Red Velvet Cake

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I never had Red Velvet cake until after I was married which basically means I lost 22 years of eating the best cake in the world. This cake shows up for pretty much every birthday in my wife’s family so I got my fair share in pretty short time. I’m typically not a huge cake fan, so if I’m I’m going to eat cake, it had better be good. This Red Velvet is about the only cake I truly look forward to eating. It’s light, fluffy and moist with a light chocolate flavor and the frosting is what really sets it apart. It’s roux based, meaning it’s made from a flour and milk mixture that is cooked first and then whipped into the rest of the frosting. The result is a velvety smooth creme with a flavor that is unlike anything I’ve ever had before.


This cake has many ingredients that could be substituted but if you want this cake to be at its best, it’s really important to use the best quality ingredients you can find. Use a good rich cocoa powder, a high quality vanilla extract and real buttermilk. I’ll give another shoutout here for Penzey’s spices. If you have one near you, it’s the best place for any herb or spice you need. I used their cocoa and vanilla for this recipe and it certainly makes a difference. For the frosting, they key is ensuring to beat it for a LONG time. If you do it will be fluffy and smooth, if you don’t it will still be gritty. You can make this into a layer cake or simply put in cupcakes and top them with the frosting. Either way, you’re in for a fantastic treat.

There’s also a fun story to go along with this version of the recipe. I’ll include it at the bottom of the post.  

Red Velvet Cake



  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces red food coloring
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda


  • 1 cup milk
  • 5 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla



Cream shortening, sugar and eggs well in a stand mixer. Combine the cocoa and food coloring in a small dish to create a paste. Add to the creamed mixture.


Combine buttermilk, vanilla and salt in a small bowl. Add flour and buttermilk to the first creamed mixture by thirds, alternating between the flour and buttermilk, ending with the buttermilk. Mix well between each addition.

Put vinegar in a small dish and add the baking soda to it. and stir. Immediately fold into the cake mixture. Do not mix or beat it in.

Divide between two 9 inch greased and floured cake pans or 24 cupcakes. Bake for 30 minutes (18 for cupcakes) making sure to start checking after about 20 minutes. Cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean.

Let cool in the pans for a few minutes, then remove and let cool completely on a rack.


Use a knife to cut off the rounded cake tops.


Combine milk and flour and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Continue cooking 1-2 minutes longer and the mixture is completely smooth. Remove from heat and cool completely.

Cream together the sugar, butter and vanilla for 10-12 minutes. Add in the cooled milk and flour mixture and cream for an additional 5 minutes or until the mixture is fluffy and smooth.

Place one layer of the cake on a serving dish and spread a thick layer of frosting on top. Add the additional cake layer and spread frosting over the top and sides. Chill until the frosting has hardened up. If you want to see a great series on how to frost cakes, check out Zoe Bakes. She has some amazing videos that will help you create some beautiful pieces.


Red Velvet Cake Recipe Story as told by Dianne Rowe

When I was in the forth grade we were visiting my uncle and aunt (Bill
Swensen my mothers brother) with my Gramma and Grandpa Swensen in Grand View, Washington.

My uncle was a teacher in Grandview.  Some of their close
friends had been back east to visit.  While staying at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City they enjoyed the special of the house ­ the Waldor Astoria’s Red Velvet Cake for dessert.  Upon their return home they raved about the unusual cake. They wrote a letter to the Waldorf requesting the recipe.  Shortly after receiving the requested recipe they received a bill for 300.00.

They visited with a lawyer and ­ short story ­ they had to pay the
300.00.  Their lawyer said that they now owned the recipe and could do what they wanted with it.  They were understandably upset (300.00 was a lot of money in the 50¹s)  and decided to send it to every women¹s magazine and place free cards in all the local stores.  We  received a copy which became our family¹s traditional birthday cake.

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