becoming too fragile.

Once the cakes are completely cool, use a serrated knife to level off the domed tops of each cake layer. (If needed).

Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing

Make Ahead: You can prepare the cake layers a day in advance and store them, wrapped in plastic wrap, in the fridge. The frosting can also be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator, but let it come to room temperature and re-whip it before using.

Storing: Once the cake is assembled, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. Ensure that it’s well covered to prevent it from drying out.

Freezing: The unfrosted cake layers can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and aluminum foil, then stored in the freezer for up to 2-3 months. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight before frosting and assembling.

For more information on storing and freezing cakes, including how to freeze cake layers, buttercream and decorated cakes, check out my How to Store and Freeze Cakes guide!

A Black Velvet Cake with several slices of cake removed to show the interior of the three tiered black layer cake.

Recipe FAQs

Can I substitute regular cocoa powder for black cocoa powder?

The dark cocoa powder isn’t just for color — It will result in a different flavor and color and there may be slight differences in the texture since black cocoa powder isn’t acidic. Black cocoa powder provides a more intense chocolate flavor and the signature dark hue of the cake.

Do I have to use black gel food coloring?

While black gel food coloring is recommended for the deepest color, you can use other food colorings if needed. Just adjust the quantity to achieve your desired shade.

What can I use instead of buttermilk?

If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make a substitute by adding 1/2 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to 1/2 cup of milk and letting it sit for a few minutes until it curdles.

How can I prevent cake layers from sticking to the pans?

Using cooking spray with flour to grease the cake pans is an effective method to prevent sticking. Additionally, you can place parchment paper rounds at the bottom of each pan for added insurance. 

What makes it a velvet cake?

The velvet in velvet cakes comes from the white vinegar in the cake batter. It provides added acidity to create a silky smooth crumb texture and a tangy flavor.

A black three layer cake topped with a black velvet cake frosting, on a gray plate.

More Black Cocoa Powder Recipes

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Overhead photo of a Black Velvet Cake with a slice leaning sideways against the full layered cake.
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5 from 1 vote

Black Velvet Cake

This three layer black velvet cake is moist and fluffy and topped with a delicious black cocoa cream cheese frosting!
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 12 servings

Ingredients
 

Black Velvet Cake

  • 1 3/4 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup black cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream - full fat or light is fine. Can also sub plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk - at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs - at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
  • black food coloring - preferably gel

Black Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter - softened to room temperature
  • 8 oz cream cheese - softened
  • 5 cups powdered sugar - measured then sifted
  • 1/4 cup black cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream - if needed
  • black gel food color

Instructions
 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Place the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Using nonstick cooking spray that contains flour, generously spray 3 — 6 inch cake pans. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer whisk the cake flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. 
  • In a separate bowl, or large liquid measuring cup, whisk the vegetable oil, sour cream, buttermilk, egg, vanilla extract, white vinegar, and black food coloring. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients (using a paddle attachment) and mix on low until ingredients are combined. 
  • Pour the batter into the three cake pans, use an off set spatula to spread the batter into an even layer. Tip: use a kitchen scale to ensure equal amounts of batter in each pan.
  • Place the cake pans in the oven and bake for 25-28 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs but no wet batter. (The cake will be more moist if you don't over bake it, so I like to remove it when the toothpick has moist crumbs on it– but no wet batter). Remove from the oven and let the cakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.
  • Once cool, use a serrated knife to level off the domed tops of each cake layer. (If needed).

Black Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Beat the butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer until smooth and creamy about 2-3 minutes. Add the powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Mix in the black cocoa powder, vanilla extract and black gel coloring, about 2-3 drops. Whip until smooth. Add a splash of heavy cream if needed, to get desired consistency. 

Assembly

  • Place 1 cake layer on a cake stand or cake plate. I like to put a small dollop of frosting on the cake stand to ensure the cake layer doesn’t move as I’m frosting it. 
  • Place a heaping amount of frosting on top of the cake layer (about 1 cup). Gently pushing the frosting toward the cake edges with a spatula. Try to keep the frosting level. 
  • Place the next cake layer on top of the frosting, doing your best to align the edges. Gently press the cake layer in place. Add about 1 cup of frosting to the top of the cake layer. Gently pushing the frosting toward the cake edges with a spatula. Try to keep the frosting level. Add the final cake layer on top. 
  • Add a thin layer of frosting to the top and sides of the cake (this is called a crumb coat). Refrigerate the cake for 10 minutes to set the frosting (this prevents the crumbs from getting into your final frosting layer). 
  • Lastly, apply a thick layer of frosting over the crumb coat, frosting the top and sides in an even layer.

Notes

Store cake covered in the fridge for 3-4 days for best results. Cake layers can be made in advance, cooled, covered in plastic wrap and chilled in the fridge overnight. 

Nutrition

Calories: 648kcal (32%)Carbohydrates: 90g (30%)Protein: 6g (12%)Fat: 32g (49%)Saturated Fat: 15g (75%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 88mg (29%)Sodium: 255mg (11%)Potassium: 188mg (5%)Fiber: 3g (12%)Sugar: 72g (80%)Vitamin A: 744IU (15%)Vitamin C: 0.1mgCalcium: 60mg (6%)Iron: 1mg (6%)
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
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