This beautiful Red Velvet Cake is a moist and fluffy chocolate cake with a hint of vanilla. The Mascarpone Buttercream is so rich and creamy that you may be tempted to eat it all by itself. Red velvet cake is easy to make and the best part of homemade is that you can make it any time for any occasion. Read on to learn how to make this cake and if you want to be notified of new recipes sign up for my baking newsletter.
My nickname for Red Velvet Cake is Sweetheart Cake. Why? Because it's my husband's favorite and I usually make it for his birthday and Valentine's Day or just because. And since I've made it several times since we got married I wanted to come up with a version that I love too and that had more cocoa flavor.
- Why This Recipe Works
- Why Is It Called Red Velvet Cake
- Red Velvet Cake Ingredients
- How to Make the Red Velvet Cake
- Why Do We Test the Center of the Cake for Doneness
- Whipped Cream is the Secret Ingredient
- Mascarpone Buttercream Ingredients
- How to Make the Mascarpone Frosting
- How to Assemble the Cake
- Frequently Asked Questions
- More Delicious Cake Recipes
- Recipe Resources
- Red Velvet Cake
Why This Recipe Works
Beyond Red Velvet Cake’s beautiful red color, there’s something more—an extra-tender cake with a creamy and rich mascarpone frosting. The tenderness of the cake is achieved by using buttermilk and vinegar. They react with the baking soda to create a fine, tender crumb. The extra height in the cake is achieved by adding whipped cream to the batter and the amount of cocoa is just right to give it a beautiful cocoa flavor.
Why Is It Called Red Velvet Cake
This cake gets its name from the deep maroon or reddish-brown color and velvety soft texture of the cake. The red color is produced with the chemical reaction of cocoa powder, vinegar, and buttermilk and is enhanced with the addition of red food coloring.
Red Velvet Cake Ingredients
These are the ingredients for the Red Velvet Cake:
- Cake Flour. Cake flour produces a really tender crumb. If you substitute it with all-purpose flour substitute it by weight (257 grams).
- Natural Cocoa Powder. Cocoa powder gives this cake its distinctive chocolate flavor and helps produce the beautiful reddish-brown color.
- Unsalted Butter. Butter adds flavor and moisture to the cake.
- Granulated Sugar. Sugar adds sweetness and moisture to the cake.
- Whole Eggs. Egg yolks add fat to the cake and egg whites add structure.
- Baking Soda and Baking Powder. The chemical leaveners help the cake rise, but the combination of baking soda, vinegar, and cocoa also help produce the reddish-brown color of this cake.
- Buttermilk. Buttermilk helps make the cake tender.
- Vinegar. The chemical reaction of the vinegar, cocoa and baking soda help produce the cake's color.
- Red Paste Food Gel. The red gel paste is preferred because it ensures a move even color without having to add a lot of food coloring.
- Heavy Cream. Whipped cream helps the cake rise and produces a fluffier cake.
There are different versions of red velvet. The combination of buttermilk, cocoa, and vinegar help produce the slight red color of the cake. The red gel food paste is used to enhance the red of the cake.
My cake never comes out the same shade of red or reddish-brown. I use Americolor gel paste food color - Red, Red; but I don't measure the amount, so there is a slight variation from cake to cake.
If you decide to make this cake, don't skip the vinegar. The combination of vinegar, baking soda, and natural cocoa help produce the reddish-brown color.
How to Make the Red Velvet Cake
Place the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cocoa in a medium bowl and whisk for 30 seconds to ensure all the ingredients are combined.
Crack the eggs into a small bowl, measure out the vinegar into a small prep bowl and measure out the buttermilk into a glass measuring cup.
Place the sugar and the butter in a bowl of a stand mixer and with the paddle attachment mix on low until the ingredients are just combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes.
Add the vanilla and the eggs one at a time, beating on medium just until the egg is incorporated. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
Alternate the addition of the flour and the buttermilk beating on low after each addition. The batter is beaten on low at this point to avoid developing the gluten and making the cake tough.
Add the red gel food paste and vinegar and mix on low until it is incorporated into the batter and the batter is a reddish-brown color. You can add more food coloring if you want the cake to more red. But be careful to not add too much, because it can give the cake a bitter taste.
