What Are the Ingredients for Red Velvet Cake?

Ingredients for Red Velvet Cake
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Red velvet cake, as the name infers, is a soft fluffy cake with a smooth texture and an interior characterized by deep scarlet or burgundy color and creamy frosting.

Certain ingredients for red velvet cake make it distinct from other types of cake.

Just as the name sounds peculiar and brings luxury to mind, incorporating the necessary ingredients in an ideal way will equally give your cake that attractive and mouthwatering look you imagined. Oh! And it will taste delicious too.

Red velvet cake comes in various forms, such as cupcakes, ice cream, and truffles. Its luxurious color and delicious taste make it a favorite in seasons like Valentine’s and Christmas.

Before exploring the ingredients for red velvet cake, let’s take a brief walk down history’s lane as we examine the origin of this cake.


Red velvet cake can be traced to the 19th century when cocoa powder was used to soften the texture of cakes.

While the aim of incorporating the cocoa to soften the cake was achieved, something else happened too.

Here’s what happened! Cocoa powder contains an antioxidant called anthocyanin, which makes it react to acids and bases.

So at that time, when this cocoa powder encountered leavening agents (like buttermilk, vinegar, and baking soda) used in the cake- it turned dark red (more like brown, i.e., a deep maroon color). 

Later in the 20th century, during World War II, bakers added beet juice to cakes to improve the color and moisture because the food was highly rationed.

This gave the cake an attractive color and a unique taste embraced by the populace.

Besides, after the world war, food coloring companies proliferated artificial food coloring, making it even easier to create the cake’s red color.

All these culminate in what we usually see today as red velvet cake. 

Nevertheless, replicating this cake today with cocoa minus red food coloring will not give you the brownish-red hue result because most cocoa powder is now processed with an alkalizing agent to neutralize the acidity.

Hence, today’s red velvet cake calls for food coloring, whether natural or artificial. You could use a natural dye like beetroot powder for a healthier diet.

Notwithstanding, a traditional red velvet cake has elements of a chocolate cake. Keep reading as we explore the mysterious ingredients for this vivacious cake.

Ingredients for Red Velvet Cake

1. Flour

One of the key ingredients for red velvet cake is flour. Flour plays a big role in the cake’s volume, texture, and structure.

There are different types of flour in the market. But, it is ideal for sticking to all-purpose flour or cake flour. Either of the two can be used for your red velvet cake. 

While all-purpose flour is made from a mixture of hard and soft wheat with moderate protein content between 10-13%, cake flour is made from soft wheat and has a low protein content of all flour between 7-9%. This means that cake made with cake flour has a softer, velvety feel.

Nevertheless, the all-purpose flour works well, too, and is even considered the default whenever a recipe calls for flour because it is a middle ground between higher or lower flours in gluten.

Whatever flour you decide to use, ensure you have the appropriate measurement.

2. Red Food Coloring

Apart from the classy taste of red velvet cake, one other key characteristic of this cake is its attractive red color.

History has it that this color was born from the reaction of cocoa with a leavening agent.

So, for a mahogany-colored cake, use raw cocoa powder in combination with buttermilk.

But then, this raw cocoa powder won’t give you a deep red; it can be difficult to get raw cocoa powder.

What makes red velvet cake red is the food coloring; to get that, you can use red food coloring, whether natural or artificial.

There are several types of artificial red food coloring out there, and they come in different forms: powder, gel, or liquid.

But if that doesn’t meet your health needs, you could opt for natural alternatives.

Some of these natural alternatives are Pure beet juice, beet powder, pure pomegranate juice, dried hibiscus flowers steeped in hot water, strained and cranberries boiled with enough water to cover and strain. The choice is all yours.

Just be careful with your measurement, as these substitutes are capable of changing the cake’s taste.

For example, using beet juice leaves the earthy flavor of beets behind after the juice interacts with other ingredients in the cake.

3. Cocoa Powder

Also, among the ingredients for red velvet cake is cocoa powder. Now, the purpose of cocoa powder here isn’t to get the fiery color, seeing that we could get that via additives.

A red velvet cake isn’t just your normal white cake dyed red. Rather, it has a distinct chocolate taste and a slightly acidic flavor.

You see, red velvet cake isn’t meant to be a chocolate cake. Its recipe is different from the traditional chocolate cake recipe.

The amount of cocoa powder used here is rather small, and the flavor of the chocolate is subtle. 

Cocoa powder tenderizes the flour and creates a softer, finer, velvety, fluffy crumb. More so, It gives the cake a mild chocolaty rich flavor.

4. Butter and/or Oil

Another important ingredient in making red velvet cake is butter, oil, or a combination of both. Butter adds flavor, leavens the cake, and makes it tender too.

To enjoy both worlds, you can use butter and oil to give the cake a fluffy and extra moist texture.

5. Vinegar

Vinegar is also among the ingredients for red velvet cake. Using vinegar would not alter the taste of the cake in ways you might think.

It contributes to the distinct taste of red velvet cake too. Vinegar also brightens the color of fruit juice used in red velvet cake.

The acid from the vinegar would keep the beet juice a vibrant red color, giving your cake the dashing red you desire. You can use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.

6. Buttermilk

As the name suggests, buttermilk has a thick creamy texture with a rich tangy, buttery taste.

Buttermilk breaks down the gluten flour, which gives the cake a moist and tender crumb (velvety).

The good news, there are various substitutes for buttermilk if you don’t have buttermilk or don’t want to use buttermilk.

One of the most common substitutes for buttermilk is vinegar and regular milk.

An example of homemade buttermilk is: incorporating 1 Tbsp of vinegar into regular milk and letting it sit for 10 minutes until it starts to curdle before using. Buttermilk is also among the ingredients for red velvet cake.

7. Sugar and Salt

Sugar and salt is also key ingredient and should be used as desired. The purpose of sugar is to sweeten and add flavor to the cake.

Salt also adds flavor to the cake. It enhances the flavor of other ingredients and balances the sugar in the cake batter.

8. Baking Soda

Baking soda is a leavening agent and is among the ingredients for red velvet cake.

The baking soda reacts with acidic elements in a batter to form carbon dioxide (loads of bubbles). This process allows the red velvet cake to rise.

9. Eggs

The usefulness of eggs in cake baking must be emphasized, so we find eggs among the ingredients for red velvet cake.

Nonetheless, you could go for egg substitutes if you have an aversion to eggs. Using egg will add a rich flavor and a velvety moist texture to the cake.

Eggs also act as leavening agents and binding agents in the cake. I.e., it binds liquids and fats together and prevents the cake from separating. The cake devoid of eggs tends to be dry and falls apart easily.

10. Vanilla extract

Vanilla extract is used in red velvet cake to enhance the flavor of the ingredients used in the cake.

How to Make Red Velvet Cake

Now that we have examined the ingredients for red velvet cake, let us have a quick rundown on how to make this luxurious cake.

Step 1

The first thing you need to do when preparing red velvet cake is to prepare your ingredients and materials.

The ingredients outlined above were -flour, fat/oil, sugar/salt, buttermilk, vinegar, cocoa powder, red food coloring, vanilla extract, baking soda, and eggs-the measurement of the recipe boils down to you (measurement is very important here as it determines the outcome of your cake).

Step 2

Separate your liquid and dry ingredients. To make this red velvet cake, you’ll start by whisking together your dry ingredients.

You can do this in a medium or large bowl, depending on the quantity of your ingredient.

Incorporate the dry ingredients- flour, baking soda, unsweetened cocoa powder, and salt (any other dry additives)-and sift them to keep the cake light. Remove any lumps of cocoa powder, and set the bowl aside.

In another bowl, using the stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a hand-held electric mixer, cream your butter and sugar together on medium speed for 4-5 minutes.

Creaming incorporates more air into your cake batter, creating a softer, lighter cake. At this point, beat in the oil too. The batter might look a bit curdled, but that is to be expected. 

Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Then mix in the vanilla extract and vinegar, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add the red food color and mix the batter thoroughly until the desired shade of red is achieved. 

Now, you can add the dry ingredients in two or three additions. Add buttermilk or its substitute here while the mixer is low-speed to prevent over-mixing the cake batter. Now your cake batter is ready. It will be a beautiful bright red color.

Step 3

Now that you have the batter grease the cake pans with butter and lightly dust the bottom and side of the pan with flour or line the bottom using parchment paper.

All these make it easier to get the cake layers out of the pan. Scoop the batter into the pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Set the cake aside and allow it to cool completely before frosting.

Step 4

Your red velvet cake is ready, but you can always frost it to boost the structure and beauty of your cake.

Besides, frosting equally makes it deliciously rich and creamy. Yummy, I tell you!  

To make this:

  • Beat butter and cream cheese until fluffy.
  • Mix in powdered sugar until it is well combined.
  • Add vanilla extract and a pinch of salt, and continue beating, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed until it becomes smooth and fluffy.
  • Assemble the cooled cake and frost over the top and sides of the cake. 

We have successfully examined the ingredients for red velvet cake and a quick rundown on how to prepare this cake. There, you have your red velvet cake in all its glory. Bon appétit!

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