This Northern Gal’s Red-ish Velvet Cake

After the cream cheese frosting post, you had to see this coming.  I couldn’t very well share a recipe for the only frosting that you will ever need to make for the rest of your life and not follow it up with something to put it on. To do so would just be plain rude! I wouldn’t do that to you.

Not that you couldn’t just eat cream cheese frosting with a spoon, or in my case, scoop it up with graham crackers. Both would be perfectly acceptable applications.

But why settle for graham crackers when you can have this? Now I realize that a traditional southern style red velvet cake is usually a white cake that has been dyed bright red. I get that. But here’s the thing: I’m a Northern girl. A Northern girl that really, really, really likes chocolate cake.  And I am certainly not afraid to Yankee-up a recipe. So why not a chocolate based red velvet cake?

Can’t we all just get along?

I knew that we could! (Wow! Rodney King and Mr. Rogers in the span of two sentences–what is this blog coming to?) :)

Son #3 came up with this idea when he requested super-red-like-Lightening-McQueen-chocolate-cupcakes-with-white-frosting-and-sprinkles for his birthday treat for school.

I can deny him nothing. Except when he comes into my room at 4 a.m. and wants me to read him a story or get up and make him pancakes and sausage. Then I can deny him quite a bit.  But most of the time, he pours on the charm and gets what he wants.

Like super-red-like-Lightening-McQueen-chocolate-cupcakes-with-white-frosting-and-sprinkles.

Thus, Red-ish Velvet Cake was born.  I just took my tried and true chocolate cake recipe that I have been baking forever, and added a whole lot of red food dye.

Don’t judge. It’s delicious.

To make Red-ish Velvet Cake, you’ll need:

1 2/3 C. (scant) granulated sugar

¾ C. vegetable shortening

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2/3 C. (heaping) unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ¼ C. all-purpose flour

2 tsps. OR up to 1 fl. Oz. of Red food coloring

1 ½ C. water

1 recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting


Again, this is where my lovely cast of ingredients shot would be…if I didn’t inadvertantly take a video of the shot, rather than a photo. I’ll get the hang of this new camera, yet!

In absence of the cast shot, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F), and grease and flour two 8-inch round baking pans very well.

Measure the shortening and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer, and cream it together until it is nice and fluffy.

Grab the eggs. Make sure that they have sat out on the counter for a bit to come to room temperature. The secret to a great cake is to make sure that all of the ingredients are at the same temperature.

Crack the eggs into the bowl, and add the vanilla extract. Beat the eggs until and vanilla into the creamed mixture until well incorporated.

Add a heaping 2/3 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder.

Then dump in all of the leavening: baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Mix the leavening with the cocoa into the creamed mixture until everything has been well distributed; scraping down the sides of the bowl, as needed.

Pour in about 1/3 of the water called for in the recipe, and stir it into the batter.

Then stir in about 1/3 of the total amount of flour into the batter; scraping the sides of the bowl, as needed. Repeat the alternate additions of water and flour two more times, stirring and scraping down in between.

Once all of the ingredients have been incorporated into the batter, grab the red food coloring. For a really bright red cake, you will need to add a full ounce of the coloring.

For some reason, I just can’t wrap my head around adding that much food coloring, so I only added 2 teaspoons. Thus, Red-ish Velvet Cake.  If you aren’t a pansy like me, go ahead and add the full ounce for a really pretty cake.

It is at this point, I put an apron on myself,  and a splatter guard on the mixing bowl. Because I know myself well enough to know that no matter how careful I am, if there is a chance to splatter permanently staining materials all over the place, I will invariably do just that.

Case in point. That splat of dye would have been all over my cabinets if not for the splatter shield. Splatter shields are made for people like me.

Slowly and carefully stir the food coloring into the batter, until it is fully distributed and uniform in color.

Divide batter evenly among the pans, and bake in the preheated 350 degree (F) oven for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow cakes to cool in their pans on a wire rack for 5 minutes.

Invert the cakes in their pans on the wire rack.  Here comes the tricky part of removing the cakes intact from the pans.

Now, I like to give the bottoms of the pan a knock, take a deep breath, and say a little prayer before I remove the pans. Just for grins. C’mon now, you know that you do it, too.

Hooray!  Allow the cakes to cool completely before frosting.  Now would be an excellent time to make the cream cheese frosting.

Here’s the printable, but be sure to scroll past it for our exciting bonus round!

Red-ish Velvet Cake

Makes one 13 x 9 x 2-inch, OR one 8-inch layer, OR 24 cupcakes

1 2/3 C. (scant) granulated sugar

¾ C. vegetable shortening

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2/3 C. (heaping) unsweetened cocoa powder

2 ¼ C. all-purpose flour

2 tsps. OR up to 1 fl. Oz. of Red food coloring

1 ½ C. water

1 recipe for Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour the pan(s) of your choice, very well; set aside.
  2. Cream together the shortening and granulated sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until incorporated.
  4. Stir in the cocoa powder until blended.
  5. Mix in the baking soda, baking powder, and salt until fully distributed.
  6. Alternately add the water then flour, in 3 additions, until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed, to make sure that all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  7. Stir the desired amount of Red food coloring into the cake batter.  2 teaspoons will give the cake a red-ish tint, while a full ounce (1 bottle) will give the cake a brighter red hue.
  8. Once all of the ingredients have been added, mix batter on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  9. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans.

10.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (Approximately 30 minutes for 2 round pans, 40 minutes for the rectangular pan, and 18-20 minutes for cupcakes.)

