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Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Anne Byrn's Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves: 12 to 16

Hands On Time: 

Total Time: 


8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter or shortening, at room temperature, plus more for the pans
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for the pans
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, plus more for the pans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream Cheese Frosting
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoon (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla


To make the cake: Place a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease three 9-inch round cake pans with butter and dust with cocoa or flour. Shake out the excess cocoa.

Place the butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the food coloring and vanilla.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa and salt. In a small bowl, stir together the buttermilk, vinegar and baking soda. On low speed, beat in the half the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk mixture. Beat in the remaining flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, and stir to blend the batter one last time.

Divide the batter between the pans and bake until the cakes just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan, 16 to 18 minutes. Let the cakes cool in their pans, set on a wire rack, for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pans and give them a gentle shake to loosen the cake. Flip the cakes onto a plate and then back on to a rack to cool completely, top side-up.

While the cakes cool, make the frosting: Place the cream cheese and butter in a second large bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat in half of the powdered sugar and the salt. Beat in the vanilla and the remaining powdered sugar. Increase the mixer speed to medium and continue to beat the frosting until fluffy, about 1 minute more.

To assemble the cake, place one layer on a cake plate. Spread about 3/4 cup of the frosting evenly to the edges. Place a second layer on top and repeat. Place the third layer on top, and spread a thin layer of frosting on the sides and on top, making what is called a crumb coat. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to seal in the crumbs.

Generously frost the top and sides of the chilled cake with the remaining frosting. Slice and serve.

Photo: Mitch Mandel

About the recipe

Maybe it's the eye-popping red color, but something about red velvet cake creates excitement on the plate. Here's a traditional recipe for the cake, complete with cream cheese frosting. You can always forgo the food coloring and let the natural chemical reaction of the acidic and basic ingredients determine the color of the cake, but then, you might be disappointed come Valentine's that it isn't red enough.

If you can’t fit all three cake pans on one oven rack, arrange your oven racks to the upper third and lower third of the oven. Place two cakes on the upper rack and one on the lower rack. Rotate the pans in the oven about halfway through baking time.

Read more from Anne Byrn on how red velvet cake became the official dessert of Valentine's Day.

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