Traditional Red Velvet Cake

IMG_8488 Fork in Cake

I do hope you have been trying out my recipes and enjoying them as much as I do over the past few weeks since the inception of this blog. The yellow cake, chocolate cake, and carrot cake are very useful recipes to have as a baker.

IMG_8478 Top View Cake and Piece

This week, we move on to another essential in a baker’s repertoire – the red velvet cake. This cake, its origins shrouded in mystery, is quite unlike any other cake. Its name comes from the color the cake would turn when the acidic ingredients reacted with the cocoa. Specifically, the pigment in cocoa, anthocyanin reacts to the buttermilk and vinegar, which are acids present in red velvet cake, making the cake red in hue.

IMG_8480 Cake and Fork No Bite

As you have probably gathered, today’s red velvet cakes are a lot redder than this chemical reaction would likely yield. This is due to the addition of food coloring whether being liquid, gel, powder, or natural. Natural coloring comes in the form of beets, usually. The three other coloring types – liquid, gel, and powder are varied in their uses as well as their effectiveness. On my Tips & Techniques page, you can find out their difference as well as some appropriate uses for each. In this recipe, we’ll be using gel food coloring.

IMG_8489 Cake Piece with Bite on Fork

Red velvet gets its flavors from the small amount of cocoa powder, buttermilk and vinegar (both imparting tartness), and the vanilla extract used. Because only minor doses of cocoa are used, the flavor is a very light chocolate that balances beautifully with the vanilla. It’s not quite chocolate cake, but on its way to being one, I’d say. The cake flour generally used in red velvet recipes holds these flavors in a fluffy, pillow-like matrix. It’s luxurious and light all at once and pairs traditionally with an amazing (and updated!!) cooked flour frosting that is not too sweet, but creamy and lush.

IMG_8514 Cake Piece Top View

Contrary to popular conjecture, the traditional frosting of red velvet cakes is not cream cheese frosting but rather this cooked flour frosting. I find it to be more suitable as well. This frosting is created by making a slurry of flour and milk that is cooked over a stove until it thickens. Once cooled, it is thoroughly beaten with butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy. If you haven’t tried it, it tastes like a buttery whipped cream only with more oomph. It’s also a great consistency for spreading or piping. And it fits perfectly with red velvet – a light frosting for a lightly flavored cake. I used to enjoy cream cheese frosting with red velvet cake, but once I started using the cooked frosting, I can plainly see the difference and I will never go back. Cream cheese frosting is too heavy for red velvet and it overpowers the cake’s gentle flavors. So please do try the cooked flour frosting. It’s easy to prepare and it’s the perfect fit.

IMG_8522 Cut Cake

IMG_8481 Whole Cake Piece

Traditional Red Velvet Cake

Recipe by: Leelabean
(Yield: 1 9″x13″ pan, 2 8″ round pans, or 24 regular-sized cupcakes)
2 c cake flour
1 1/2 c granulated white sugar
3 T cocoa powder
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1 c canola oil
4 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c buttermilk, room temperature
1 T vanilla extract
1 1/2 t white vinegar
1 T red gel food coloring
*(Note: I recently made this cake but with red wine vinegar instead of white vinegar because I had run out. Results were perfect: even more depth of flavor that complimented the cake fabulously! So if you don’t have white vinegar, go ahead and replace it with vinegars such as apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, or white wine vinegar.)

Preheat oven to 350F. Line with parchment and grease a 9″x13″ pan or two 8″ pans. Alternatively, line a cupcake tin. Set this aside.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set the mixer on low to combine.

IMG_8408 Dry Ingredients Mixedjpg

Add in butter and oil and mix until a thick mixture forms.

IMG_8410 Wet Ingredients Incorporated

Turn the mixer on to medium and beat for about 2 minutes, until a little more air has been incorporated into the mixture.

IMG_8413 Wet Ingredients Mixed for 2 Minutes

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, white vinegar, and food coloring, whisking to create a homogeneous mixture.

IMG_8415 Egg, Buttermilk, Vinegar, Color

Stream this into the flour & fat mixture and beat for about 2-3 minutes until the batter becomes light and well combined.

IMG_8419 Red Velvet Batter

Divide into your prepared cake pans and bake.

9″x13″ pan: 33-36 minutes
8″ round pan: 26-30 minutes
cupcakes: 18-22 minutes

IMG_8437 Baked Red Velvet

Take the cake out of the oven and let it cool in its pan until completely cooled. Then unmold and decorate as desired. I used a traditional cooked flour frosting as the perfect pairing to this cake.

