Southern Red Velvet Cake recipe

Southern Red Velvet Cake Recipe | Perfect for Cupcakes too!

Southern Red Velvet Cake Recipe – a timeless classic that never goes out of style. The vibrant color, moist texture, and indulgent cream cheese frosting make these cupcakes a favorite treat for any occasion.

What is Red Velvet?

Red Velvet is a popular and distinctive flavor in the world of cakes, known for its striking deep red. Here’s what you need to know about Red Velvet:

  • Flavor Profile: Red Velvet has a mild cocoa flavor with a hint of vanilla and buttermilk. It’s not as intensely chocolatey as a regular chocolate cake, but it has a subtle chocolate undertone that sets it apart from other cakes.
  • Texture: Red Velvet cake is known for its moist and tender crumb. The use of buttermilk and vinegar in the recipe contributes to this unique texture.
  • Cream Cheese Frosting: Red Velvet desserts are often paired with cream cheese frosting, complementing the cake’s subtle flavors. It also provides a creamy, slightly tangy contrast to the sweetness of the cake.
Red velvet cupcakes on small white plates on a black and white checkered background.

Where does Red Velvet cake come from?

The history of Red Velvet cake is a subject of debate and legend, and its true origin remains somewhat mysterious. Several stories and theories attempt to trace the cake’s history, but it’s challenging to pinpoint a definitive origin. Here are some key points and theories related to the history of Red Velvet cake:

  1. Early Origins: Red Velvet cake likely has roots in the United States, with suggestions that it dates back to the 1800s. The use of cocoa, buttermilk, and vinegar in the cake’s recipes is reminiscent of traditional Southern cake-making techniques.
  2. Waldorf-Astoria Hotel Theory: One popular theory attributes the cake’s creation to the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City during the 1920s. According to the story, the cake was developed by the hotel’s pastry chef. He wanted to create a unique cake with a reddish hue. It was an instant hit, and the recipe soon became a closely guarded secret.
  3. Food Coloring Innovation: The vivid red color of Red Velvet cake is a defining characteristic. Originally, this color was achieved through a chemical reaction between acidic ingredients like buttermilk and cocoa and natural cocoa powder. When cocoa production processes changed, the cocoa was less acidic. Red food coloring was added to keep the traditional color.
  4. Marketing by Food Companies: In the mid-20th century, food companies began to promote Red Velvet cake mixes. This further popularized the dessert. The Adams Extract Company, for instance, played a significant role in promoting the cake through its marketing campaigns.
  5. Valentine’s Day Association: Red Velvet cake’s vibrant red color has made it a popular choice for Valentine’s Day celebrations. Its visually striking appearance adds to its allure as a romantic dessert.
Red Velvet Cupcakes on a teal cake plate with bokeh lights in the background

What Ingredients Can Be Used to Make Red Velvet Cake RED?

To achieve the signature red color of a Red Velvet cake, red food coloring is traditionally used. I have used gel food coloring in my recipe. The color is more vibrant than liquid food coloring so you’ll use less.

However, some bakers and chefs have explored natural alternatives to food coloring to achieve the red hue. Here are some ingredients that you can use to give Red Velvet cake its striking color:

  1. Red Food Coloring: This is the most common and convenient way to achieve the vibrant red color of a Red Velvet cake. You can find liquid or gel food coloring specifically labeled as “red” at most grocery stores. Follow the instructions on the packaging to determine the amount needed, as it can vary by brand and concentration.
  2. Beetroot Puree or Juice: Beetroot is a natural source of red pigment, and beetroot puree or juice can be used to add color to a Red Velvet cake. Simply puree cooked beets or use beetroot juice, and add it to the cake batter until you achieve the desired shade of red. Keep in mind that the flavor of beetroot can subtly influence the taste of the cake.
  3. Pomegranate Juice: Pomegranate juice can impart a reddish tint to the cake batter. It has a milder flavor compared to beetroot and can add a pleasant fruity note to the cake.
  4. Hibiscus Powder: Hibiscus powder is made from dried hibiscus flowers. This can be used as a natural food coloring to achieve a reddish hue. It’s often used in natural and organic baking.
  5. Red Wine: Serious Eats Red Velvet Cake Recipe uses red wine, which I am anxious to try. The cake does not appear a vibrant red after baking but the idea of using red wine is intriguing!
Southern red velvet cake

Creative Variations for Red Velvet Cake

Red Velvet cake is a versatile dessert, and there are numerous variations and adaptations to suit different tastes and occasions. Here are some popular variations of Red Velvet cake:

  • Red Velvet Cheesecake: A delicious twist that combines the flavors of Red Velvet cake with a creamy cheesecake layer. Alternate layers of Red Velvet cake and cheesecake, creating a visually stunning dessert.
  • Red Velvet Brownies: These brownies incorporate the distinctive flavor and color of Red Velvet cake into a fudgy brownie. Add cream cheese swirls or frosting for extra richness.
  • Red Velvet Whoopie Pies: Sandwich together two Red Velvet cake-like cookies with a creamy filling. They are often made with cream cheese or marshmallow fluff. These portable treats are a delightful twist on traditional cake.
  • Red Velvet Pancakes: A breakfast or brunch variation, Red Velvet pancakes incorporate the flavors of the cake into a fluffy pancake batter. Serve with cream cheese syrup or frosting.
  • Red Velvet Cake Roll: A rolled sponge cake that incorporates the flavors and colors of Red Velvet cake. Fill the cake roll with cream cheese or whipped cream and roll it into a log shape.
  • Red Velvet Trifle: Layer Red Velvet cake cubes with whipped cream, pudding, or custard in a trifle dish.
Southern Red Velvet Cake recipe

Other recipes to try:

Butterfinger Layer Cake

Banana Cake with Browned Butter Buttercream

Easy Sprite Cake

Red Velvet cupcakes are more than just a dessert. They’re a work of art that brings joy to those who taste them. With this simple yet delicious recipe, you can create Red Velvet cupcakes that will impress your family and friends. So, get your apron on and start baking – your journey to Red Velvet perfection begins now!

Red Velvet Cupcakes on small white plates with white bokeh lights in the background

Southern Red Velvet Cupcakes

A classic Southern recipe, Red Velvet is a delight in flavor and appearance.
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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Cooling Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 12 cupcakes
Calories 106 kcal


  • 2 large eggs separated
  • 1 1/3 all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
  • 3 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • Red food coloring, gel or liquid
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • Cream Cheese frosting or other frosting if you have a favorite


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners or grease well.
  • Sift together the flour and cornstarch. Add the baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt together and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  • With a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat 2 egg whites on high speed in until soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
  • With a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until it is smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the sugar to the butter and cream together on high speed for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat again. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the oil and then beat on high speed for 2 minutes.
  • Add the 2 egg yolks and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined. Scrape down the bowl and mix again. Add the vinegar and the food coloring until you reach your desired color.
  • With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix after each addition just until incorporated. Be careful to not overmix the batter.
  • Fold the whipped egg whites into the batter with a rubber spatula. Fold in carefully but completely.
  • Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners, filling 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Cool the cupcakes completely before icing them with your chosen frosting. Cream cheese frosting is the traditional icing for Red Velvet but can be too thin to pipe.


Serving: 1cupcakeCalories: 106kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 0.4gFat: 4gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 0.2gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 11mgSodium: 105mgPotassium: 16mgSugar: 17gVitamin A: 135IUCalcium: 13mgIron: 0.01mg
Keyword classic red velvet, red velvet cake, red velvet cupcakes, southern recipe
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  1. Pingback: 12 Best Red Velvet Cupcakes - Jolly Paradise

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