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Here’s a thought that crossed my spoiled mind this evening. What if, say, like my family in Australia, I can’t just run to the store and grab a box of red velvet cake mix off the shelf. I’ve obviously forgotten that it wasn’t that many years ago that I didn’t even know what a red velvet cake was! Imagine that.

This week I received an email from a fellow cake maker who asked me to share my favourite red velvet cake recipe since she wasn’t able to buy a box mix. Fellow bakers give me mixed reactions when I openly admit to using (insert scary music here)…. red velvet cake out of a box!! Well, I do and I’m not afraid to say it. Why not? It’s bad enough getting covered in red cake mix, which I usually do, without having to mess with red food colouring when measuring it out for a “from scratch” recipe.

Actually, there is a little history to my dread of red…  I used to own a small bakery in Australia and had left some decorating items out on the dining table in my brand new dining room, in my brand new home.  To cut a long story short, my youngest daughter was a climber and the result was red food colouring all over her and the brand new carpet!  We bleached it out and then had to dye the carpet back lovingly with teabags.  So you might now understand my dislike of red food colouring, even if red is my favourite color!

Ok, back to the cake at hand.  I tend to look at box cake mixes as a starting point, and usually tweak them by changing out the oil with apple sauce for instance, and adding my own flavourings, add-ins etc. I’m sure the good people at Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker and Pillsbury didn’t just whip them together in five minutes. It is my understanding that they have spent years perfecting their mixes for our convenience. And very often that is the time I have no compunction in reaching for one.

Sure there is nothing quite like a delicately created sponge or genoise but there are times when I just need to get out two dozen cupcakes in a hurry and trust me, 5 year olds very rarely call me out on using a box cake mix over a scratch baked cake. Their beaming little faces covered in frosting are all the proof I need that sometimes, it’s ok.

So let’s get this red velvet cake made!


  • 1/4 cup dutch processed (dark) cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons red gel food coloring
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter ( softened)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2  1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda


Preheat oven to 325°. Line muffin pan with paper liners.

Whisk together cocoa powder, food coloring, and hot water. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and shortening until smooth. Scrape down bowl and add sugar. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir buttermilk and vanilla into the cooled cocoa mixture. Sift cake flour and salt together into another bowl. With the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture (in 3 parts) and the cocoa mixture (in 2 parts) to the egg mixture. Beat until incorporated.  Combine vinegar and baking soda and stir until baking soda dissolves; the mixture will fizz. Add to batter and stir until just combined.

Fill cupcake pans 2/3 full with batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan, and let cool completely.


So, of course I ended up with red food coloring up one arm and on the kitchen rug.  Still not sure how that happened!  These cakes are very light and fluffy due to the sifted cake flour. I topped and filled mine with my favourite crusting cream cheese buttercream and some decorator sugar and toppings I had on hand. I love the color with this recipe. I have made them in the past where they weren’t red enough but it helps to use the dutch processed cocoa powder because it’s darker than regular cocoa.

Don’t forget to try this recipe out making the Red Velvet & Cream Cheese Cake Balls, they’re delicious! Ok, so now I’m off to make a cuppa and maybe sneak one of these! ~ Colleen

Just in case I get busy in the next day or so!Merry Christmas from Cake Artisan

(25) Comments   


[…] Red Velvet Cake from Scratch! […]

Hanneke on 5 January, 2010 at 11:46 am #

Hi Colleen, thanks for stopping by my blog last month. I love your recipes and have signed up for emails.


Sandy on 17 January, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

Oh my! That does look delicious!

Welcome to SITS! It’s great to have you in the SITStahood!

joy on 17 January, 2010 at 6:32 pm #

What a perfect result!

p.s. Welcome to the SITS community!

Colleen on 17 January, 2010 at 7:10 pm #

Thank you Sandy & Joy! Have a great New Year!

greedygrace on 17 January, 2010 at 10:09 pm #

Sweet Heaven… there’s delicious goodness INSIDE the cupcake? Amazing!