IMG_8509 Bite of Cake

IMG_8532 Cake with Sprinkles in Foreground

Sweetly ♥ Yours,



  1. manuel m says:

    Hello! Ive tried many recipes for perfect cake. None of them compare to yours like wow these are amazing!!!! They melted in my mouth and are beautiful!
    Thank you for sharing this recipe with us. Like I said, none other recipes ive tried compare to this. Now I wish I could make all my cake recipes as great as these. They tend to be a bit dry, doughy, etc.

  2. Ana says:

    Hi Leelabean! I’m from Spain and I want to make this cake, but I don’t understand what means c and T from the ingredients. Could you help me please? 🙂

  3. Amity Villanueva says:

    Trying out red velvet for the nth time, i have good vibes with your recipe. previous attmpts were epic failures.keeping fingers crossed , thank you so much

    • Leelabean says:

      Thanks for the lovely words!! I wish you the very best and Happy Baking! 🙂

    • Amity Villanueva says:

      Im so happpy ! The cake turned out great! Thank you so much! Dont have time to do the creamcheese boiled milk icing today,but it was still yummy, great crumb .may i ask how long the unfrosted cake will keep? have u tried freezing it?

    • Leelabean says:

      I am so happy you love the cake! You can absolutely freeze it, wrappes in plastic wrap and placed in a ziploc bag for up to 3 months. At room temperature, it will last in an airtight container for about 5 days, and in the fridge (in an airtight container), up to one week. 🙂

  4. […] what I was after was the texture, I started with this traditional red velvet recipe from Leelabean Bakes (thanks Leelabean!) and made all my changes from there. I have it on good […]

  5. Roberta Mooney says:

    My family recipe is the same as this, but it says to sift the cake flour 3 times to make the cake more airy. We also add coconut to the cake once it has been iced, to add a hint of sweetness. The coconut really compliments the icing the cake.

    • Leelabean says:

      My daughter’s birthday is this week and she asked for a coconut icing variation of this cake… I don’t doubt it is going to taste awesome! I am going to try the triple sifting for an airier cake! Thanks for the tip!

  6. Uniq says:

    Hi, I make many red velvet cakes but Im a little confused about something. My layers turn out small until I double the recipe. Do you know why my layers may turn out small? Also, if I double the recipe do I double all ingredients or specific ones? I dont want my cakes to turn out dry. Ive always use the cooked icing but it turns out somewhat runny, I use the extact measurements that the recipe calls for, so do you know what may be the problem with the icing? Please help!


    • Leelabean says:

      Hi Uniq!
      I am not quite sure what you mean by your layers turn out small. Are they thin? Or do they shrink?
      If you double the recipe, make sure to double each ingredient.
      As for your frosting, could it be that your butter was too soft? That could produce a runny frosting if it is too warm. Hope this helps!

  7. Shawnele says:

    Yay! Thank you. This is my father’s favorite cake – that his mother made him in his childhood. She never left a recipe and I am on a quest to recreate that childhood memory for him. I hope this recipe is “the one!” (I’ll let you know!)

  8. Lott says:

    Your red velvet cake looks really yummy 😀

    I always frost mine with cooked icing too, which I also believe is the traditional frosting for this cake. However, do you think I can find any resource that will help me prove that cooked icing is the original and not cream cheese? I just know some people who insist that cream cheese frosting is the traditional one.

  9. Renee Hansen says:

    I am so glad you use the cooked frosting. Cream cheese is great…don’t get me wrong…but not w/ this cake! My mama always made this for me when I was young. My husband and children even made this for my bday one year…but, the twist…they ran out of red food coloring and used GREEN. haha! It was still very good!

    • Leelabean says:

      Wow, green! That would be perfect for St. Patrick’s Day! Green Velvet Cake! Thanks for sharing you red velvet memories with us!
      Happy Baking!

  10. Jesufemi says:

    Please all the cup measurements cAn I have them in grams..thanks

  11. Darla says:

    This is my favorite cake. I make it for my birthday every year. I have always used the cooked flour frosting never the cream cheese. Cream cheese is way to sweet for this wonderful cake.

  12. fayanne says:

    Hi There,
    Thanks for the recipe, could I use sunflower oil instead of canola oil?

  13. Patrycja says:

    Just baked your red velvet cake…BEST recipe ever! Perfect velvety texture, except that i used one T of cocoa instead of the 3 as other wise it is too dark brown and cuts the red out and added 1T of chocolate flavour to make up for the lesser amount of cocoa. Heaven! Thank you for sharing.

  14. SusieQ says:

    This is a great icing recipe for those who don’t like an overly sweet icing. It’s easy to make; and it pipes very well.

  15. Simone says:

    I just made this as cupcakes and they taste great but they are very oiley. there was oil pooled at the bottom on my tins when I took the cupcakes out. Can I cut some of the oil out or add more flour to make them not quite so oiley but still moist?

    • Leelabean says:

      You can try adjusting the flour amount but I have made these so many times and they’ve always turned out awesome. Maybe you need to mix the batter a little more for a more consistent batter throughout. Good luck!

