Blue-Ribbon Red Velvet Cake with Creamy Vanilla Frosting

I have long thought red velvet cake was about the most boring cake I’ve ever tasted, and figured there must be something I’m missing. A few years ago I offered to make the birthday cake for a friend of mine and she said red velvet was her favorite. After playing around with several recipes, taking the best parts of several of them, I came up with this version and it won a blue ribbon at the Kentucky State Fair in 2010! It’s now my favorite cake. The frosting for this cake is an old-time recipe — it is really nothing more than gravy (white sauce) with sugar in it! Make it exactly per these directions — there are two points where you will have serious doubts that this is going to work. The first is when the flour and milk start to boil. The mixture will go from very thin to very thick in an instant and that is when you should remove it from the heat. The second is when you remove the waxed paper from the cooled mixture and try to add it to the creamed butter and sugar. The mixture is pure glue at that point, and it will stick to your fingers and spoon and pan like crazy. Don’t despair — just do your best to scrape it all into the butter and you will be amazed at the transformation that will appear next. It is an unbelievably light and fluffy frosting, not as sticky as the normal confectioners’ sugar kind.
By | March 01, 2011


  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Grease and lightly flour three 9- by 2-inch round cake pans, then line the bottoms with waxed paper, or put 30 cupcake papers in muffin pans.
  2. To make the cake: Sift the flour into a small bowl or onto waxed paper. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the red food coloring, cocoa, espresso powder, vanilla and salt and beat until fully incorporated.
  3. Add the buttermilk to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
  4. Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. (Cupcakes will take about 22 minutes.) Cool in pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. While the cake is cooling, make the frosting.
  5. When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting between the layers, then ice the top and sides of the cake.
  6. To make the frosting: In a mediumsize saucepan, off the heat, whisk the flour into the cold milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
  7. In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well.
  8. Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. Use immediately for best spreading. If you must keep it refrigerated longer, let it come almost to room temperature before using. Stir it gently before using.
  9. This makes a 3-layer cake, or about 30 regular-size cupcakes. It is very easy to cut the recipe and frosting recipes in half — you will get around 15 cupcakes.


Red Velvet Cake
  • 3¼ cups plus 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) red food coloring or several drops gel coloring (to your color preference)
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon instant espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1½ cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
Creamy Vanilla Frosting
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups milk, cold
  • 2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
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