Old Fashioned Red Velvet Cake
This light and fluffy Southern Red Velvet Cake recipe is the perfect cake to make for Valentines day, birthdays, holidays, or weekdays! Honestly, you don’t need an excuse to make cake. And this my friends, is one yummy cake!
Whenever I see a “red velvet” type dessert, like red velvet macarons, I immediately think of Valentine’s Day. I can’t help it! The beautiful red color just screams “love.”
I figured now (2 weeks before Valentine’s Day) is the perfect time to share this recipe. It gives you time to either 1) practice making this cake or 2) plan to make it!
What is red velvet cake
Red velvet cake is a chocolate layer cake with a deep red interior. This striking cake is topped with a white frosting, usually a cream cheese frosting or old fashioned type frosting.
Achieving the signature deep red color takes but a few drops of red gel food coloring, however, during World War II bakers used beets to color red velvet cakes. So if you’d like to use a natural coloring agent for your next southern red velvet cake, use beetroot.
Why you’ll love this Red Velvet Cake from Scratch
This cake is delicious and the texture is spot on. Anyone who eats this cake will surely appreciate just how light, fluffy, and moist this cake is!
I, like some of you, would get overwhelmed when I had to bake a cake. I
used to still fear that my cakes will sink in the center. There’s nothing worse than going through the trouble of baking a cake, to find the center has sunk.
But let me tell you, you won’t have that problem here.
To ensure a light and fluffy cake we separate the eggs and whip the whites. Once the batter is made the egg whites are gently folded in. This simple, yet profound step (if done correctly) will guarantee a fluffy cake and delicate crumb.
Common ingredients found in a traditional or Southern red velvet cake include:
- Cake flour – I’ve seen plenty of cake recipes using all purpose flour. I prefer cake flour for this recipe because it’s lighter and contributes to the overall cake structure and texture. Pro tip: if you don’t have cake flour, this article is a great resource explaining how to substitute all-purpose flour for cake flour.
- Baking soda – this leavening agent is an alkaline compound that creates carbon dioxide gas once it reacts with an acid. In this recipe the baking soda will react with the white vinegar and the buttermilk. This reaction gives the cake it’s volume and lift, making the cake fluffy rather than dense.
- Unsweetened natural cocoa powder – it wouldn’t be a true red velvet cake without cocoa powder.
- Salt – added for flavor.
- Butter – salted or unsalted butter will work for this recipe.
- Granulated sugar – the sugar in this cake recipe adds sweetness. But did you know that sugar also contributes to the tenderness and moisture in cakes?
- Vegetable oil – I love cakes with oil in them because they make for an extra moist cake!
- Eggs – separate the eggs. Once the eggs are separated whip the egg whites until they reach stiff peaks.
- Vanilla extract – added for flavor.
- Buttermilk – adds moisture and tenderness to the cake.
- Gel red food coloring – I haven’t made this cake with liquid red food coloring, but you definitely can! If you do just know you’ll need to use a lot of food coloring to achieve a deep red color. I use this red food coloring, you can find it on Amazon here.
- Make the cake batter. Whisk the cake flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt in a bowl. Set the dry ingredients aside (you’ll use them momentarily). Cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2-3 minutes; scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the oil, egg yolks, vanilla, and vinegar. Turn the mixer on low/medium low and mix until everything is combined. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.
- Add red food coloring. Here’s the fun part, add the food coloring! Like I discussed above, I use gel food coloring because you can use less and still achieve a potent and striking color. Can you use liquid red food coloring in a red velvet cake? Yes, but you’ll need to use a lot in order to achieve a deep red color. Once you’ve added the red food coloring to the cake batter mix it until just combined.
- Fold in the whipped egg whites. Lastly, using a rubber spatula gently fold the egg whites into the batter.
- Divide the batter amongst the 2 cake pans. I use a kitchen scale to ensure I get equal amounts of cake batter in each cake pan. This ensures even cake layers.