  16. Serena says:

    “Its name comes from the color the cake would turn when the acidic ingredients reacted with the cocoa. Specifically, the pigment in cocoa, anthocyanin reacts to the buttermilk and vinegar, which are acids present in red velvet cake, making the cake red in hue.”

    I’ve always understood this to be the explanation for how Devil’s Food cake got its name. Red Velvet or Devil’s Food, I love both of them! And I love the buttery cooked flour frosting. The creamy white against the red/reddish brown color is beautiful.

    • Leelabean says:

      I believe I have read a similar description for Devil’s Food cake as well. But it is certainly much more apparent, or at least originally was, in Red Velvet.. 🙂
      Happy Baking!

  17. […] to Wikipedia and Leelabean from Leelabean Bakes, the red velvet cupcakes we know today are not the traditional red velvet […]

  18. Kathy says:

    I used to beg my Mom for this cake every year for my birthday. Finally she told me how to make it. I have since lost the recipe and just have never found a good replacement. I believe my search is over. I don’t like a cream cheese departing on this cake, so I am doubly pleased to see you have something similar to her cooked frosting. Thank you.

    • Kathy says:

      I hate autospell, lol. Departing should be frosting instead.

    • Leelabean says:

      I agree. Autocorrect is a pain and cream cheese just doesn’t allow the red velvet to shine as the cooked flour frosting does. It’s too overpowering for such a delicately-flavored cake. I really love the red wine vinegar in it as well. It brings a great depth. I hope you enjoy it! I’d love to hear how it goes! 🙂

  19. Christie says:

    I made cupcakes with this recipe and they are so moist! Best recipe ever. How long can these stay out with your cooked flour frosting? I don’t want them to spoil but will be making a second batch for a family party this weekend.

    • Leelabean says:

      Hi Christie! I am so glad you loved this recipe. I am actually making it for a bbq this weekend too! It is one of my favorites. Did you try the new and improved cooked flour frosting recipe that I posted this week? If not, it’s a must. You can keep the cupcakes out for 2 days, I would say. But better yet, you can make and frost them up to 2 days prior to when you need them and just take them out an hour or two before you need them. They will be just perfect. Make sure they are stored in an airtight container both in the fridge and on the counter.

    • Christie says:

      Yes I used the new and improved frosting recipe and WOW!! That icing is so light and a perfect match for the red velvet. I don’t think I’ll go back to cream cheese. I even bought cream cheese to add to it, but once I tasted it there was no need. Everyone in my family loved them. My cousin’s husband actually ate 5 of them (I made cupcakes again). I used the red wine vinegar as well. The only negative I would say is I wouldn’t put the icing in the fridge again. I put the extra in the fridge, but found it lost it’s light and fluffy consistency and seemed to almost separate a little. The ones left out at room temperature did wonderful!! Thanks for sharing this. It’s my new favorite recipe and easy.

    • Leelabean says:

      Wow, 5 cupcakes! 🙂 Awesome! I generally leave this icing out. It is good for up to 4 days on the counter. Have you tried re-whipping after bringing the refrigerated frosting back to room temperature? That may be the solution. Also, you should frost your cake or cupcakes and then refrigerate if necessary. Then bring the cake or cupcakes to room temp before eating. The frosting seems to do well, in the past, when I have done this. 🙂

  20. linda clark says:

    I remember using “criso” instead of butter. Have you ever heard of this?

    • Leelabean says:

      I haven’t heard of using crisco, though I am sure there are many recipes using it. I prefer to use butter as it is a healthier option. Happy Baking!

  21. Larissa says:

    Cant wait to make this for my Sister in Laws 30th birthday. A question before I start, I am making a 2 teir square cake and will need to cover in fondant, will the cooked flour icing be appropriate still as a base? Thanks 🙂

    • Leelabean says:

      I am so excited that you are making this cake on such a special occasion! If the cake is to be covered in fondant and tiered, I would suggest adding about 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar per batch of the cooked flour frosting that you make. You would add it in at the end and make sure to mix it in well. The confectioner’s sugar will stabilize this frosting to work well underneath the fondant.
      Good luck and Happy Birthday to your S-I-L!

  22. Lidz says:

    I made this cake today. Well,at least I tried to. Big Fail! Nothing came out right and it wasn’t even lovely red as yours even though I’ve put bit more coloring in. Wish you could come over and show me how to do it right.

  23. Wow – this looks amazing! Such a moist and gorgeous cake.

  24. Leelabean says:

    Thanks, you guys! 🙂

  25. Who can turn down a slice of this amazingness?!

  26. Even your pictures show how moist this cake is, very nice.

  27. Mary says:

    Yummy cake! Perfect as a dessert after a romantic dinner!

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