Red Velvet Cake (Two Layers)

This cake has even more going for it than its startling color. It's light textured and delicious, too. This recipe is from an article about the origin of red velvet cake and the fabled Neiman Marcus cookie hoax.

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 2 1-ounce bottles of red food coloring (equivalent measure is 1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup Crisco or other vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
  2. Combine the sifted flour and salt, and set aside.
  3. Put the cocoa in a small glass bowl, and add the food coloring gradually, stirring until mixture is smooth. Set aside.
  4. Cream together the shortening and sugar, beating for 4 or 5 minutes at medium speed in your electric mixer until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for at least 30 seconds after each addition.
  5. At low speed of your mixer, add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture alternately with the buttermilk and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the cocoa/food coloring mixture, mixing until color of the batter is uniform. Do not overbeat; overbeaten cake batter will result in a tough cake. Turn off your mixer.
  6. In a small bowl, mix the vinegar with the baking soda. It will foam up. Stir it briefly to mix, and then add it to the cake batter, folding it in to incorporate well, but do not beat.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans, and bake in a 350°F oven for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Allow layers to cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out. Let cake cool completely before frosting.

Red Velvet Cake Tips

  • Don't be tempted to shorten the shortening/sugar creaming time. Cake texture will be far better, and you can mix up your cocoa and food coloring while the mixer is running.
  • Mixing the cocoa with the food coloring is the best way to get uniform color in the cake. On my first test cake, I sifted the cocoa together with the flour, twice, and still came up with little cocoa-colored whorls in the finished cake.
  • Yes, red food coloring does stain, so use glass utensils rather than plastic. And be careful not to spill.
  • The recipes I found on the Internet came up about fifty/fifty as far as the amount of red food coloring they called for -- some with one ounce, the rest with two ounces. Let me just say this: The cake with one ounce of food coloring was a very dark pink. The cake with two ounces (1/4 cup, or 4 tablespoons) was RED.
  • The recipes also varied on the amount of vinegar with some calling for as much as one tablespoon. I found that one teaspoon works just fine. And white vinegar with its less pungent scent is preferable to apple cider vinegar.
  • Most recipes stated that this recipe was suitable for three 8-inch layers and one 9x13-inch cake, but I did not find it to be necessarily so. If you want more than two layers, better to bake two 9-inch layers and split them. A 9x13-inch cake will work, but requires careful testing by the cook after 25 minutes.

Cream Cheese Frosting

This easy-to-make frosting is perfect for Red Velvet Cake, as well as being one the best, most versatile frostings you can make. It's endlessly variable: by adding cocoa powder a tablespoon at a time, it can be as chocolatey as you like, or a few drops of food coloring will create the tint you desire. But even in its "plain" state, it's an always reliable and delicious topping to any cake.

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1-pound box (3-3/4 cups) confectioners' sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Blend the softened cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer. Beat in the sugar, a little at a time. Add the vanilla, and mix well.

Kitchen tools you'll need for Red Velvet Cake (Two Layers):
Mixer, Mixing Bowls, 9-inch cake pans, Rubber Spatula, Sifter

Ready in: 1 Hr 45 Min

Recipe editor Patricia Mitchell