Beat the heavy cream just until soft peaks form. Add the whipped cream to the batter and gently fold it into the cake batter until no white streaks remain.
Divide the batter between the parchment lined cake pans and bake the cake layers until the a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean or the temperature in the center registers 202 degrees F.
Why Do We Test the Center of the Cake for Doneness
The center of the cake is tested to determine if the cake is thoroughly baked because as the cake bakes the heat radiates inward from the sides of the cake pan meaning that the outside of the cake will get done first and the center last.
If you just to test the cake closer to the sides of the pan the cake would seem done, but the middle would still be raw.
Whipped Cream is the Secret Ingredient
So the secret to making this cake even fluffier is WHIPPED CREAM. Such a simple ingredient, but makes a huge difference in the cake. Whipped cream works because as you whip the heavy cream, you create bubbles and those bubbles expand even more when the cake is baked.
I learned this from Bakewise by Shirley Corriher and the section on cakes alone is worth the price of the book. I like to understand how things work, and her book explains it all. It's the perfect book for a self-declared baking nerd like me.
I couldn't believe such a simple thing worked, but it really does. When I cut into the cake I was excited to see that it actually worked. The cake tasted amazing and the texture was softer than anything I'd made before.
Mascarpone Buttercream Ingredients
This buttercream is amazing - it's rich and decadent, without being overly sweet. And it's easy to make. It has 4 main ingredients:
- Mascarpone Cheese. This cheese has a mildly sweet, almost nutty flavor with a fresh buttery taste that goes really well with sweet cake.
- Unsalted Butter. The butter ensures a nice creamy texture.
- Powdered Sugar. This recipe only uses 2 cups of powdered sugar, but if you like your frosting sweeter you can add up 1/2 cup more than the recipe calls for.
- Vanilla Extract. Vanilla extract is a nice addition to the frosting and pairs really well with the cocoa cake.
If you using this buttercream recipe with another type of cake the vanilla extrsct can be replaced with almond extract or another extract of your choosing.
How to Make the Mascarpone Frosting
I love this buttercream, it's so good I can eat it by itself, but that's not something I like to confess.
To make the buttercream place the mascarpone, butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and with the whisk attachment beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Add the vanilla and beat on medium-high for 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low until the sugar is combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for until fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes.
I made four versions of this buttercream before I found the right combination of ingredients. First, I used an existing recipe for cream cheese frosting. I replaced part of the cream cheese with mascarpone, but the texture was too soft and kind of weepy.
My second try I reduced the cream cheese, added more mascarpone and beat them on a higher speed and for longer to make it fluffier before adding the powdered sugar, but I still ended up with the same problem. It tasted okay, but I didn't like the look of it and it was a little too sweet for me. All the versions also contained 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.
My 4th and final batch I ditched the cream cheese, the heavy cream and reduced the sugar. The final result was a buttercream that I can eat by itself. I even put in on toast.
How to Assemble the Cake
After the cake has completely cooled, place one of the layers on a cake board or a plate. If the cake layer is a little domed, use a serrated knife to level the top of the cake. Save the cake scraps for snacking.
Add the buttercream to the cake layer and spread evenly across the cake layer. Place the second cake layer on top - making sure the edges of the top and bottom are lined up.
Crumb coat the sides and bottom of the cake. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Add about 1-1/4 cup of buttercream to the top of the and spread across the top. Spread a thin even layer around the sides of the cake. Decorate the cake with the remaining frosting and chocolate ganache, if you're using it.
I am so happy with the way this cake turned out. When I cut a piece out of the final version I was thrilled with the way the knife slid through the layers and how it felt so fluffy just cutting through it. And I absolutely love the way it tastes. I think you will love it too! If you have questions or try the recipe let me know what you think.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are multiple things that can cause the cake to come out flat.
1. Overmixing or mixing the batter for too long can cause the cake to fall once it comes out of the oven.
2. Cold eggs will create a dense cake layer that only rises a little in the oven.
3. Expired baking soda and baking powder. If you've had either of these ingredients for a while, test them by placing a little in a cup and then added a little vinegar. The mixture will bubble up if the leavener is still good.
