Southern Red Velvet Cake

Updated March 13, 2023
This image courtesy of Shutterstock

Editor's Note: When it comes to special desserts, the Southern Red Velvet Cake is in a class of its own. With this recipe, you'll make the classic Southern cake completely from scratch. How's that for impressing family and friends? The decadent dessert might get the spotlight on Valentine's Day, but we're confident that your special someone will appreciate a homemade Southern red velvet cake from you just about any day of the year. This dessert will make a stunning addition to any potluck, family party, or casual dinner with friends on your social calendar, and is sure to be a hit with everyone. You can assemble this layered cake in advance of your event, too. 

Gina: Red Velvet Cake is beloved throughout the South. It’s sweet and moist, with a deep-crimson hue that comes from the addition of red food coloring to the cake batter. In the old days, folks used beets or red cabbage to dye their cakes! Red Velvet is a buttermilk cake, which is one of the reasons it’s so moist; there’s also cocoa in the batter, which is one of the reasons it’s popular with children (that, and the traditional cream-cheese frosting). It’s red and white, but it tastes black and white, and it’s always a stunner when you cut into one.

Making someone a layer cake is an investment. It takes time, hon. But it’s also a beautiful, loving gesture, and nicer than any present you can buy. This sexy cake is easier than you might think to assemble, and the results are sure to steal the show at any party.

Cooking MethodBaking


Make Ahead RecipeYes

Kid FriendlyYes

OccasionBirthday, Buffet, Casual Dinner Party

Recipe CourseDessert

EquipmentElectric Mixer


Taste and TextureChocolatey, Creamy, Rich, Sweet

Type of DishCake


  • Nonstick vegetable cooking spray, for pans
  • Cake Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
  • 5 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 3 cups canola oil
  • 4 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons red food coloring (one 2-ounce bottle)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 5 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • Frosting Ingredients
  • Three 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1½ cups unsalted butter, softened
  • 5 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract


For the Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously spray three 9 × 2-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, and line with parchment paper. Spray the lining; dust with cocoa, tapping out any excess. Set aside. Whisk together the flour, salt, and cocoa in a medium bowl; set aside.

  2. Mix the sugar and oil at medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until combined. Add the eggs, one at a time; mix well after each addition. Mix in the food coloring and vanilla. Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of bowl as needed.

  3. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small nonreactive bowl. Add the baking-soda mixture to the batter, and mix at medium speed for 10 seconds. Divide the batter equally among the pans. Tap the pans on the counter to remove bubbles. 

  4. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. 

  5. Cool the pans on a rack for 5 minutes. Invert the cakes onto wire racks to cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. In a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a handheld electric mixer in a large bowl, mix the cream cheese and butter at low speed until incorporated. Add the sugar and vanilla. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

  2. Store in the refrigerator before using, until it is somewhat stiff, about 15 minutes. The frosting may be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

To Assemble Cake

Place one layer top-side down on a cake stand. Using an offset spatula, spread with a ¼-inch-thick layer of frosting. Repeat with the remaining layers. To frost the top and sides of the cake, work from the center toward and over the edge, making sure to coat evenly. The cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.


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Is 3 cups of canola oil for real? Sounds like a lot.

I absolutely love red velvet cake. I can't wait to make this recipe! The frosting looks so creamy and decadent.

How can I make this recipe into grams ?

I think this looks amazing. There goes my diet...I think I'll make this for the next family get-together.

This recipe for the Southern Red Velvet Cake has 3 cups of canola oil. Is this correct?

Basically, this is a very good recipe. I have purchase many recipe books from the age of 8 years old and believe me when I say as in all recipes you must play with it and make it your very own. Part of the art of baking/cooking is to convert a recipe into a desired taste that appeals to your very own palate. I find that 90% of most recipes have something missing. I have been baking/cooking for over 40 years and I kid you not, I have thrown away a lot of food just by staying true to the recipe. I have also learned a valuable lesson over the years and now I am sharing it with you. The people that create the recipe books will never disclose the exact amount of ingredients that they use. I have come across cake recipes without extract. Who does that? As for a person that is a novice baker, that person will not know that a cake without extract is a cake without flavor. Hope this was helpful.

This recipe was outstanding, the best Red Velvet Cake I have made OMG this cake was so moist this is a must try recipe.

Was very disappointed with this recipe. Followed directions completely, and thought it lacked flavor, Made this cake with plans to give away. I feel I wasted my time and money on this cake.

This is the best Red Velvet recipe ever! I can not tell you how many recipes I have gone through. I will never try another red velvet recipe. Even my mom told me my cake tasted just like my grandmother’s recipe, if not better! This recipe is a keeper!!!!

I have been using a different Red Velvet cake recipe each year in search of the first taste I ever had of a Red Velvet by a great aunt. Well I have found it. Gina an Pat you guys are the bomb. This cake is a hit and I will never, never, ever, eva, eva, eva....never use another one accept this one. Thanks so much!! DeLonda @

I made this recipe for a party, but I knew that it would not be enough so I made cupcakes instead this batter makes 50 cupcakes and the frosting recipe is of course enough to frost the cupcakes. Everyone loved this cake so much, the frosting was rich the cake was so moist. I had made a red velvet cake before but it did not taste like this and the frosting recipe did not call for butter so when I tasted this frosting I will only use this recipe. I may try using the smart balance butter to see if it tastes the same. My sister said it tasted like I made this cake with love! Very nice recipe.


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