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Red Velvet Cake

For batter amounts for pans, see below under ingredients; this recipe can be multiplied. You will need to fill and bake 3 each of the 6-, 9-, 12-, and 15-inch pans; trim to make 1 1/4-inch-high layers. Fill and bake two 4-inch pans; trim to make 1 1/2-inch-high layers.

  • Yield: Makes 5 cups batter
Red Velvet Cake

Photography: Dana Gallagher

Source: Martha Stewart Weddings, Summer 2004


  • Unsalted butter, softened, for pans
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, plus more for dusting
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups canola oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • Batter for each 3-inch-deep pan: 4-inch, 1 1/2 cups; 6-inch, 3 1/2 cups; 9-inch, 5 cups; 12-inch, 8 cups; 15-inch, 12 cups


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter pans; line with parchment paper. Butter lining; dust with cocoa, tapping out excess. Set aside. Whisk together flour, salt, and cocoa in a medium bowl; set aside.

  2. Mix sugar and oil on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk until combined. Add eggs one at a time; mix well after each addition. Mix in food coloring and vanilla. Add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with flour, mixing well after each addition. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.

  3. Stir together baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl. Add baking-soda mixture to batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely in pans on wire racks.

Reviews (33)

  • Bikerbunny 27 Aug, 2012

    Thanks for posting all the reviews. It sure helps to make my mind up, whether to make it or not.
    This one is a make it.

  • Corral_88 18 Aug, 2012

    I've made this cake at least half a dozen times and it's always a hit! However, I make the following modifications: I use an entire bottle of 1 oz liquid food coloring for intense color, I substitute a teaspoon of cinnamon for the unsweetened cocoa powder ( I personally prefer cinnamon because it enhances the cakes flavor) and I make a simple cream cheese frosting using superfine baker's sugar and two bars softened cream cheese.

  • Michele Plessner 26 Jun, 2012

    I modified the recipe as follows: replaced the red food dye with Wilton's Kosher Red Color, 1 ounce jar; used 1 cup oil and 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, Followed the recipe for baking. I iced the cake with vanilla buttercream: 1 lb powdered sugar, 1/4 cup salted butter, 2 t vanilla, 3 - 4 T milk. Was fantastic and a huge hit last Christmas.

  • Rina Wisotzke 19 Jun, 2012

    This is the cake I am going to make for our wedding. I hope I can be successful and everyone will enjoy....... now to the frosting and the layering of such a large cake.....

  • Sususu 4 Mar, 2012

    Hi! Can I use fondant to decorate it?

  • Kraftgirl 22 Dec, 2011

    I recently used the Red Velvet Cake recipe for a birthday cake. I have never understood why people like Red Velvet cake so much. I thought it was just because of the red food coloring which made it look pretty. After using this recipe, I get it! This Red Velvet Cake has a very unique flavor which I think comes from the buttermilk. The cake was moist and delicious. I have shared this recipe with friends. Try it you won't be dissapointed.

  • Trishington 27 May, 2011

    SOCakes - This recipe calls for liquid red food colouring (and I double it for a deeper colour). If you want to use gel paste food colouring, according to the Red Velvet recipe in Martha's Wedding Cake book, the amount for making the double recipe (10 cups of batter) is 3/4 teaspoon of gel paste.

  • Trishington 27 May, 2011

    beachbumjeni - I use the paddle attachment for all steps of the recipe. If you want to use the whisk for the sugar/oil mixture, yes, switch to to the paddle when you start adding the eggs.

  • Trishington 27 May, 2011

    I've made this a couple of times. Although the recipe says to make 3 layers of each size pan to make a wedding cake, you only need to make two of each. You then cut each layer in half horizontally to make 4-layer tiers. Once frosted, each tier will be about 4-1/2" tall - more than tall enough for a wedding cake. If you make three of each size, your cake will be way too tall. To make two 6" layers, make the single recipe (5 cups of batter). Double the recipe for two 9" layers or one 12" layer.

  • beachbumjeni 9 May, 2011

    Do you switch to the paddle attachment when you start mixing the eggs?

  • SOCakes 30 Oct, 2010

    Which red food coloring does the recipe use? Thanks.

  • prettymermaid 27 Oct, 2010

    I've tried this recipe with the regular buttermilk. It turned out perfectly along with the creamcheese frosting! Everybody loved it. I did only one batter (5 cups) and baked in 9-in round pan. It took 1 hour instead of 30-35 as the recipe stated. I think the oil make it moist and firm, which make it easy to spread. Thank you meowmellow for your kind suggestion.

  • meowmellow 21 Oct, 2010

    Yes, I've made this with both kinds of buttermilk and it works either way. This is actually my go-to recipe for red velvet cake. Made it for a wedding several years ago with a white chocolate frosting - big hit. Have made it for several birthdays with classic italian buttercream frosting and another birthday request coming up this weekend. Will be using the cream cheese frosting this time. Oh-Yum !!

  • prettymermaid 20 Oct, 2010

    Have anyone ever tried the regular buttermilk instead of the low-fat one?

  • mamsis 16 Sep, 2010

    My family recipe calls for 1/2 cup shortening instead of the 1 1/2 cups of oil here. I want to make a wedding cake sturdy enough for stacking. Is it the oil that makes a denser cake? Or should I just try both versions and decide for myself? Thanks!

