Try this red velvet cake, then check out our classic Victoria sponge, ultimate chocolate fudge cake, angel cake and red velvet cupcakes.

What is red velvet cake?

Red velvet cake is a classic chocolate layer cake with a striking reddish-brown sponge. These days the sponge is most likely to be coloured using food colouring but originally it was created by using ‘undutched’ or natural cocoa powder which, along with vinegar, causes a reaction which turns the sponge red. There was also a trend during times of rationing to add vegetables to cakes, and beetroot was often added for its natural dyeing properties.

How do you make frosting for red velvet cake?

Traditional red velvet frosting is made with soft cheese, butter and icing sugar. When making the frosting, it’s best to take the butter and soft cheese out of the fridge for an hour to come up to room temperature, to ensure they beat together evenly. If the butter or cheese is too cold it can leave tiny little lumps and, although it will still taste good, it won’t look as perfect.

Five steps to a perfect red velvet cake

  1. Get prepared. Preheat the oven, check that the sizes of your baking tins are correct and line them with baking paper (a quick rub around the tins with butter before lining will help them stick). Weigh out all of the dry ingredients and measure your liquid amounts. You’ll need a large mixing bowl so you can really mix the batter thoroughly. And check you have electric beaters with the right attachments (if not, a good beat with a manual hand whisk should be okay).
  2. Artificial red food colouring is really the only way to get the classic red velvet look. Natural food colourings will not give the same result and in some cases can turn a muddy green. Look out for professional-standard colouring which is stronger so you need less.
  3. If you want perfectly symmetrical cakes, then you should first weigh the batter as a whole before measuring exactly half into each tin. It might seem a bit fussy but that is why those professional cake shop creations look so good.
  4. This is quite a quick bake (25-30 minutes) so don’t wander off and forget about it. Set a timer and check with a skewer at the 25-minute mark. When ready, cooling on a wire rack allows air under the cake so it cools evenly.
  5. Take your soft cheese and butter out the fridge while the cake is cooling, then it should be ready to ice when you are.

How do you make buttermilk?

This is available in the milk and yogurt section of most supermarkets in cartons. If you can’t find any, simply mix 1 tbsp of lemon juice or white wine vinegar into 250ml of whole milk, stir and leave for 5 minutes – then proceed with the recipe.

How long can you store red velvet cake? Can you freeze it?

Sponges can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container for two days or frozen for up to three months. When you want to serve, defrost the sponges at room temperature overnight then ice following the recipe

Red velvet cake recipe


  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 150ml sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp red food colouring


  • 100g butter, softened
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 300g soft cheese


  • STEP 1

    Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and line two 18cm sandwich tins with baking paper. Stir the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Beat the eggs and add to the oil and buttermilk, then stir in the food colouring. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and then beat them together with an electric whisk until a smooth batter forms.

  • STEP 2

    Divide the mixture between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes or until risen and a skewer poked into the centres of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

  • STEP 3

    To make the frosting, beat the butter and icing sugar together until smooth, then beat in the soft cheese. Put a layer of frosting between the cake layers and then use the rest to frost the cake.

Try our red velvet cake recipe twists here

Red velvet cupcakes

These beautifully colourful, icing-topped cupcakes make for a decadent tea-break treat. They're easy to make and take less than an hour, too.

Red velvet cupcakes on a cake stand

Black velvet cake

Flavour this rich, dark marble cake with Guinness and prosecco – the luxurious soft cheese icing represents the settling bubbles of stout when it's poured.

A dark marbled loaf cake topped with cream cheese frosting, with one slice cut out of the end

Check out more of our easy cake recipes here...

Ultimate Chocolate Fudge Cake Recipe


Janine Ratcliffe Portrait
Janine RatcliffeFood director

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