- Bake the cakes. The cakes will bake at 350°F for 29-33 minutes. Pro tip: Make sure your oven is calibrated correctly. My oven runs 10°F cooler than what’s noted on the dial. I have an oven thermometer so that I know exactly what temp my oven is at. The cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, but no wet batter. The tops of the cake should lightly spring back when touched.
- Cool cakes. Remove the cakes from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn them out onto a cooling rack to cool until slightly warm to the touch. Pro tip for a moist red velvet cake: once the cakes are slightly warm to the touch, double wrap each cake layer in plastic wrap. This prevents the cakes from drying out.
- Frost. Once the cake is completely cool, you can frost the cake. (Level the cakes if needed). Place the bottom cake layer on a cake stand. Spread almost (but not quite) half of the frosting on the cake. Spread into an even layer. Place the second cake layer on top of the frosting. Use the remaining frosting to frost the top and sides of the cake. Store cake in the fridge.
How to make Old Fashioned Frosting (Icing)
- Make super fine sugar. Place the granulated sugar in a food processor. Process for 2 minutes. Ta-da! Super fine sugar.
- Cook the milk and flour. In a small saucepan whisk the flour and milk over medium heat constantly. Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened. Remove from heat to let cool slightly. Once it’s not so hot, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the flour/milk mixture and place it in the refrigerator to chill, about 2 hours.
- Mix the frosting ingredients together. Once the flour/milk mixture is completely chilled remove it from the fridge. In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the flour and milk mixture, a little at a time. Beat on medium speed for 4-5 minutes or until no longer grainy. Add milk or heavy cream a tablespoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. I added 1 tablespoon of heavy cream.
- Frost the cooled cake.
This is a really easy red velvet cake recipe, one that will deliver delicious results! I hope you give it a try!
More cake recipes you’ll love:
If you make a recipe from Salt & Baker please come back to leave a rating and comment! I appreciate your feedback SO much. Thank you, thank you!
Old Fashioned Red Velvet Cake
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter - at room temperature
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 4 large eggs - separated
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- gel red food coloring - I used about 2 teaspoons worth
- 1 cup buttermilk - at room temperature
Old Fashioned Frosting
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups butter - salted or unsalted at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup super fine granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 tablespoon milk - or heavy cream
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 2-9 inch cake pans.
- In a medium bowl whisk the cake flour, baking soda, coca powder, and salt.
- In a medium bowl mix the egg whites until stiff peaks form (be careful not to overbeat the whites).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 2-3 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the oil, egg yolks, vanilla, and vinegar. Mix until combined.
- Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add 2 (or more) teaspoons of gel red food coloring. Mix to combine.
- Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
- Divide the batter amongst the 2 cake pans. Tip: use a kitchen scale to ensure even amounts of batter are in each pan.
- Bake for 29-33 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, but no wet batter. See note #1. (The tops of the cake should lightly spring back when touched). Remove from the oven and let cool in the pans for 10 minutes then turn out on a cooling rack to cool before frosting.
- To make super fine sugar, place the granulated sugar in a food processor. Process for 2 minutes. Ta-da! Super fine sugar.
- In a small saucepan whisk the flour and milk over medium heat until thickened (be sure to whisk constantly to prevent clumping). The mixture should come to a simmer, at this point you'll notice the mixture thickening. Once thick, remove from heat to let cool slightly. Place plastic wrap directly on the flour/milk mixture and place in the refrigerator to chill, about 2 hours.
- Once it's fully chilled continue… In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the flour and milk mixture, a little at a time. Beat on medium speed for 4-5 minutes or until no longer grainy. Add milk or heavy cream a tablespoon at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. I added 1-2 tablespoons of heavy cream.
- Frost the cooled cake. Place a cake on a cake stand or serving platter, top side up. Spread about 1/3 of the frosting over the top of the cake. Place the other cake layer over the frosting, bottom side up. Frost the top of the cake with 1/2 of the remaining frosting. Use the last of the frosting to frost the edges of the cake.