Red Velvet Cake is an immensely popular cake variety in recent times. But what is a red velvet cake? It’s a light cocoa and vanilla flavoured moist cake, tinted red, and topped with a fluffy cream cheese frosting. This recipe is one of the most popular ones on the site and has a comprehensive tip section below. It can be made into a single cake, a dozen cupcakes or a layer cake.
Makes: 12 cupcakes or 1 x 20cm round cake. Double recipe for a layer cake.
· 20cm round cake tin; or 12-hole muffin tray
· electric mixer / stand mixer
· Small bowl
· Oven thermometer
· Kitchen Scales
· Kitchen timer
· 60g Unsalted Butter, softened to room temperature
· 150g Caster Sugar
· 1 large Egg, lightly beaten
· 10g Cocoa Powder
· 20ml liquid red food colouring
· ½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract
· 120ml Buttermilk
· 150g Plain Flour
· ½ teaspoon Salt
· ½ teaspoon Bicarbonate Soda
· 1 ½ teaspoons White Wine Vinegar
Cream Cheese Frosting
· 300g Icing Sugar mixture, sifted
· 50g Unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
· 125g Cream Cheese, cubed, softened slightly
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius (150 fan-forced; 340F). Grease and line either a 20cm round cake tin or a 12-hole muffin tray. Set your kitchen timer for 18 minutes.
- Add the softened butter and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer. Use a paddle attachment to beat them together on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Slowly add the egg and beat together until everything is well mixed.
- In a small bowl sift in the cocoa powder. Add the vanilla extract and liquid food colouring. Stir them together until well combined. It will look like a thick dirty red paste.
- Scoop the red paste into the bowl of the electric mixer. Beat until the red colour has been mixed evenly throughout. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl so all the batter is included.
- Slowly pour in half of the buttermilk. Stir in gently with a spatula. Add half of the flour and fold in until just combined. Repeat for the remaining buttermilk and flour.
- Add the salt, bicarbonate soda and vinegar to the bowl. Beat very lightly until they are incorporated.
- Immediately place the butter into the cake tin, or the muffin tin hole so that it’s no more than two-thirds full. Check that the oven has reached the correct temperature, then place the tray on the middle rack of the oven. Bake until the top of the cake bounces back when lightly touched and a skewer inserted to the middle comes out clean. If not, add another 5 minutes to the timer then check once more. Repeat until done. Baking time is 18-25 minutes approximately depending on your oven.
- Remove cake from the oven. Let it cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes. Turn the cake or cupcakes onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Make the cream cheese frosting. Add the icing sugar mixture and softened butter to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat with a paddle attachment until the butter has coated the icing sugar and there’s a sandy texture to the mix. With the beaters running on medium speed add cubes of softened cream cheese one at a time. The frosting will start quite thick then thin out as more cream cheese is added.
- On medium-high speed beat the frosting until it becomes light and fluffy.
- When the cupcakes are cool pipe the cream cheese frosting on top, or slather the top of your cake with frosting.
Recipe adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook
- If you are making a red velvet layer cake: you need to double the cake ingredients then split the batter equally across three 20cm baking tins. Bake the cakes for 25 minutes. You will also need a double batch of frosting.
- Only use liquid red food colouring. I’ve found using a gel or paste gives mixed results. I like the Queen brand colouring best so far. Other brands have had a strong bitter taste to the colour, which ruined the cupcakes.
- The key to this cake (and most cake recipes) is to know when to stop beating. The only time it’s ok to whip things to a frenzy is when creaming the butter and sugar together, and whisking eggs. This is adding volume to your cake by whipping air into the batter. But from that point onwards, you really want to minimise mixing, because you might be beating the air out, which will deflate your cupcakes. Overbeating in flour will give you a tough cake.
- Weigh all ingredients carefully. No guessing! Baking cake is like chemistry and a certain ratio of fat and sugar to starch is needed for the cake to work.
- Substitutions or omissions: any change to the published quantity or ingredients listed will alter the results and quality. Even substituting full-fat products for their low-fat alternative can ruin some cakes. Feel free to experiment but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work as well.
- Check that your oven is calibrated correctly. I always advise hanging an oven thermometer inside of it to check if the temperature on the knob matches the temperature inside. If the oven is too hot or cold when you put the batter in, the texture will suffer. Tall domes, cracks and exploding cake batter are all signs the oven is too hot.
- Ensure your butter is soft, but not melted to a liquid when using it in either the cake or the frosting.
- Over-whipping the frosting can make it runny.