Adding too much food color will cause the cake to have a bitter after taste. For this cake I use about 1/16 teaspoon of the gel food paste. In experimenting I found that 1/8 teaspoon of the red food gel paste can cause a bitter taste.
Yes, you can make the frosting with equal amounts of cream cheese.
More Delicious Cake Recipes
There is nothing like a good piece of cake - moist, softness and with just the right amount of sweetness. Below is a list of other cake recipes on the blog that you should try:
My family loves Red Velvet Cake so I hope that you will try this recipe. Please leave me a note in the comments below and let me know what you think about this recipe or ask any questions that you. If you make this recipe I would love to see your pictures and if you post it to Instagram tag me @bakesbybrownsugar and #bakesbybrownsugar.
Red Velvet Cake
Red Velvet Cake
- 2-1/4 cups (257 grams) cake flour, sifted
- 2 tablespoons (12 grams) natural cocoa powder, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1-1/2 cups (300 grams) sugar
- 8 tablespoons (114 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 (100 grams) large eggs room temperature
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- Gel Paste Food Color - Red
- 1/2 cup heavy cream cold
- 16 ounces (454 grams) mascarpone cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups (230 grams) powdered sugar sifted
Chocolate Decoration (Optional)
- 2 ounces bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chopped or chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup heavy cream
- IMPORTANT NOTE: The most important thing to remember is not to overmix or over beat the cake batter. When adding the eggs, only mix them until they are just incorporated into the batter. When adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk mix on medium-low until just incorporated. Overmixing the batter will result in a compact, dense cake.
For the Cake
- Place the beaters and the bowl for the heavy cream in the refrigerator
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two round 9-inch cake pans and place parchment paper on the bottom of each pan.
- Place the cake flour, the cocoa, baking powder baking soda and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter and the sugar and with the paddle attachment on medium-high speed until it is pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape the sides and sides and bottom of the bowl
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed until well combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and beat for another 30 seconds.
- Add 1/3 of the flour mixture and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Add 1/2 of the buttermilk. Continue to alternate the flour and the buttermilk. Scrape down the sides and the bottom of the bowl. Add three squirts of red food color gel paste and the vinegar and mix on medium speed until the food gel and vinegar are well combined into the batter. Scrape the bottom of the bowl one more time and mix on low speed until the batter is the same color throughout.
- For the whipping cream, remove the bowl and the beaters from the refrigerator. Beat the heavy cream until soft peaks form. Stir about 1/4 of the whipped cream into the cake batter. Then gently fold the rest of the whipped cream into the batter.
- Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, approximately 590 grams per pan. Smooth the top of the batter with an offset spatula to even out the layer. Bake until a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 25-30 minutes.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and cool the cakes for 10 minutes on a wire rack. Spray the wire racks with nonstick spray or lightly brush them with oil. The oil will make it easier to remove the cake from the wire racks once they are cooled. Remove the cakes from the pan and let them cool completely on the wire racks, for at least 1 hour.
- The cakes can be stored at room temperature wrapped in plastic for about 24 hours or frozen up to 1 month. If freezing the cake layers, wrap each layer in plastic wrap, then place each cake in a freezer storage bag.
- Place 1 cake layer on a plate or cake board. Spread 1 cup of buttercream evenly over the first layer. Add the second layer and crumb coat the sides and top of the cake. Add 1 to 1-1/4 cups of buttercream to the top and spread evenly to the edges. the top to the edge of the cake. spread the remaining buttecream evenly over the sides of the cake for a smooth thin layer. Use the remaining frosting for decoration.
- This recipe makes about 4-3/4 cups of buttercream.
- Combine the mascarpone, butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and with the whisk attachment beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and beat on medium-high for 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low until the sugar is combined. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for until fluffy and smooth, about 2 minutes.
Chocolate Ganache (Optional)
- Place the chopped chocolate or the chocolate chips in a small bowl. Measure the cream into a measuring cup and heat it in the microwave until it starts to bubble around the edges. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate. Let it sit for 20 seconds and then stir with a small spatula until the mixture is smooth all one color.
- If decoration as seen in recipe mixtures, let the ganache cool to 75 degrees F. Place it in a small pastry bag with a #5 Wilton tip and then decorate the top of the cake.