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Red Velvet Loaf Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This from-scratch red velvet loaf cake has a subtle chocolate cake flavor and is incredibly moist thanks to the buttermilk. Known for its vibrant red color, it’s the perfect dessert for Valentine’s Day or special occasions! Top it with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle some cake crumbs on top for a delicious dessert!

Red velvet loaf cake with three slices cut. Two of the slices sit with the loaf cake on a wooden cutting board. The third is on a plate next to it.

If cakes had popularity contests, this one would be the winner. Truly–it’s such a lovely, simple cake. There’s nothing too fancy here. No layers to worry about or any frou-frou techniques that require high-level skills. Just an elegant cake in a loaf pan that shows up and says, “I’m here. You’re welcome.”

Okay, so I won’t bore you with the long history of the red velvet cake (though I don’t find it boring at all and may or may not have watched an entire 13-minute YouTube video about it…) I digress, but I will say that there is not just one way to make this cake.

Looking for more Valentine’s Desserts? Check out these Strawberry Crunch Cookies with Strawberry Cream Cheese Frosting!

Traditional Red Velvet Cake

To start, the original classic red velvet cake recipe didn’t even include red food coloring. Instead, the namesake originated due to the chemical reaction that occurred when white vinegar, which was added to the batter, was paired with cocoa powder to give it its reddish hue.

It’s important to note that red velvet cake is not just vanilla batter with red food coloring added to it. Red velvet cake requires cocoa powder, albeit in subtle and lesser amounts than an actual chocolate cake.

All this to say that the recipe below is absolutely delicious with or without red food coloring (I’ve made it both ways) but if you’re looking for that vibrant red color, it’s probably best to add red coloring.

Looking for more delicious chocolate recipes? Check out this chocolate sour cream pound cake, rich fudgy brownies with chocolate cream cheese frosting, or simple chocolate peanut butter krispie treats.

Two slices of red velvet cake on a wooden cutting board.

Why You’ll Love This Red Velvet Loaf Cake Recipe

  • It’s Easy to Make – I simply used a mixing bowl, whisk, and rubber spatula to make this recipe. I washed the bowl while the cake was in the oven to reuse it to make the cream cheese frosting (which, full disclosure, I did pull out the electric mixer to make). It’s a simple and beautiful recipe.
  • Perfect for Small Gatherings – This cake is perfect to share at a small gathering or with loved ones to celebrate Valentine’s Day or other holidays. It’s such a pretty cake and is simple enough to whip together the same day of the event.
  • Moist and Delicious – This cake is incredibly moist. The buttermilk substitute used in this recipe along with the vegetable oil gives it super moist crumbs. The hint of chocolate is enhanced thanks to the buttermilk as well. And the classic cream cheese frosting pairs beautifully with this cake. You’re going to love it!

Ingredients

Picture of ingredients for red velvet cake.

For the Cake:

  • Vegetable Oil – You can also use avocado oil or melted butter.
  • Granulated Sugar – This is best for red velvet cake. The sugar easily binds with the oil and makes for a lovely, moist cake.
  • Eggs – Room temperature is ideal. Set the eggs out an hour or two before baking. You can also put them in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes before adding to the batter.
  • Vanilla Extract – This packs so much flavor!
  • Buttermilk (combination of milk and vinegar) – This is my buttermilk substitute, but red velvet cake recipes call for white vinegar because the combination of it with cocoa powder creates a chemical reaction that results in the red color of the cake. I use whole milk, but any milk will do.
  • All-Purpose Flour – The protein content in all-purpose flour helps form the cake’s crumb and texture, giving it a good balance of tenderness and structure.
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – Natural cocoa powder works best for this recipe. Dutch-processed cocoa powder is considered alkaline, while natural cocoa is more acidic. The acidity in natural cocoa powder results in a redder hue.
  • Baking Soda – Helps the cake rise!
  • Salt – Helps balance the sweetness of the cake, enhances the cocoa flavor, and assists the baking soda in raising the cake.
  • Red Food Color – Gel or liquid food coloring gives the cake its classic red hue.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • Cream Cheese – Full-fat block cream cheese works best here.
  • Butter – I used unsalted butter, but you can also use salted butter. Just leave out the salt when making the frosting.
  • Vanilla Extract – Adds depth to the frosting.
  • Powdered Sugar
  • Salt – Helps balance the sweet frosting.

See recipe card for quantities.

Step-By-Step Instructions

Step One Picture: Cream the oil and sugar.

Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare the loaf pan by greasing it with oil and sprinkling a bit of cocoa powder over it. Make your homemade buttermilk: add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar to a measuring cup and then pour the milk into it until you reach one total cup of liquid. Set aside. With a whisk or electric mixer, mix the vegetable oil and granulated sugar until creamed. This will take about two minutes.

Step Two picture: Flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda in a bowl.

Step Two: In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

Step Three picture: Add the wet and dry ingredients in the bowl. A whisk is in the bowl.

Step Three: Gradually alternate adding the wet and dry ingredients to the oil and sugar mixture–if using an electric mixer, mix on low speed. First, add half of the flour mixture. Then add half of the buttermilk mixture, mixing until just combined. Repeat by adding the remaining dry ingredients and remaining buttermilk.

Step Four picture: cake batter with red food coloring and a rubber spatula in the bowl.

Step Four: Use a rubber spatula to add and mix in the red food coloring until you’ve reached the red batter color you’re looking for.

