Red Velvet Cake

Next week my oldest is returning to college.  Her favorite cake is Red Velvet, so that is the cake currently in the oven … with one alteration. She has requested Blue Velvet.  (Her favorite color is rarely found in food naturally.)  I did a half recipe test using blue food color instead of red, and I think Dennis Hopper would be proud.

I love this cake, but I must admit that I am a bit disappointed to see it all over the place lately. I was making this cake before it was cool. (Yes … I say that about most things, but in this case its true.)

Here is my recipe, which is authentic. It is an old-fashioned recipe that I got from a real old-fashioned southern belle in 1976. (I remember it well, as it was the Bicentennial.) You can tell this recipe is old, because the cake is leavened by vinegar and baking soda. This is how all cakes and cookies were leavened before the advent of baking powder (a product that premixes the baking soda and acid for you). I like the flavor the vinegar imparts. To me, that flavor makes this cake special.

Real red-velvet cake should never be bright red. It’s a deep, dark red, like Scarlet’s dress. The color is achieved with a ton of food coloring and a touch of cocoa powder. Traditionally this cake is paired with cream cheese frosting, but I also like to cover it with 7-Minute Icing also known as Italian Meringue.


1-1/2 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2 TB. cocoa powder
1/4 cup red food coloring
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 TB. cider vinegar

For the Frosting:
2 oz. (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened
1 TB. vanilla
1 (1 lb.) box powdered sugar, sifted


  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Line two 10-inch round cake pans with butter and parchment paper. In a large bowl use a sturdy spoon or electric mixer to combine the oil, sugar, eggs, and buttermilk.
  2. In a separate bowl combine the cocoa and the food coloring, mix well, and add. Add the sifted flour, salt, and mix thoroughly.
  3. In a small bowl combine baking soda and vinegar, and mix until foamy. Add immediately to batter, and stir just to combine. Divide batter between 2 pans, and bake at 350˚F for 30-45 minutes, until a pick inserted at the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before inverting onto a rack. Cool completely.

For the Frosting:
Cream together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla with a sturdy spoon or electric mixer until lump-free. Slowly add the powdered sugar, and mix until smooth. Fill and frost red velvet cake, and refrigerate 30 minutes before serving.
I think Red Velvet really popular after the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias, in which the red velvet groom’s cake was shaped like an armadillo and resembled road kill once cut. A classic bit, and the only good part of that movie in my opinion.

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