  • sothy 20 Aug, 2010

    the recipe didnt specify exactly what kind of vinegar to use and could olive oil be used instead of canola?

  • martuca66 5 Dec, 2009

    I like to try this cake with some flavor of wine, I tried it several days ago and the bread was moist with wine, wise rich, delicious! could someone tell me what kind of wine and as I have to put it on the cake when it is done?

  • jussanuthagrl 19 Feb, 2009

    I've used this recipe for an 8 inch round cake pan (2 inch) ..made the one batch ..5 cups..divided it into the two 8 inch pans..split each layer after I had 4 layers of cake and 3 layers of frosting. I've had many compliments on this one!

  • klow 19 Aug, 2008

    This recipe works very well for cupcakes. I recommend doubling the recipe, as the original barely makes two dozen. They should be refrigerated (especially in warm weather) because the frosting tends to get quite melty. They keep very well in the refridgerator for several days.

  • steph519 11 Aug, 2008

    will this recipe work for cupcakes as well??? anyone have any advice on making red velvet cupcakes??? thanks.

  • Kobrilchipri 18 Jul, 2008

    This recipe isn't the best. I used powdered buttermilk (which has directions for the given equivalent of liquid buttermilk on the box) and I think using liquid buttermilk from the store would have been better. I added an extra half cup of sugar, and the cake was still not sweet enough. The proportions for the cream cheese frosting seem to be off. They call for 2 lbs of sugar - I used 1.5 cups of sugar and the sweetness was just fine. The frosting is runny and doesn't spread particularly well.

  • SammyBeBop 4 Jul, 2008

    I am confused about the cooking times in the recipe. Both times I have made a 9 in. cake using 5 cups of batter, the cake has taken over an hour too cook through. For what size pan is the 30-35 minute baking time? Should I be placing the pan in a certain area of the oven: top, middle bottom?

    Also, how is the cooking time affected by teh size of the pan? I appreciate this info and so will me friend for whose wedding I am making this cake.

  • KathM 3 Jul, 2008

    I have a 12 inch layer in the oven now that is dripping down the sides and filling the bottom of my stove up. I have made many cakes before but never had this trouble. Is it possible there is an ingredient missing from this recipe? I followed it very carefully. Any help will be appreciated!

  • SlySylvie 30 Jun, 2008

    Hi Californiahappy: you would bake 3 of each size to achieve the height shown above. In case you haven't seen them, there are detailed instructions on this site for a tiered wedding red velvet cake. You can access them from the section in the above right corner of this page called Also Try...

  • californiahappy 30 Jun, 2008

    I love the beautiful contrast of the red velvet cake and white frosting for a wedding cake and am planning on making this for a friends wedding in a few weeks. Can anyone tell me, for a tier cake (8", 6" and 4")...would I bake one pan of each size and slice horizontally into three pieces, frost and layer? Or would I bake two or three pans of each size and frost and layer?

  • SlySylvie 30 Jun, 2008

    Dear THohlfeld: I need to make a large square cake and have a 17" square baking pan (by 2" high). I'll make 2 layers, one at a time, and my mixer can be removed from its stand to use with an extra large bowl. Filling my pan halfway requires about 20 cups. Would I have enough batter (or too much) if I quadruple the recipe? Do any of the ingredients need to be adjusted? Thank you!

  • Nancy120 29 Jun, 2008

    This cake is excellent! Using others advise I doubled the recipe and this was enough for 2-10" layers. The only change I made was adding 2Tbsp. extra cocoa . Would not change another thing. The frosting receipe I used follows: In saucepan, cook stirring constantly, until thickened 6 Tbsp. flour, 2 C milk, cool completely. Cream: 2C granulated sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 C butter (only butter). Add milk/flour mixture and beat at high speed until very fluffy. Lookes and tastes like whipped cream.

  • mommakanga 12 Jun, 2008

    I want to make a wedding cake like this. I want it to be 2 layers deep each 6in, 8in, 10in, and 12in, round. can you tell me how much batter each pan should have and how many batches of batter i will need. Thank you, Mommakanga

  • TalleySue_Hohlfeld 5 Jun, 2008

    OK, I checked w/ the kitchen, and they checked again as well (tested it in the kitchen), and this 5-cup batter works *perfectly* to make a SINGLE layer in a 9-inch pan.

    So you'll have to double it for two; most big stand mixers can handle that. But don't triple it.

    THohlfeld, Martha Stewart Weddings

  • TalleySue_Hohlfeld 27 May, 2008


    This recipe makes only one 9-inch pan. ( I can ask someone in the kitchen to be sure)

    a single batch makes 5 cups of batter. It's OK to double it, for 10 cups, but don't triple --it'll be too much for most mixers, and you run the risk of the proportions being a bit wonky)

    Then look at the list to see how much batter you'd need for a single pan. One 9-inch pan needs 5 cups. So to get two 9-inch pans, you need 10 cups (or a double batch)

  • burr334 18 May, 2008

    If I want to make this as a layer cake with two or three 9 inch pans, how many batches do I need to make? In other words, does this recipe only make enough batter for one 9 inch pan?

  • salesgirl 7 Apr, 2008

    This cake is so moist and delicious, my favorite red velvet recipe to date.

  • pamelarai 13 Feb, 2008

    i love this recipe . i bake this cake for my sons birthday and every one love it .will always bake this cake again and again. thanks martha. pamela.