The classic red velvet cake with its soft and tender crumb is perfect for everyday or special occasions. This delicious treat is the perfect blend of chocolate flavor, vanilla, and velvety smooth texture, all topped off with a decadent mascarpone frosting. This cake is so good it will become your favorite recipe for red velvet cake.
- What Does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like
- Red Velvet Cake Ingredients
- How to Make Red Velvet Cake
- Whipped Cream is the Secret Ingredient
- How to Make the Mascarpone Frosting
- How to Assemble the Cake
- Why Is It Called Red Velvet Cake
- Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
- Frequently Asked Questions
- If You Like This Recipe, Try These Recipes
- Red Velvet Cake
Early in our marriage, my husband asked for a red velvet cake for Valentine's Day. I was determined to make the best version possible, so I rolled up my sleeves researched and after multiple tests come up with this delicious soft velvety cake. My trick to get the incredibly fluffy texture of this cake is to fold in whipped cream which helps produce the best red velvet cake you will ever taste.
And instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting I developed a mascarpone buttercream which adds a decadent and rich flavor to the cake. I think it is the best frosting for red velvet cake as it pairs really well with the flavors and texture of the cake.
This recipe for red velvet cake is a family favorite. For other family favorites try my recipes for Coconut Layer Cake and Lemon Bundt Cake. If want cupcakes instead of a cake get my recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes.
What Does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like
Red velvet cake has a distinctive flavor and texture all its own. The cake has a mild chocolate flavor with a slightly tangy flavor from the buttermilk. Another thing that sets this cake apart is its incredibly moist and velvety crumb. The combination of natural cocoa powder, vinegar, and buttermilk in the cake batter creates this unique soft texture that no other cake has.
Red Velvet Cake Ingredients
These are the ingredients you'll need for this amazing cake:
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 an enticing reddish-brown color.
- Unsalted Butter: Butter adds flavor to the cake and helps make it tender. Use room temperature (65-68 degrees F) butter to ensure that you’re able to cream it with the sugar.
- Granulated Sugar: Sugar adds sweetness and moisture to the cake.
- Large Eggs: The egg yolks add fat to the cake and egg whites add structure. The eggs should be at room temperature (65-68 degrees F) to ensure they emulsify with the other ingredients. Cold eggs will result in a dense and stodgy cake.
- Baking Soda and Baking Powder: The chemical leaveners help the cake rise, but the combination of baking soda, vinegar, and cocoa also helps produce the reddish-brown color and tender texture of this cake.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk helps make the cake tender. It also adds a slightly tangy flavor to the cake.
- White Vinegar: The chemical reaction of the vinegar, cocoa, and baking soda help produce the cake's color and tenderness
- Red Paste Food Gel: The red gel paste is preferred over liquid food color because it ensures a more even color without having to add a lot of food coloring. It also doesn’t affect the texture because it is not a liquid and you don’t have to add a lot to get the right color.
- Heavy Cream: When the cake bakes the baking soda and baking powder cause the air bubbles in the whipped cream to expand producing the cake with a higher rise and even fluffier texture.
- 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. The vanilla extract can be replaced with almond extract or another extract of your choosing.
Full ingredients, measurements, and instructions are in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
How to Make Red Velvet Cake
Making red velvet from scratch is easier than you think and better than a cake you'll get from a bakery.
Step 1: 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. Set the flour mixture aside.
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.
Step 2: Place the sugar and the butter in a bowl of a stand mixer and with the paddle attachment mix on low speed until the ingredients are just combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 3 minutes.
Step 3: Add the eggs one at a time mixing on medium for about 20 seconds until each egg is well incorporated. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Step 4: Alternate the addition of the dry ingredients and the buttermilk. Mix the flour mixture in on low speed to avoid the development of gluten which will toughen the cake.
Step 5: Add the red gel food coloring and the vinegar and mix on low speed until most of the cake batter has turned red. But be careful to not add too much food coloring, because it can give the cake a bitter taste.
Step 6: Whip the heavy cream until there are soft peaks.
Step 7: Fold the whipped cream into the cake batter until there are no white streaks.
Step 8: Divide the batter between the parchment lined 9-inch cake pans and smooth the tops with an offset spatula. Bake the cake layers until the a cake tester inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean or the temperature in the center registers 202 degrees F with an instant-read thermometer.
When the cake is done remove the layers from the oven. Let them cool in the cake pans and then invert the layers onto wire racks.
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.
How to Make the Mascarpone Frosting
This buttercream is amazing - it's rich and decadent, without being overly sweet. And it's easy to make. 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. In the end I replaced the cream cheese with mascarpone and reduced the sugar to get the perfect texture and amazingly rich buttercream.
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 it 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 with a thin layer of frosting. 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.
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.
The acidity in the buttermilk reacts with the cocoa powder turning it from brown to vibrant red.
Pro Tips for Making This Recipe
- Use a scale to weigh the flour for the most accurate results. Too much flour will result in a dry cake and too little flour will result in a sunken cake.
- The eggs, butter, and buttermilk should all be at room temperature before combining them with other ingredients. Room temperature for these ingredients is typically between 65 - 70 degrees F.
- Line the cake pans with parchment paper to ensure a clean release from the pan.
- The mascarpone cheese and butter for the frosting should be at 65-68 degrees F when baking the frosting. If it is too cold, it won't incorporate and if it is too warm, the frosting won't set up and it might be soupy.
Frequently Asked Questions
The frosted cake should be stored in the refrigerator. Place the cake in a cake container or lightly cover it with plastic wrap. The cake will keep for about 5 days. Bring the cake to room temperature for about 1 hour before serving it.
Yes, you can freeze the assembled cake or individual slices. Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Then wrap it in three layers of plastic wrap before freezing for up to 2 months. Thaw the cake in the refrigerator the night before, then bring to room temperature before serving.
Multiple things can contribute to a dense cake. Overmixing will cause the cake to fall once it comes out of the oven. Cold eggs will create a dense and stodgy cake. Expired baking soda or baking powder will result in a flat cake.
Adding too much food color will cause the cake to have a bitter aftertaste. Don't add more than 1-1/2 teaspoons of the red food gel paste to this recipe.
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If You Like This Recipe, Try These Recipes
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) granulated sugar
- 8 tablespoons (114 grams) unsalted butter room temperature (65-68 degrees F)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 large (100 grams) eggs room temperature (65-68 degrees F)
- 1 cup buttermilk room temperature (65-68 degrees F)
- 1 tablespoon vinegar
- Gel Paste Food Color - Red use 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon
- 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 pure vanilla extract
- 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. Butter and flour two round 9-inch cake pans and place parchment paper on the bottom of each pan.
- Place the cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt in a bowl and whisk to combine.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter and the sugar 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 about 20 seconds. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating on medium speed until well combined, about 20 seconds. 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 the bottom and sides of the bowl. Add 3-5 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.
- 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. Invert the cakes onto the wire racks 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 for up to 1 month. If freezing the cake layers, wrap each layer in two layers of plastic wrap, then place each cake in a freezer storage bag.
- This recipe makes about 4-3/4 cups of buttercream.
- Combine the mascarpone, butter, and kosher 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.
Assembling the Cake
- 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 with a thin layer of buttercream.
- 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. If decorating the cake in the naked style, spread another thin layer of buttercream around the sides of the cake.
- If decorating with the chocolate ganache, spoon the cooled ganache into a pastry bag. Snip off the tip of the bag and decorate the top of the cake with a cross-hatch pattern, swirls, or squiggles. Use the remaining buttercream for decorations.