This recipe hails from my husband’s family heritage in the delta of Mississippi and Tennessee. Shortly after marrying my sweet husband, I quickly discovered his favorite cake: Red Velvet. However you will rarely ever see him eating a slice. Why? Because the one and only Red Velvet Cake for him is his Grandmother Mimi’s, and all others are cheap imitations. Well, as a newlywed I wanted so much to make his favorite foods, and knew that to change Mimi’s recipe would be nothing short of baking blasphemy. Thankfully Grandma Mimi was so kind as to share it with me, and now with you.
The one major change I made was an ingredient swap – butter for margarine in the frosting, as I have some strongly held affinities for the properties and taste of pure butter in all my baking, so I never buy anything else. Word of warning about this frosting: the amount below will just complete frosting your cake (you know, after you’ve stolen a spoonful or two in the process of frosting the cake), so if you would like to try any additional borders or swirls with the frosting, you will want to increase the recipe by a half.
If you’ve never made a cake before, this is a great one to try. Even if you over-bake a little and have lumpy frosting (can you tell I speak from experience?) it will still be incredibly tasty and moist! Being an oil-based cake, it will taste great days afterward if you store it covered in the fridge, but after a week the oil will seep to the bottom, so I’d suggest only storing it for up to 5 days.
- 10 ounces all purpose flour (approximately 2.5 cups)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1.5 cups pure vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 ounce red food coloring (use less if you’d like a less blood-red color, or look at these natural alternatives to red dye at kitchen.com)
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened to room temp
- ½ cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened to room temp
- 1 pound confectioners sugar (also called powdered sugar)
- 1 tablespoon milk (or water)
- Prepare three 8 inch cake pans by coating with butter and lining the bottom with a circle of parchment.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and cocoa powder with a fork to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), mix the sugar, eggs, oil and buttermilk.
- Slowly add in the dry ingredients, about a cup at a time, until just combined.
- Mix in the food coloring to your desired shade.
- Pour equal amounts of batter into the three cake pans (I use a scale to make this easier and more accurate).
- Bake the cake pans for approximately 30 minutes, rotating them at about 20 minutes. The cake is done if the tip of a knife or cake tester comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool in the pans for 5 minutes before turning them out onto cooling racks to cool completely before frosting (I’d suggest that once cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and store in the fridge overnight to avoid a crumbly cake with sliding layers).
- When you are ready to frost and assemble the cake, make the frosting by creaming the cream cheese and butter together until thoroughly combined, with no more lumps.
- Slowly beat in the powdered sugar a spoonful at a time (I even like to sift it as I add it) to avoid lumps.
- If necessary, add the tablespoon of milk to get the frosting to a good spreading consistency.
- Assemble your cake (if you need tips on how to frost a cake, check out Sweetapolita’s helpful videos).