I came by to welcome you to SITS! We’re happy to have you with us!

Colleen on 17 January, 2010 at 10:53 pm #

Thank you Grace! Yes, I like to add a little more deliciousness inside!

Martha at A Sense of Humor is Essential on 20 January, 2010 at 11:45 am #

YUMMY!! I love Red Velvet cake and use the mix too, but make the frosting from scratch. Thank you so much for the recipe, I appreciate it. Visiting from SITS.

Colleen on 20 January, 2010 at 11:56 am #

Hi Martha! Thank you for dropping in and saying hi! SITS is great!

carma on 24 January, 2010 at 11:18 am #

My husband made some red velvet from scratch years ago – didn’t come out quite as purdy as your’s did 😉

Welcome to SITS! We’re glad you joined.

zerrin on 27 February, 2010 at 6:22 pm #

This looks so lovely and yummy. We don’t have a red velvet cake mixture at the supermarkets here, sothis recipe will finely work for me. Thanks for sharing.

Kim Washington on 12 February, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

Great job, question how many cupcakes did this recipe yield?

Colleen on 12 February, 2011 at 6:06 pm #

Hi Kim! I usually overfill my cupcakes because I like them big with muffin tops so I probably get about 24 – 30 depending on how accurate I’m being with the mix. All the best!


Holly on 2 April, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

Do u think this recipe would be good for cake balls??

Colleen on 4 April, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

Hi Holly, This recipe is great for cake balls… I have made them using this recipe many times and they always work out well. One thing I have found though… day old cake works even better than fresh out of the oven… I have left cake sitting covered on the counter and then used it the next day. It just seems to have a slightly better consistency… not as moist I think.

Happy baking, Colleen 🙂

Sydne on 25 August, 2011 at 12:59 am #

Hey Colleen, thanks for the recipe….I’m an up and coming baker and I have been searching for a red velvet from scratch recipe. I’ll let you know how it taste….thanks agin!

julie on 12 November, 2011 at 3:33 pm #

I haven’t made it yet but it looks delicious and better than any others I’ve seen.

Colleen on 3 December, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

Thanks Julie, I sure hope you get to make it soon, it’s really yummy!

Cheers, Colleen

Rebecca on 27 December, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

I’ve been trying out different Red Velvet recipes and they are all relativly the same. But for some reason my cakes always come out too dense and dry and sometimes hard at the edges. Am I overbaking? Should I exclude the egg whites? I’d rather not go back to boxed cake but I’m clearly doing something wrong. I appreciate your advice. Thanks

Colleen on 12 February, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

Rebecca, it does sound like your oven may run hot if the cake is dry and crispy at the edges. Your cake top can also burst or crack from too much flour, too little liquid, or improper mixing. If it is too dense it can mean a couple of things.. either the oven is too cool or you may need more leavening or liquid, or you may have used too much sugar or shortening. Sorry that I don’t have an exact answer but hopefully these tips might help. Be sure to measure exactly when baking as it can make a difference.

Jennifer on 8 May, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

Can you also make a cake out of this instead of cupcakes?

Colleen on 8 May, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

Hey Jennifer, You sure can make a whole cake instead of cupcakes. As I’m sure you realize, just adjust the time as you would for any larger cake. I use a skewer to check for test if I have any doubt. I always say I can smell a cake when it’s cooked… Best of luck and thanks for dropping by!

Jennifer on 9 May, 2012 at 8:37 pm #

Thank you so much!

Semahal on 14 July, 2013 at 11:29 am #

Is there any possible way i can use this recipe without veg shortining

Colleen on 14 July, 2013 at 11:40 am #

Absolutely! I always think I’m so clever I don’t need to check the recipe and many times have forgotten to add the shortening! I can’t tell any difference and I actually leave it out most of the time so go for it! Happy baking! Colleen

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