Red velvet cake batter in the loaf pan.

Step Five: Pour the red velvet batter into the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Stick a wooden toothpick in the center of the cake. If wet batter sticks to it, it needs to bake longer. If moist crumbs stick to the toothpick, it’s ready to come out of the oven. Allow it to cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan and allowing to cool completely on a wire rack.

Cream cheese frosting in a mixing bowl with a rubber spatula.

Step Six: While the cake is cooling, make the cream cheese frosting. Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter and cream cheese. Next, pour in the vanilla extract and salt. Gradually add the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as you mix. Frost the cake, cut, and serve!

Unfrosted red velvet cake on a wooden cutting board.

Helpful Hints:

  • Get the Cake Out – I use a butter knife to help work the cake out of the pan. Simply stick the knife between the cake and the loaf pan and work around the entire cake. The cake should easily pop out.
  • Cake Crumb Topping – Before frosting, scrape just a bit of cake from underneath the cake (optional). I use the little bit of crumbs from the cake to sprinkle on top of the frosting for added decoration.
  • Avoid Over-Mixing – This cake is moist and fluffy but can turn into a dense, dry cake easily if the batter gets over-mixed or the cake gets over-baked. Be mindful to mix the ingredients until *just* combined and keep an eye on it while it’s baking!

Equipment

  • Loaf Pan – 5.5 x 9.5 inch or 6 x 10-inch loaf pan both work great. I prefer using a glass loaf pan, but aluminum works as well.
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Whisk or Electric Hand Mixer
  • Rubber Spatula
  • Parchment Paper (optional) – I usually just coat my pan with oil and sprinkle with cocoa powder, but I recommend using parchment paper if your loaf pan is metal.
  • Wire Rack – To cool the cake before frosting it.

Storage

Since the cake has a cream cheese frosting, I recommend storing it in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

You can also freeze this cake for up to 1 month. Allow it to thaw before serving.

Closeup of the red velvet loaf cake with a couple slices cut out of it. Sitting on a wooden cutting board.

FAQ

Can I make this red velvet loaf cake ahead of time?

Absolutely! Make the loaf cake beforehand and allow it to cool completely before wrapping it in plastic wrap, then an airtight container, and storing it in the fridge or freezer. Store in the fridge or room temperature for up to 2 days for best results. You can also freeze the cake for up to 1 month. Make the frosting the day of and serve!

Can I make this cake without the red food coloring?

Yes. Traditionally, this cake was made without it and will still give a reddish hue if you don’t add any. You could also use an alternative such as natural food coloring, beetroot powder, or cherry juice; however, these ingredients will change the flavor and possibly the texture of this cake.

Looking for other recipes like this? Try these:

Red velvet loaf cake with two slices cut out and sitting by the cake and another slice on a plate to the side.

Red Velvet Loaf Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

This from-scratch red velvet loaf cake has a subtle chocolate cake flavor and is incredibly moist thanks to the buttermilk. Known for its vibrant red color, it's the perfect dessert for Valentine's Day or special occasions! Top it with cream cheese frosting and sprinkle some cake crumbs on top for a delicious dessert!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 10
Calories: 425kcal
Author: Jamie

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder unsweetened
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk substitute (white vinegar and milk) room temperature, see first step
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-2 teaspoons red food coloring

For the cream cheese frosting

  • 4 ounces cream cheese room temperature, full-fat half block of cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter room temperature, if using salted, leave out the salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

Instructions

  • This cake requires buttermilk, but a buttermilk substitute works even better thanks to the acidity from the white vinegar. To make buttermilk substitute, add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar into a measuring cup and fill the rest up with milk until it reaches 1 total cup of liquid. Set aside. It will curdle, which is perfectly normal.
  • Prepare the loaf pan either with parchment paper or grease with oil and sprinkle some cocoa powder in the pan. Preheat oven to 350℉. Add the vegetable oil and sugar to a large mixing bowl and whisk them together for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the egg and vanilla extract.
  • In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Take turns alternating adding the dry ingredients to the oil and sugar mixture and the buttermilk, mixing until just combined. I pour half the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk, and then pour in the remaining ingredients from there. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl.
  • Finally, add the red food coloring until it's just mixed in. Be mindful to not overmix the batter. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 50-60 minutes. The cake will be done when you stick a wooden toothpick in the center of it and it's clean or moist crumbs stick to it. If there is still wet batter, it needs to bake longer. Allow it to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes before guiding it out with a butter knife and allowing it to cool completely on a wire rack.
  • If you want to decorate the top of the cake with red velvet cake crumbs, scrape a tiny bit of crumbs off from the bottom of your cake (only about a tablespoon of crumbs is needed). Break the crumbs up and set aside until after you've frosted the cake.

Make the cream cheese frosting:

  • To make the cream cheese frosting, cream together the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until they are nice and soft (no clumps). Then add the vanilla extract and salt (if using unsalted butter). Finally, mix in the powdered sugar one cup at a time. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the powdered sugar. Frost the cake with an offset spatula.

Video

YouTube video

Notes

Store leftover cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
If baking ahead of time, you can bake the loaf cake, let it cool completely, then wrap it in plastic wrap and store at room temperature or in the fridge for up to 2 days before making the frosting and serving it. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1slice | Calories: 425kcal | Carbohydrates: 72g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 329mg | Potassium: 61mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 56g | Vitamin A: 319IU | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg

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