a slice of red velvet cake taken out of a whole cake

This is a very special sort of cake.  Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

I never knew about red velvet cake as a kid.  I know, it’s sad.  But I’ll blame it on growing up in the far north, I guess.  It took me almost 30 years until I got a fork into my first chocolatey piece.

And who do I have to thank for this introduction?   A southern mom, of course!  She mailed her son, a co-worker of mine, a beautiful double layer birthday cake.  And with much southern hospitality, he shared a piece with me.

I was instantly smitten.

This red velvet cake has since graced many a birthday celebration around here.  I especially enjoy baking it for Mom’s birthday (tomorrow!) at the end of November.  The joyful red hued cake is a welcoming prelude to the holiday season beginning to unfold.

This is also a striking cake served on Valentine’s Day.  Chocolate.  Red.  Cream cheese.  Enough said.

The first recipe I tried was one from Martha Stewart.  And I liked it so much that I haven’t needed to look any further.  But I did change the frosting.  Martha’s recipe features a seven-minute frosting, which I made the first time around.  And it was very good.  But I craved the cream cheese frosting from my very first bite of that southern mom’s cake.  So I whipped up some cream cheese frosting.  And this is the only way I make it now.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

mom and her dad
Mom and her dad
red velvet cupcakes
Red Velvet Cupcakes – Mom’s birthday, 2009

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: Double layer cake servings: 10 to 12

Cook Time:30 minutes


for the cake:

2-1/2 c. cake flour (not self-rising), plus more for dusting the pans
1 tsp. salt
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1-1/2 c. sugar
1-1/2 c. canola oil
2 large eggs
4 T. red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 c. buttermilk
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. white vinegar

for the frosting:

16 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1 c. butter, at room temperature
4 c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla


Preheat oven to 350°.  Generously butter two 9″ x 2″ round cake pans.  Dust with flour, and tap out the excess.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, salt, and cocoa.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat sugar and oil on medium speed until well combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add food coloring and vanilla, and beat until well combined.  Add the flour mixture, alternating with buttermilk, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

In a small bowl, whisk together the baking soda and vinegar.  Add to the batter, and beat for 10 seconds.  Evenly divide batter between the prepared pans.

Place in oven and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Remove from the pans, and return to the rack, top side up, to cool completely.

Make the frosting by creaming together the cream cheese and butter on medium high speed for a minute or two, until well incorporated.  Beat in the powdered sugar until fluffy, then mix in the vanilla.

Using an offset spatula to frost the cake, spread 1-1/2 cups of the frosting on top of one of the cake layers.  Place second layer on top and spread the remaining frosting around the sides and top of the cake, swirling spatula as desired.

The cake can be stored, covered, in the refrigerator up to 6 hours, or over night.  I like to serve the cake with a slight chill to it, since I like the cream cheese frosting to be a bit cool, with a thicker feel in the mouth.  So I take the cake out of the fridge about 15 minutes prior to serving.

**If you want to make cupcakes, line two regular size muffin tins with paper liners.  Pour batter into liners.  For my muffin tins, this recipe made 22 cupcakes that I baked for 20 minutes.

cake recipe adapted from Martha Stewart, in a special edition magazine called Holiday Baking (2002) – frosting recipe from a farmgirl’s dabbles

a whole, frosted red velvet cake