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Old Fashioned Red Velvet Cake

Discover the allure of old fashioned red velvet cake, cherished for its vibrant red color, light and fluffy texture, and subtle cocoa flavor. It’s a classic soul food dessert recipe layered with rich and decadent homemade cream cheese buttercream frosting.

Introducing our timeless old fashioned red velvet cake recipe, a Southern classic that’s as beloved as our peach cobbler and sweet potato pie. Made with simple ingredients like flour, cocoa, buttermilk, and eggs, it’s the perfect soul food dessert enjoyed throughout the year, especially during the holidays like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Juneteenth.

Step into any Southern soul food restaurant, and you’ll spot red velvet cake gracing the dessert menu. It’s light, tender, and moist, and tastes just as good (if not better) than what you’d find in a fancy bakery.

This delicious cake has a special place in our hearts and our family gatherings. Treat your loved ones to the goodness of our old fashioned red velvet cake, a surefire way to make any occasion extra sweet!

What you’ll love about this recipe:


  • CLASSIC RECIPE – People love classic old fashioned red velvet cake for its rich history and vibrant red color.
  • FLAVOR & TEXTURE – This red velvet cake recipe has a subtle cocoa taste with a little bit of tanginess from the buttermilk. The cake flour contributes to the light and airy texture with a tender crumb.
  • SOUL FOOD FAVORITE – Red velvet cake is a cherished soul food dessert that everyone loves. It’s perfect for holidays and special occasions.

Ingredients

  • Cake flour
  • Baking soda
  • Baking powder
  • Cocoa powder
  • Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt 
  • Sweet cream butter
  • Granulated sugar
  • Buttermilk
  • Neutral oil (vegetable or canola)
  • Eggs, yolks and whites separated, divided, softened to room temperature
  • Vanilla extract
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Red food coloring (1 to 2 ounces, as desired)

Cream Cheese buttercream Frosting

  • Cream cheese
  • Sweet cream butter
  • Powdered sugar
  • Vanilla extract
  • Salt

Recipe Substitutions and Variations

  • Flour: Cake flour is the flour of choice for old fashioned red velvet cake because it yields a light and fluffy texture. It’s specifically designed for baking cakes and has a softer texture compared to all-purpose flour. However, if using all-purpose flour, use a lesser amount and add cornstarch. See the “Notes” section in the recipe card below for specific amounts.
  • Butter: This recipe calls for unsalted butter, which allows you to control the amount of salt. However, if you opt for salted butter, leave out the pinch of salt when making the cream cheese buttercream frosting. Taste and adjust with added salt if needed.
  • Buttermilk: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand or prefer a buttermilk substitute, mix 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice. Stir well and let it sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to allow the milk to curdle and thicken. This can be used as a 1:1 substitute.
  • Natural Food Coloring Alternatives: If you prefer to avoid artificial food coloring, you can use natural alternatives. Beet juice and hibiscus powder are common natural options that provide a reddish hue. Adjust the quantity to achieve the desired color.

Note: Cake flour contributes to the soft and tender texture of this red velvet cake. It creates a light and fine crumb that is unique to old fashioned red velvet cake.

Tools You’ll Need

To prepare this old fashioned red velvet cake recipe, you’ll need the following special equipment and tools:

  • Hand Mixer or Stand Mixer
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Two 9-Inch Round Cake Pans
  • Whisk
  • Parchment Paper (optional)

How to Make Red Velvet Cake

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Tip: You can also use parchment paper rounds. They are circular sheets of parchment paper cut to fit the bottom of cake pans. I like them because they provide a non-stick surface, making it easier to remove the baked cakes. You can also trace the bottom of your cake pans onto parchment paper using the pan as a guide and then cut out the traced circles.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt. If using all-purpose flour, also add the cornstarch, which helps to achieve a lighter cake texture.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, use a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat together the softened butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until well combined, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add the vegetable oil, 4 egg yolks, vanilla extract, and distilled white vinegar. Increase the mixer speed and beat on high for an additional 2 minutes. Be sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Note: The egg yolks contribute to the rich and tender texture of the cake and add moisture to the batter.
  5. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the dry flour mixture in 1/2 cup increments, alternating with 1/4 cup increments of the room temperature buttermilk. Stir in red food coloring and mix until just combined.
  6. In a separate mixing bowl, whip the remaining 4 egg whites on high speed until fluffy peaks form. The whipped egg whites add volume and lightness to the batter, acting as a leavening agent. We also use this method in our cornbread recipe and sweet potato cornbread. It’s also common in recipes like angel food cake, sponge cake, or meringues.
  7. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the cake batter and stir with a rubber spatula to fully incorporate.
  8. Then, divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans. Tap each pan on the countertop a few times to release any air bubbles and even it out. Tip: I like to measure the batter to ensure that an equal amount is distributed among the cake pans. This helps with even baking and achieving consistent layer thickness in each cake pan.
  9. Bake in the oven for approximately 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of both cakes comes out clean.
  10. Transfer pans to a wire rack to let cool. Then, run a small knife around the inside edge of the pans to loosen the cake sides. Invert the cakes onto the racks, lifting the pan off, then turning the cake layer right-side up. Set aside to continue cooling. Once cooled, frost and decorate your old fashioned red velvet cake as desired.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and butter. Using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until smooth.
  2. Decrease the mixer speed to low and gradually add the powdered sugar. Continue mixing until well incorporated. Then, increase the mixer speed to high and add the vanilla extract and a pinch of salt. Mix on high speed until the frosting is well combined and creamy.
  3. Taste and adjust by adding more powdered sugar if necessary. If the frosting is too sweet, go ahead and add another pinch of salt to balance the flavors. Give it a final short mix until any adjustments you made are incorporated, ensuring a smooth and balanced cream cheese frosting.
  4. Once prepared, use the cream cheese frosting to generously frost your old fashioned red velvet cake.