11.  Cool completely in the rectangular pan before frosting, or for rounds or cupcakes, cool in the pans for 5 minutes, then remove from pan to cool completely on the racks.

12.  Frost with cream cheese frosting.

For our BONUS Round: How to frost a layer cake!

Say it with me, now: Woo-hoo!

First of all, a pretty Red Velvet Cake deserves to be placed on an equally attractive cake plate. Be sure that the plate that you use is completely flat, or your cake may sag in the middle. Saggy middles kind of ruin the dramatic effect. I can SO relate.

Plop a tiny bit of frosting on the middle of the cake plate, before putting on the first layer. This little blop will keep the cake from sliding around the plate while you are working.

Place about 1/4 of the frosting on top of the first layer and spread it evenly to within 1/4-inch of the edge.

Helpful tip: I generally divide frosting into fourths when working with a layer cake: 1/4 in the middle, 2/4 around the sides, 1/4 on top.

Place the second layer on top of the filling. Notice that I placed the cakes with the bottom surfaces facing up? That gives an even work surface so the cake will look taller and more even. I usually don’t bother with “leveling” the cake by cutting off the rounded top. I don’t always cut straight, and removing the tops creates an awful lot of crumbs to contend with in your frosting.  I prefer to just fill in the gaps with more frosting.

I’ll never have a career on any of those fancy cake reality shows.

Take 2/4 of the frostings, and frost the sides of the cake.  To do this, I like to start by spreading the bulk of the frosting toward the top edge, and smooth it downward.

Spread the remaining 1/4 of the frosting over the top of the cake. Ta-da! You have just frosted a layer cake.

Now for all that is good and right with the world, lop off a huge slice and dig in! :)

Get More Updates!

Sign up to get exclusive updates & tips!

Genesis Theme Framework for WordPress


  1. says

    Ok, I see you are in the Lightning Mc Queen phase right now. We were at this last year, this year we are at the playmobil kinghts, Romans, Egyptians and generally all the warrior, bloody, killing and battling figures lol. This cake looks delicious Kirsten and I am sure everyone in your family enjoyed it, at least that would have been the case in my family! Beautiful color!

    • says

      Yeah, with 4 boys, the Lightening McQueen phase have been going on for the past 5 years in my house. But there is also Pokemon, Bakugon, Lincoln Logs, Lego in every form, and now Ninjago. The good part is that all of the toys get played with really well because someone is always into something that we already have around. :)

  2. says

    You know, this is probably how the Civil War started all those years ago. No die-hard southerner would ever dye a white cake red and call it red velvet. True southern red velvet cake involves cocoa and a tiny bit of vinegar for “twang.” But I’m not going to hold it against you, because I love ya’ and I totally agree that red velvet is better with MORE chocolate, not less. AND everything is better smothered in cream cheese frosting. Except meatloaf. Ick.

    • says

      Really?! Makes me wonder how much trouble could be averted if our world leaders were Blogging Buddies and could speak freely with each other? All these misunderstandings could be avoided and peace would reign. 😉 You are my first southern friend to say that red velvet wasn’t a dyed white cake. Seriously. I am glad to hear it though, because (obviously) I always felt that red velvet should be chocolate.

      And I might get into meatloaf if there were cream cheese frosting involved. Only kidding.

      • says

        Yup. All the world needs is cream cheese frosting and yoga pants. World peace is just around the corner. Wonder if we’ll share a Nobel Prize for this one?
        PS – I threw up in my mouth a little when you said you might get into meatloaf if it had cream cheese frosting. Aaack!

  3. says

    Oh, good – I am glad you posted this! Otherwise I would have had to eat that frosting right out of the bowl. Mmm…can’t wait for Saturday baking!

  4. says

    Ooooo I just had a red velevet cake yesterday and was telling someone that I wanted to try and make one from scratch….This I must try.

  5. says

    I’m always confused when I eat a Red Velvet cake that doesn’t taste particularly chocolate-y at all. Hello? Missing the point?

    Quite honestly, the color has never been a selling point for me so I definitely love this one!

    p.s. Graham Crackers + Cream Cheese Frosting = Dessert Nachos?

  6. says

    You know I’m from the south and have never heard of red velvet cake being anything but chocolate cake died red. If it’s white cake, WHERE’S THE VELVET??

    On another note, Lightning McQueen is a staple in our house too, because our GIRL munchkin loves red, and she loves cars. She only recently saw the movie but even before she’d grab on to anything Lightning McQueen she saw. Her bed, pajamas, chair, floor rug, and several toys are all Lightning McQueen…

  7. says

    You’re never gonna believe this, but I don’t like cream cheese. I’m thinking I may be the only one on planet earth, but it’s true. Now chocolate — I might even forgive a little cream cheese to get to the chocolate :)

  8. says

    Ah, Kirsten, I’m so glad that you found my blog because I’m absolutely loving reading through yours now! I’m going to go subscribe as soon as I finish typing this so I can stay up with all of your posts!

    Now, about this post… that cake looks amazing! I have an uncle who LOVES red velvet cake, so I’m thinking I will have to make this for him very soon. And the frosting? Well, it looks divine. I think I will be using that recipe frequently. Maybe even next weekend!

    Thanks again for stopping by my blog! Can’t wait to read more =)

  9. says

    Red Velvet Cake is lovely anytime. I have always made it with cocoa as did the lady that taught me how to make it. The original had cocoa and vinegar, I think.
    Yours looks quite lovely and delicious. One piece please.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *