Red Velvet Cake is a classic cake. It’s as red on the inside as its name implies. And in case you’re wondering that crimson hue comes from nothing more complicated than red food dye. Really. The classic recipe uses a little bit of cocoa, a little bit of vinegar and a lot of red food dye.
You can make this a dramatic 5‑layer cake (as I did) if you double the recipe and make 6 thin layers. Use the 6th layer as a crumbled topping.
- cooking spray (as needed)
- 2 ½ cup all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
- 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 large eggs (at room temperature)
- 1 ounce red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract (divided)
- 16 ounce cream cheese (at room temperature)
- 1 cup unsalted butter (at room temperature)
- 2 cup powdered sugar
Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat the bottoms and sides of two or three 9‑by-2-inch round cake pans with cooking spray. Depending on whether you want 3 thin layers or two standard layers. Line with parchment paper, and spray again. Dust with flour, and tap out the excess; set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, granulated sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl whisk oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl, until well combined.
Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients in several additions, until the batter is smooth.
Divide batter between prepared pans, and bake until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes for three pans or 20 to 25 minutes for two pans. Remove pans from oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool, about 15 minutes. Turn cakes out onto rack; let stand until completely cool.
Make the frosting: Meanwhile place cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix at medium speed until creamy, approximately 2 minutes.
Lower the speed, then with the motor running, pour in the vanilla and mix for 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar, a little at a time and mix until smooth. Return the speed to medium and mix approximately 2 minutes. Use right away or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Frost the cake: Using a serrated knife, trim tops of cakes so surfaces are level. Save the scraps for decorating the cake if you like. Place a layer on a cardboard round or directly onto a cake stand. If working directly on a cake stand tuck strips of parchment, in an easy to remove manner, around the perimeter of the cake to cover and protect the stand from messy frosting. Spread about ⅓‑inch of the frosting over top. Place the second and/or third layer on top, and spread with ⅓‑inch, saving the remaining frosting frosting for the sides and finishing touches of assembled cake.
Crumble the reserved cake scraps with your hands and sprinkle them decoratively on the sides and top of the cake (optional).
Transfer to refrigerator, and chill until ready to serve.