Assembling the Cake

  1. Use a bread knife to slice off the domed top from each cake layer, creating a flat top.
  2. Place one layer on a plate and use an offset spatula or butter knife to spread on thick layer of frosting across the top of the cake.
  3. Place the second layer on top, sandwiching the frosting between the rounds.
  4. Spread a thin layer of the frosting around the sides and over the top of the cake to create a crumb coat. Place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
  5. Then, frost the sides and the top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Decorate as desired.
  6. Cut red velvet cake into slices and serve.

Recipe Tips & Tricks

  • Room Temperature Ingredients: Ensure that ingredients like butter, eggs, and buttermilk are at room temperature. This helps in better mixing and smoother incorporation of ingredients.
  • Sift Dry Ingredients: Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa powder, and salt) together to remove lumps and ensure even distribution.
  • Cream Butter and Sugar Well: Creaming the butter and sugar thoroughly creates a light and fluffy texture in the cake. Beat them together until the mixture is pale and smooth.
  • Whipping Egg Whites: Whip the egg whites until fluffy peaks form before folding them into the batter. This adds a light and airy texture to the cake.
  • Prevent Overmixing: Be mindful not to overmix the batter, especially after adding the dry ingredients. Overmixing can lead to a dense cake.
  • Grease and Flour Pans: Properly grease and flour the cake pans or use parchment paper rounds to prevent sticking and ensure easy cake removal.
  • Cool Completely: Allow the cakes to cool completely in their pans on a cooling rack before attempting to remove them. This helps them set and makes for easier handling.

FAQ

How can I ensure a vibrant red color without using too much food coloring?

Use a high quality liquid food coloring. Alternatively, you can also use a gel food coloring (about 1 or 2 ounces). If you are worried about using too much, add the food coloring gradually to the batter, mixing well after each addition.

Why is buttermilk used in red velvet cake?

Buttermilk adds moisture, resulting in a tender crumb. The subtle tanginess also enhances the overall flavor. You can use 1 cup of whole milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice as a substitute.

Can I use all-purpose flour instead of cake flour?

Yes, you can use all-purpose flour as a substitute for cake flour in a red velvet cake recipe. However, it’s important to note that the texture of the cake may be affected. See the Notes section in the recipe card for more details.

Does red velvet cake need to go in the refrigerator and how long does it last?

Cover the cake with plastic wrap or place it in an airtight container. Refrigerate it can for up to 4-5 days.

Summary

Old fashioned red velvet cake is a timeless recipe that boasts a perfect red hue and subtle cocoa flavor. Make this recipe at your next celebration or family gathering, from family reunions to birthdays to weddings. It’s guaranteed to bring people together!

Print
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Old Fashioned Red Velvet Cake

  • Author: cooks with soul

Ingredients

Scale
  • 3 cups cake flour *must be non-rising (see Notes if using all-purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt (if any other brand/type of salt, use half that amount)
  • 1 cup unsalted sweet cream butter
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated, divided, and softened to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup liquid red food coloring or 1 to 2 teaspoons gel food coloring
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 2 (8-ounce) blocks cream cheese, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans.
  2. Whisk cake flour, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, use handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to beat softened butter and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until well combined, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.
  4. Add vegetable oil, 4 egg yolks, vanilla extract, and distilled white vinegar. Increase speed and beat on high for an additional 2 minutes; scrape down sides and bottom of bowl with rubber spatula as needed.
  5. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry flour mixture in 1/2 cup increments, alternating with 1/4 cup increments of the room temperature buttermilk. Stir in red food coloring until just combined. 
  6. In a separate mixing bowl, whip remaining 4 egg whites on high speed until fluffy peaks form.
  7. Gently fold whipped egg whites into cake batter and stir with rubber spatula to fully incorporate.
  8. Then, divide the batter evenly between prepared cake pans; tap each pan on the countertop a few times to release any air bubbles and even it out.
  9. Bake for approximately 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of both cakes comes out clean.
  10. Transfer pans to a wire rack to let cool. Then, run a small knife around the inside edge of the pans to loosen the cake sides. Invert the cakes onto the racks, lifting the pan off, then turning the cake layer right-side up. Set aside to continue cooling.
  11. Allow cakes to cool completely before frosting.
  12. Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting: Combine softened cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Using a handheld mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until smooth.
  13. Decrease mixer speed to low and gradually add powdered sugar. Continue mixing until well incorporated. Then, increase mixer speed to high and add vanilla extract and pinch of salt. Mix on high speed until frosting is well combined and creamy.
  14. Taste and adjust by adding more powdered sugar if necessary. If frosting is too sweet, add another pinch of salt.
  15. Once prepared, use the cream cheese frosting to generously frost your old fashioned red velvet cake.

Notes

If using all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, use 2 1/2 cups and add 1/3 cup corn starch. Sift thoroughly. 

2 Comments

  1. What a delicious red velvet recipe! I made this for my son who loves RVC after he aced a really hard exam. He said it was so good!

  2. That cream cheese buttercream is just perfection. I made the cake and everybody devoured it–no crumbs! And I doubled the frosting so I’m going to use it on red velvet cookies next. Thank you!

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