red velvet cake comparison


I started thinking about a Valentine’s Day blog post as soon as I pulled these heart-shaped silicone baking cups out of my Christmas stocking. And if you’re making heart-shaped cupcakes, they should be bright red. And if you’re making heart-shaped bright red cupcakes, they should be covered in heart-shaped pink and red sprinkles. My philosophy toward Valentine’s Day is, if you’re going to do it, overdo it.


What’s weird is that the closest I can remember to eating red velvet cake is these whoopie pies that I made a couple months ago. In fact, I didn’t even know that red velvet cake existed until college, when one of my professors told me a story about someone throwing it up on her carpet and the stain never coming out.


My lack of red velvet cake experience is even stranger considering that my mom was recently telling me about a great recipe that my grandmother has for it. My sister made that recipe recently and said it was a little dry, but she’s baking at high altitude, which makes cakes prone to problems. I wanted to give the recipe a try myself.


But Deb has a recipe she recommends as well, and I’ve had very good experiences with almost everything I’ve made from her site. And Kelsey describes herself as a red velvet cake enthusiast, and she recently found a recipe she loves. And Cooks Illustrated (via Cooks Country, their slightly less OCD magazine) has a recipe, and in general their stuff is worth trying.


Four recipes, all highly recommended from trusted sources. There was no good way for me to choose just one, so this seemed like a perfect opportunity to spend an entire evening baking something as simple as cupcakes do a recipe comparison.


Before I discuss detailed comparisons between each, let me cut to the chase and tell you that every single cake was really good, both in taste and texture. There were differences, but they were subtle. Dave and I had a hard time choosing favorites. That being said, once I ate enough cupcakes, preferences started to emerge.

In the discussion below, I will use the following abbreviations: SK for Smitten Kitchen; G for my grandmother’s recipe; AD for Apple a Day, and CC for Cooks Country.


Effort: None of the cakes were exceptionally difficult. AD was the simplest – the dry and wet ingredients were mixed separately, then combined in the mixer. SK and G called for the vinegar and baking soda to be mixed together before being added to the already-mixed remaining ingredients, which I’d never seen before. And G and CC call for the cocoa and food coloring to be stirred into a paste initially, which Cooks Country explains is to distribute the cocoa more evenly.

copy-of-img_1907from left to right: SK, AD, G, CC

Color: While the shades of red vary, all of the cakes are definitely red. I have no preference. I should note that I used a little less food coloring in G and SK than the recipes called for, because I thought I was going to run out. Even so, I think their color is fine.

copy-of-img_1911from left to right: SK, AD, G, CC

Texture: While I wouldn’t call any of the cakes dry, G did seem less moist than the others. This isn’t surprising considering that it uses the least fat of these recipes and only a third of the fat of one of them (AD). AD and SK, both of which used oil as the fat, were perhaps a little moister than CC and G, which call for butter. None of the cakes were too dense, but SK and CC seemed especially fluffy. I was expecting a different texture in CC compared to the rest, because it was the only recipe that called for all-purpose instead of cake flour, but it wasn’t noticeable.


Taste: One thing that I think it important to note about Red Velvet cake, that Cooks Country clarifies in their article, is that it not meant to be a chocolate cake. The small amount of cocoa is just there to provide the red color. Unfortunately, CC’s cake was my least favorite. I think it’s because of one very small difference between their recipe and the others – the rest call for a teaspoon of salt, CC has just a pinch in it. The flavor of this cake was definitely muted compared to the others. The rest were all really good. SK calls for over twice as much cocoa as the others, which was enough so that I could actually taste a little chocolatiness. I like chocolate of course, but in this case, it masked that classic Red Velvet tanginess. AD and G tasted somewhat similar, but I think G had a little bit of a metallic taste to it (which I have no explanation for).

So, in the end, I choose AD (found through Kelsey’s Apple a Day and originally from Saveur) as my favorite, for its moistness, its bright, pinky red color, the ease with which it comes together, and especially its sweet but tangy flavor.

Update 2/15/09: When BMK pointed me in the direction of another oft-recommended Red Velvet cake recipe, I used amazing restraint in waiting a whole 6 hours before I tried it. The Pastry Queen’s recipe uses butter instead of oil as the fat, and it includes sour cream. Other than the sour cream and calling for both all-purpose and cake flour, the ingredient list was similar to the other recipes I tried.

copy-of-img_2003top – Pastry Queen; bottom – Apple a Day

I generally prefer butter over oil in desserts, and I think sour cream makes cakes really tender, so I was pre-disposed toward liking the Pastry Queen’s cake. And it really was great – fluffy, moist, tangy, even-textured (although it doesn’t look like that here – the recipe specifically warns not to overbake the cupcakes, so of course I underbaked them). However, in the end, I still preferred the recipe from Kelsey’s Apple A Day, originally from Saveur, which also has great texture, and I like the flavor a little more. But this is definitely a personal preference – you can’t go wrong with either recipe. Next time I might experiment with using the ingredients from AD, substituting butter for the oil, and using the mixing method from the Pastry Queen’s recipe.

copy-of-img_2005left – Pastry Queen; right – Apple a Day

One year ago: A comparison of four vanilla frostings

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (from Saveur via Apple a Day)

Makes 1 8-inch 3-layer cake

After making this recipe a few times, I’m finding that it’s actually too moist from all that oil.  A number of commenters have agreed.  When I make the recipe now, I often reduce to the oil to 1 to 1¼ cups.

For the cake:
2½ cups (10 ounces) cake flour
1½ cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil (see note)
1 cup buttermilk
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

For the frosting:
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
12 ounces butter, softened
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1½ cups chopped pecans (optional)

1. For the cake: Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, and salt into a medium bowl.

3. Beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add dry ingredients and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

4. Divide batter evenly between 3 greased and floured 8″ round cake pans.

5. Bake cakes, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean, 25-30 minutes. Let cakes cool 5 minutes, then invert each onto a plate, then invert again onto a cooling rack. Let cakes cool completely.

6. For the frosting: Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 5-7 minutes.

4. Put 1 cake layer on a cake plate, level off with a serrated knife, and spread one-quarter of the frosting on top. Set another layer on top, level, and repeat frosting. Set remaining layer on top, level, and frost top and sides with the remaining frosting. Press pecans into the sides of the cake, if desired. **Tip: after leveling cake, turn it upside down to reduce numbers of crumbs. I also did a crumb coat on the outside, let it set for ten minutes, then finished with remaining frosting.

5. Chill for 2 hours to set frosting.

Red Velvet Cake (from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook” by Elisa Strauss via the New York Times 2/14/07)

Bridget note: This is the frosting that I used. It was great. (I’ve never met a homemade cream cheese frosting that I didn’t like.) Also, note that this recipe makes 50% more than the others.

Makes 1 9-inch 3-layer cake

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
3½ cups (14 ounces) cake flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
1½ teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2¼ cups (15.75 ounces) granulated sugar
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring or 1 teaspoon red gel food coloring dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
1½ teaspoons vanilla
1¼ cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2½ teaspoons white vinegar.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place teaspoon of butter in each of 3 round 9-inch layer cake pans and place pans in oven for a few minutes until butter melts. Remove pans from oven, brush interior bottom and sides of each with butter and line bottoms with parchment.

2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.

3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.

5. Divide batter among pans, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans 20 minutes. Then remove from pans, flip layers over and peel off parchment. Cool completely before frosting.

Red Cake (from my grandmother)

Makes 1 9-inch 2-layer cake

My grandmother isn’t known for adding a lot of detail to her recipes. I’ve added some.

Also, the frosting here isn’t the cream cheese frosting you usually see associated with red velvet cakes these days. Instead, it’s based on a cooked flour mixture similar to this.

2 ounces red food coloring
2 tablespoon cocoa
2¼ cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup shortening (I used butter of course), softened
1½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350C. Butter and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Make a paste out of the food coloring and the cocoa. Mix together the flour and salt.

2. Cream shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs, one a time, then the vanilla. Mix in food coloring paste. Add a third of the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk, a third of the flour, half the buttermilk, and ending with the rest of the flour. Holding a small dish over the mixing bowl, add vinegar to baking soda, pouring it into the mixing bowl as it foams. (The original recipe now says “Beat as you would any cake.” That’s helpful!) Beat at medium speed for 30 seconds.

3. Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool slightly in pans, then invert the cakes onto a cooling rack. When cool, split each later in two and frost.


3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter

Cook flour and milk until thick. Cool. Cream butter and sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Blend the creamed mixture into cooked mixture. Beat. The longer you beat it, the better it gets.

Red Velvet Cake (from Cooks Country Dec 2006/Jan 2007)

Serves 12

CC note: The recipe must be prepared with natural cocoa powder. Dutch-processed cocoa will not yield the proper color or rise.

2¼ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking soda
Pinch salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
12 tablespoons (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1½ cups granulated sugar

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
4 cups confectioners’ sugar
16 ounces cream cheese, cut into 8 pieces, softened
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
Pinch salt

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans. Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and eggs in large measuring cup. Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until a smooth paste forms.

2. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary. Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add half of buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down bowl as necessary and repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally remaining flour mixture. Scrape down bowl, add cocoa mixture, and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated, about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula, give batter final stir. Scrape into prepared pans and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes then turn out onto rack to cool completely, at least 30 minutes.

3. For the frosting: With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, one piece at a time, and beat until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Beat in vanilla and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

4. When cakes are cooled, spread about 2 cups frosting on one cake layer. Top with second cake layer and spread top and sides of cake with remaining frosting. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, up to 3 days.


  1. bakingblonde says:

    I love you for this recipe, Red Velvet cake is one of my all time faves!! Can’t wait to try it!

  2. Beautiful job on the cupcakes and I love your comparisons. I find them very valuable and really appreciate the time and effort you put forth to save many fellow bakers the time and trouble of figuring out what recipe to try among so many to choose from. Well done and thank you for your informative post! 🙂

  3. I’ll take on of each please 🙂

  4. A week or two ago I made red velvet whoopie pies in the shape of hearts. I found that it was pretty hard and a lot of work. I had forgotten that cake-type dough is a LOT stickier than cookie dough (which is what I’m used to) and had to make each individual heart by hand. They’re weren’t bad, nor really ill-formed. I’m a mild perfectionist.

    (We used your previous red velvet, but thought it was too sweet. I think that’s because we’re a salt lovers, and sugary cake plus sugary icing is just a tad too much. Although that’s probably a good thing, so we don’t eat them all at once.)

  5. Love your comparisons. So thorough and detailed! The heart shaped cupcakes are adorable. I guess its not a bad problem to have that you made three sets of very yummy cupcakes! I’ve heard that many people like Rebecca Rather’s recipe from the Pastry Queen. I’m trying to figure out if the red food coloring can be omitted without affecting the cake. We avoid artificial colors and I can’t get past the use of a whole bottle in most recipes. I guess I could always sub in an ounce of water to make up for the lost liquid.

  6. OMGosh! So, FIRST of all, you KNOW how I LOVE your comparison posts. I seriously pph them. Secondly, I was going to make red velvet cupcakes last night and was sooooo mad this morning b/c I didn’t have time. But you’ve made me feel SO much better now! Now I’ll make the Saveur recipe and KNOW it’s the best! Thank you x 100 and Happy Valentine’s Day, Bridget! 🙂

  7. You’re my hero! I’ll definitely be referencing this post in the future.

  8. Every time you do one of these recipe comparisons, I feel the need to bookmark it. Then I tell myself I should try comparing recipes sometime. And I never do. Luckily, you keep doing it for me 🙂 Fabulous!

  9. Thats for that test Bridget! I’ve always wanted to make red velvet cake, but there were just too many recipes to choose from. Even though CC was your least favourite, was it because of taste? I really like how it uses all purpose flour instead of cake flour while not sacrificing texture. Do you think adding more salt will bring the flours out more?

  10. ” My philosophy toward Valentine’s Day is, if you’re going to do it, overdo it.”

    Amen to that!! 😀

  11. BMK – It looks like Rebecca Rather’s recipe is significantly different from all four of these, which only had small differences between them. Now I’m trying to resist going and making some right now to see the difference.

    Also, while I generally try to avoid food coloring as well, I’m willing to make an exception once in a while for something like this. To reduce the amount, you could try doubling the cocoa. (You may want to check out Deb’s recipe actually, since it uses quite a bit of cocoa.) Two of these recipes used twice as much food coloring as the others, but I thought they all had a nice red color, so I think 1 ounce (which is still a lot) is plenty for a 3-layer cake. And I’ve heard that people have tried using beets, but the cakes ended up tasting too much like beets.

    Steph – The only problem I had with Cook’s Country’s recipe was the flat taste, and yes, I think increasing the salt would easily solve that. I’m kind of kicking myself for not using the same amount that the other recipes called for in the first place, but I wanted to follow the recipes exactly for the comparison.

  12. Wow! What a task! Great job!

  13. Ah, I love these… I especially love the comparison pics. Well, congratulations to AD! 😉 Especially since it’s the simplest. But I guess if you were looking for a lower-fat recipe, Grandma’s would do 🙂 (so you can double up on the cream cheese frosting!) But I still wouldn’t do the paste thing. There seems to be no problem mixing it in with the flour anyway!

  14. What a wonderful comparison!! Red velvet cake is my absolute favorite!!

  15. Thanks for the reply Bridgett! I’m going to try the CC version b/c I like how it’s butter based and uses all purpose flour. For some reason even though oil based cakes are more moist, the crumb seems to be a little coarser and less tender (or it could just the be recipes I’m using)

    If I don’t have buttermilk, do you think it’s ok that I make it using the 1tbsp + 1 cup of milk method. That way, I’ll end up having 2 tbsp of vinegar in the recipe though… I wonder if that’s ok.

  16. Steph – I think the clabbered milk trick would work, but it might not be quite as good as if you used buttermilk. The buttermilk flavor kind of comes through in the cake (at least for all them except the one from Smitten Kitchen, which was more chocolately).

  17. Wow, you are quite thorough! Thanks for all the good info!

  18. Thank u for saving me a lot of research time! I just made red velvet cheesecake for the first time, and consider it a success! Next up with be your top pick for the cake version. Thks again – I can see it was a LOT of work. And ingredients aren’t that cheap these days!

  19. Hey! great job with the side-by-side comparisons! love the pics!

  20. apinchofthisandthat says:

    That was a great comparison, I really enjoyed it! Great photos too, great style…

  21. I just love your comparison posts! The cupcakes look beautiful. I love the heart shape. I made Deb’s recipe a while ago and really liked it, but I’ve also been wanting to try Cake Man Raven’s recipe too. I’ll have to make that one next time since you gave it such great reviews!

  22. What a smart post.

    I’ve drooled over red velvet cake but never made it.

    I think I’ll brave the land of baking.

    thank you for this.

  23. The different shades of red are stunning! I bet it was fun getting to taste all of them. 🙂

  24. i loveee the heart-shape cupcake liners!:)

  25. Love everything about this post – right from the adorable heart shaped muffin liners to the details of each recipe tested. I’m floored. Stumbled it for future reference as well. I’ve never made a red velet cupcake and when I do decide to finally make it, I’m definitely coming back to this. 🙂

  26. I love love these posts. I really like the way the SK cake looks and sounds, now I know which to try if I get a hankering for some red velvet.

  27. josie says:

    Thank you so much for the comparison! I’ve been struggling with RV recipes for months. Can’t wait to give it another whirl 🙂

  28. Beautiful photos. You are seriously doing a service to all of us for checking out and comparing these recipes 🙂 I wonder where all the non-tester cupcakes went…?

  29. Wow, what an effort! Thanks so much for taking on this task for all of our benefit. At least you got to enjoy *many* sweet rewards. I just pulled red velvet cupcakes out of the oven – I used the recipe on Pinch My Salt ( and they’re looking pretty great!

  30. Chris – I only made 1/4 of each of the recipes, so it’s not quite as many cupcakes as it sounds like. Still, I’m a little red velveted-out at this point, and my freezer is stocked with enough dessert for weeks!

  31. Excellent post, thanks for sharing your research and results! Happy Valentine’s Day!

  32. Mmmm… this looks like an experiment I would be happy to take part in!! Red Velvet is my fave cake of all time. Will definitely bookmark!

  33. What a great comparison, Bridget! I’m so honored you trusted me enough to try my favorite recipe and I’m even happier you liked it!

  34. I was JUST looking for a recipe so this comparison is VERY helpful!!!

  35. Simply beautiful. I would love to know where to buy these lovely heart shape silicone cupcakes baking cups.

  36. I’ve always wanted to do this comparison, but never had the time, this was very helpful!

  37. ShoeFanatic614 says:

    Thank you so much for this! I have been wanting to make these for quite some time but was unsure which recipe to use. Your comparison was exactly what I needed. I made the ones from Apple A Day and they were divine! Love your blog!

  38. I don’t know if this is a stupid question or not, but how did you make only 1/4 of each recipe? That must’ve been a lot of math!

    And don’t the pros always say that you can’t do that with baking, since it’s all about formulas and such?

    I’m sorry, I don’t mean to sound like a smart aleck! But I wouldn’t mind trying all of the recipes above as well (just to see which one suits my taste best), so I’m just wondering how I could do that without having hundreds of cupcakes on my hands! (Not that my pals and neighbors would mind…)

  39. Lisa – I made 1/4 of each recipe. Yes, supposedly you’re not supposed to cut recipes down, but I do it all the time, and I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem. I guess it helps that I have a good scale and measure everything I can by weight.

  40. Jessica says:

    I LOVE red velvet cake! I haven’t tried as many recipes as you have. When I lived in Florida we drove to Sanibel Island every year for my birthday so I could have Red Velvet from The Bubble Room!!

    I found the recipe on epicurian and I think it is so good (and it disappear pretty quickly when I make it!).

    Here’s a link:

    Love your comparison!!!

  41. Cathy says:

    Do any of you know what to do for high altitude baking (to adjust this recipe?) I want to make it tonight for a co-workers birthday. Thanks!

  42. bridget says:

    Cathy – All I can offer are some general rules for high-altitude baking. Tricks to try include increasing the flour, decreasing the fat, and decreasing the leavener (baking powder or soda or whatever). Also, be sure to grease the pan well and line it with parchment (for layers, not cupcakes), because things tend to stick more at high altitude. If it were me, I wouldn’t change anything drastically – maybe 1.25 cups oil and 2.75 cups flour? Good luck!

  43. Eliza says:

    Bridget – did you change your oven temp or baking time for cupcakes vs. a pan?

  44. bridget says:

    Eliza – I only changed the baking time. Cupcakes take about 15-22 minutes.

  45. Hi
    What is the difference between red paste and colouring and gel ?
    Followed the SK recipe, and poured in 3 tbs of red liquid(per recipe), colour was an intense russet red. What is the difference with using red paste ? Is it the same as red gel ? So dilute ?
    Will try the AD version next . Thanks, YF.

  46. Sorry, typos , I meant I poured in 6 tbs(not 3 tbs) of red food colouring liquid into the SK recipe and would like to know what is the difference between using red colour paste and red colour liquid ? Tx.

  47. bridget says:

    Lim Yueh Fen – The liquid stuff you used came in a little squeeze bottle, right? The gel comes in a tiny canister or plastic jar. It’s commonly used for frosting, and is available at craft stores.

  48. Found you when I googled red velvet cake. Obviously I clicked the right place. I’m baking my own birthday cake this year because I want red velvet. See you tomorrow when I come back to actually make it. Thanks for all the comparisons! Looking forward to trying them.

  49. Hey Bridget,
    I just noticed this and was wondering if you had Grandma’s red cake recipe? It is my favorite cake ever!!! Thanks, Erica

  50. bridget says:

    Erica – It’s listed up above! It’s the third one of the four recipes.

  51. Nicole says:

    Hello!! Thank you so much for this comparison, it was just what I was looking for. My sis wanted red velvet cupcakes for her birthday. Since the AD recipe was your favorite I chose it. I followed the recipe to the letter and…they just did not taste right. Sorta of oily just nondescript sorta bland, just did not taste right flavor. They were not terrible, everybody ate one. Maybe just a family personal preference? Any suggestions?, I followed the recipe to the letter. On a side note we have a coffee shop that makes amazing red velvet cupcakes, so I think we could be spoiled. I definitely want to try the other recipes.
    Again, thank you!

  52. Daisypicker5 says:

    I made a red velvet cake last weekend using this recipe and the cake turned out really nicely. I want to make the cake into cup cakes the next time though like you did. The hearts are so cute!!

  53. Responding to Nicole’s comment, I tried AD and SK, definitely preferred the latter for taste and texture! Please use cultured buttermilk as opposed to substituting milk with vinegar or lemon juice as the tangy sharp taste comes through. Also, whilst original SK recipe is v moist, and yummy, some friends preferred it with extra 1/4 cup of cocoa powder, more tasty was what they said . Enjoy !

  54. cindy says:

    I just found this site. Where is the pastry queen recipe? I wanted to compare that one to apple a day. Thanks for doing this I have been trying to find a good recipe for red velvet ake forever.

  55. Is it me…or is the frosting ingredients and recipe missing from the Smitten Kitchen recipe?

  56. Hope Nealson says:

    So the cooked flour frosting of your grandmother’s recipe was definitely the old school recipe for Red Velvet, and the correct (and most tasty) one! You just can NOT use cream cheese frosting on red cake. It is an insult. That cake is made to GO WITH THE FROSTING. The frosting is just as important as the red velvet, and a whole other blog entry could be dedicated to perfecting that frosting, which is REALLY easy to screw up. That said, I loved the comparisons, thanks!

  57. THANK YOU!!! I could NOT decide on which Red Velvet recipe from Tastespotting to use, and you pointed me in a good direction. I’m actually going with SK’s but with a little less cocoa; the red color is good and they turned out nicely rounded.

  58. I found your site and was going to make a red velvet cake recipe from your comparisons if any recipe . . . and then I made up my own! I’ve never really liked red velvet cake, but everyone commented how yummy mine was – I even liked it. I used butter, not oil, mayonnaise, sour cream and actual melted chocolate instead of cocoa. The only thing I did the same was throw in a tsp of vinegar. My frosting had Mascarpone cheese in it too and real vanilla bean – it was a hit. If you ever do another comparison, I’d give you my recipe because I’d be interested to know what you thought =)

  59. PLYSMB says:

    I was looking to make Red Velvet Cake this Halloween as I thought the blood red color would be great for a Halloween party. I am so very thankful for your comparison and all your details. I was so excited to find someone who had taken all the time with the comparison. I made the cupcakes and while they were good, I knew they were not the Red Velvet I grew up. Also, cream cheese frosting on Red Velvet? No, no, no. Only the Red Velvet cooked flour frosting is THE Red Velvet frosting. People were interested in the Red Velvet Cake at the Halloween party as not many had it before, but I knew there was better. Still not being able to find the RV recipe that my dad loved, in my own recipes, I searched further. And just on Christmas morn, I found *the* Red Velvet recipe that I think should be tops on this blog. It’s very similar to Grandmother’s recipe listed here but it has more vinegar and more cocoa and it’s *THE* best; it’s the one that I grew up with . . . full of flavor and color. See . And do not be afraid of the Red Velvet Frosting. Don’t be put off by the details like the waxed paper on the milk mixture to cool it or the time for cooling, etc. The waxed paper secret is so that it does not develop a film across the top, just like you do with lemon curd. Once you have the RV cake at this other link, with the real Red Velvet frosting, you’ll understand why these go together so well. Nothing against the recipes on this blog, but if I can recommend one to try and eval, please try this one at

  60. Nicole says:

    This was a very delish cake. I made it for a friend for Christmas and she related the taste to a very popular diners red velvet cake. Of course, I was stoked. This would be a very good wedding cake.

  61. melissa blanco says:

    hello, i am making the red velvet cake from apple a day. But my frosting is coming out watery. i did as the directions asked, but it is really watery. and not sticking to the cake as it is suppose to be. HELP PLZ!

  62. bridget says:

    melissa – I don’t understand why it would be watery, as the only liquid in the recipe is a tiny bit of extract. If you just mean that it isn’t firm enough, you can try chilling it or adding more powdered sugar.

  63. Lauren says:

    My question is more related to the silicone cups – do you leave the cupcakes in them to serve? Or take them out?

  64. bridget says:

    Lauren – I’ve done both. I think it depends mostly on the situation.

  65. Red Velvet cakes have such a distinct taste, but they are so delicious especially when they are topped off with smooth cream cheese icing. Great comparison, great recipes! Thanks!

  66. Rachel says:

    Thank you so much for doing this! It’s nice that someone else can spend their time and ingredients to help me find the perfect recipe, haha! I’ve decided, based on your descriptions that I will use AD recipe, but with an extra T of cocoa for a darker color. I’ve been looking for an oil based recipe, and this sounds perfect. Thanks!

  67. RVClover says:

    I keep reading all the blogs and not one of them tell you how they taste. All I see is “how cute”, How pretty” “looks stunning”, “looks delicious”. You guys need to make the cake and blog about how it looks as far as texture, taste, richness, color, etc. It would be very helpful.

  68. yummy Cake This looks delicious and lovely too heart shape muffins. this is simply a best post. I am really enjoy reading your post. Thanks for sharing.

  69. Phyllis says:

    Just ran into your blog for the first time today.

    You are truly doing amazing things, and I imagine that a world of Foodies thank you for your efforts. I appreciate all of the detail, photos, and commentary. In a day and age when we no longer have the neighbor over the back fence to talk recipes with, your kind of blog is a welcome transition.

  70. Hello! I am a red velvet connoisseur. Red velvet cake is my signature dish, and I’ve tried many, many recipes in many, many variations over the years. When my grandmother died, I got the best inheritance of all – her red velvet recipe. It was different from any other in my cookbooks, it called for SO MUCH oil – and Canola oil only, my dear. The first time I made it I was in heaven. It was exactly what I’d been trying to replicate for years.

    Guess what? The winning cake is the same as her recipe verbatim. I was stunned. I was sure when I started reading this post I would get to the recipes and think, “yeah. You all still suck. You will never know the secret of red velvet perfection.” Boy, was I wrong! Yes, you picked the best one. Good job! And the traditional frosting my very Southern grandma INVARIABLY used?!? Cream cheese frosting from scratch.

  71. Bridget, thanks for this. I am making one this weekend !! 🙂

  72. Dawn Pamela says:

    Thanks soooo much for your detailed recipes! The pics of the cakes and taste comparisons were fantastic and helped me to decide which cake to bake based on oil vs. butter recipes.


  73. Fayanne says:

    I was planning on making red velvet cupcakes today as a surprise for my husband. If you were to substitute butter for oil, what amount would you put? 1/2 cup, 1 cup? Thank you!

  74. bridget says:

    Fayanne – Exchanging butter for oil in a cake recipe will dramatically change the outcome. If you’d like to use oil, I would make Saveur’s recipe as is. If you’d like you use butter, I would make the Pastry Queen’s recipe (click the link in the post for the recipe). If you are determined to make a substitution, use the same amount of fat called for (1 cup = 16 tablespoons) in the recipe.

  75. Chloe says:

    I made the Cooks Country version as mini-cupcakes with vanilla frosting for a Valentine’s treat- the butter sold me. I bumped up the salt and added a touch of cinnamon and cayenne pepper as part of a Red Hots theme. It wasn’t noticeable, so I didn’t mention it. By adding more, I’m sure someone could make it noticeable.

    Interesting note, as a dedicated batter-eater, I was mortified at the horrible batter. It was like a metallic salt lick.

    After baking, though? Light, fluffy buttery goodness.

  76. I’m new to baking of Red Velvet cakes. My first go around, I used this recipe, which calls for butter:

    I wanted to try an oil based recipe, so went with the AK as that’s the you liked the best in your taste testing. I didn’t do a batch of the pinch my salt ones for a direct comparison, but as cup cakes, the wife and I agree that we prefer the butter based recipe. It’s a little drier, has a different mouth feel and the butter milk comes through a little more. If I did the AK recipe again, I’d probably try cutting the oil back by a third.

    Thanks for all the wonderful work you put into this article!

  77. Bruce says:

    Hi Bridget,

    I wanted to thank you for your blog article on Red Velvet Cupcakes. I made them today with my granddaughters aged 6 and 8. They both helped me make the cupcakes and they loved them. I actually got a “thumbs up” (makes me a very happy grandpa!!!!) from the 6 year old and that makes this an extraordinary recipe ( she is very discerning about her food).

  78. Monica T says:

    THANK YOU! I have been fiddling with red velvet recipes this entire week for a birthday cake this Saturday. All the recipes I’ve tried so far have been horrible. Seeing that I’ve only eaten red velvet cake maybe 3 times my entire life, I was beginning to question if maybe it just wasn’t my taste…but then again it’s not for my birthday. Some recipes had way too much chocolate. Some tasted too bitter. Some came out like cornbread but tasted good. Some had fluffy consistency but tasted horrible. Then I came across your blog here and was happy to see that someone who actually likes red velvet did the comparisons for me. Thank you for your details and pictures. I’ve decided to go with the AD recipe only I ran out of buttermilk so used part it and part sour cream. Sure it should be fine as I’m a huge fan of cakes with sour cream anyway. Hadn’t been feeling the butter in the other recipes I’ve tried so was happy to see the AD recipe used oil. Used your suggestion and scaled back on it, especially since I live in a humid climate and am also going to freeze it to retain moisture anyway. The batter was delicious so I’m hoping the cake will be great.

  79. Monica T. says:

    Tasted the AD cake and it was AMAZING! Red Velvet is now my favorite cake! The texture and taste were out of this world for me. I did follow the suggestion of reducing the oil. I reduced to 1 and 1/8 cup. I did 3/4 cup buttermilk and 1/4 cup sour cream simply because I ran out of buttermilk. Best red velvet.

  80. Britt says:

    Hi Bridget!
    So earlier this year a girlfriend of mine commissioned me to make her wedding cake – I was honored & accepted (though it is my first one). I wanted her to have an experience that no bakery would ever give her so I gave her a list & told her to pick any & I would make them for her to sample. I ended up making her about 8 cakes & her hands down favorite was AD’s version of Red Velvet. I think it’s going to look gorgeous as a wedding cake! Though the recipe only makes an 8 in cake… I’m nervous on doubling, etc. It’s going to be a 3 tiered cake, 14″,12″,8″ – The 8″ won’t be a problem but I don’t know how to scale the recipe for a 14″ pan. Any suggestions would be GREATLY appreciated. I don’t want to just go onto a scaling site because I know every cake is different. Help (please)!

    Britt 🙂

  81. Alvin says:

    Tried Chocolate Cake From this, Believe me it was awesome!

  82. Phoebe says:

    this is amazing! lovely post

  83. as if this hasnt been mentioned already, but good job on the experiment! I’ve been trying to find time on my own to come up with grocery store red velvet cake. Its a bit more dense and when you fridge it, it gets hard, but allow it to get to room temp and its so moist. BTW heres a good recipe for the frosting (i’m not a big fan of cream cheese for cakes),176,156168-255195,00.html

  84. Twister says:

    what do you think of the recipe on

  85. Oliva May says:

    I only wish I’d found this comparison before following an awful recipe for red velvet cake on Christmas day!

  86. HaideeBakes says:

    This is my 1st time on your blog Bridget,, but can I just saw I love you for this article?? Am so stocked to try your winner now as I have been researching ALL WEEK!! You’ve sooo save me time and money with this. God bless you!! I’ll let you how the AD recipe (without the cream cheese unfortunately) turns out in my tropical country. Thank you again!!

  87. Delicious!

  88. Delicious! Looks amazing.

  89. Ashley says:

    These were very greasy. I even reduced the amount of oil but the cupcake liners were stained with grease and wet to the touch. On the other hand, they were very moist haha.

  90. have you considered trying the RV Cake recipe from It’s amazing 🙂

  91. Katie F. says:

    Question: I’m about to make a red velvet cake for a bridal shower. I plan to use your grandmother’s non cream cheese icing. Do I need to refrigerate the cake bc the icing has milk and if so, how long do you think it would take to reach room temp? Please help! Thanks!! 🙂

  92. Katie F. – You don’t need to refrigerate it, at least for just overnight.

  93. The are cute and cool heart shaped cupcakes.

  94. Sonya says:

    It’s fun (and validating) to see someone else do the sorts of perfectionistic things that I do. I love taste tests, too! The hardest one was doing yellow cakes because the differences were so subtle and I made 6 recipes! But in general, whether it’s sweet or savory, comparing things has really helped me to tell which flavors my husband and I like, and why, and it brings out differences in a way I could never tell if I was tasting things 6 months apart. Glad to see I’m not alone in my quest for the best desserts 🙂

  95. For the 3 layer 8inch cake. If I put the batter in two 9 inch cake pans, how long will I bake it?

  96. Katie – It’s hard to say. It’ll take a little longer since the cakes will be both wider and taller. I’d say at least 5 minutes longer but probably not more than fifteen, but you’ll need to keep an eye on it as it bakes.

  97. Thank you so so much for this post! I had to bake a batch of RV cupcakes for a friend’s birthday. I initially used Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe – to my horror – the cakes were too dense and almost gummy!
    Your recipe was a LIFESAVER because it was easy to put together in a pinch, and the cupcakes turned out super moist and fluffy.
    A fellow baking aficionado says her no fail recipe is Magnolia Bakery’s! Have you tried it? 🙂

  98. Doreen says:

    The actual owner and name of the recipe Kelsey and Saveur use on their page/website you used in your comparison belongs to CAKEMAN RAVEN Southern Red Velvet Cake. Kelsey has the credit on her page in red lettering. How conveniently it’s ommitted from yours. Hmmmmm. I will notify him.

  99. Sonya says:

    Somebody woke up on the wrong side of the bed – geez! I hope that last comment didn’t sting too much, you clearly gave credit left and right. I think that this review is really awesome and keep them up 🙂

  100. Doreen – I’m not sure what advantage there would be to me by claiming the recipe is Saveur’s and not Cake Man Raven’s, considering that I never claimed it was my own. Saveur apparently adapted the recipe from Cake Man Raven’s, so I’m not comfortable claiming the recipe is his since I don’t now how similar it is to the original.

    Sonya – Thanks. 🙂

  101. Suzie Senk says:

    Hi – I am trying to determine which of two red velvet cake recipes to use for my son’s upcoming birthday this Sunday.
    We’re sensitive to caffeine so I found two recipes on a blog that omit the cocoa (heresy – I know!) Would you be willing to work with me to determine which of the two I have is likely to turn out best? I’m not an expert baker and I’ve never made a red velvet cake before. I don’t really have the time to test the recipe prior so I want to do the best I can to get it right the first time. If you’re able to help, I’d be super grateful if you would be willing to send me a private email so that we can work together either by phone or email.

    Thank you so much!

  102. Suzie Senk – The cocoa is what traditionally makes a red velvet cake, but these days, when red food coloring is included in the recipes, the cocoa really isn’t so important. I would recommend making the Saveur recipe here, replacing the 1 tablespoon cocoa with 1 tablespoon of flour. The SK recipe is high in cocoa for a red velvet cake and wouldn’t be as good a candidate for leaving the cocoa out.

  103. Millie Young says:

    Hwllo. I made my first red velvet cakes this week. My daughter was making them to sell. While the cake was good, red velvety taste was missing. I then remembered Daniel using oil instead of butter and that I could only eat a few pieces because of the richness. 34 years later I find the answer from you with the AD recipe. I plan to make the AD recipe. However, I wanted to know what sour cream does to the red velvet recipe because my daughter used sour cream.


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  23. […] seen on The Way the Cookie Crumbles From Apple a Day, who adapted it Share this:PrintEmailFacebookStumbleUponDigg […]

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  25. […] originally from Apple a Day adapted from Saveur, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles, frosting adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride […]

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