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Red Wine Velvet (3, 8" layers)

I first published this recipe for Gilt Taste, but as Lexingtonians know, I developed it at Table 310. I ran it on my dessert menu for weeks on end, tinkering until I got it just right. For all of you who came in, tried it out, and left feedback: thank you!

white chocolate "ermine" with cocoa nib spots

You’ll notice this is absolutely nothing like any Red Velvet recipe you’ve seen before. But I promise, it has its roots in the oldest tradition of velvet cakes and will taste like the Red Velvet of your dreams. A little splash of oil prevents the notorious dryness often associated with RVC and an obscene amount of vanilla provides a deeper vanilla flavor than you’ve ever had before. Meanwhile, the eponymous wine gives legitimacy to the “red.”

Red Velvet’s most traditional companion is a boiled milk frosting (aka “cooked flour” or “ermine”), but in much of the South you’ll only find cream cheese. For this recipe I’ve split the difference between the two with German buttercream. German buttercream is very much like a boiled milk frosting, but with the addition of an egg or two to create a creamy custard base. Butter is then whipped in, resulting in one of the silkiest buttercreams imaginable. For those who feel the need for cream cheese (myself included!), you can substitute up to half of the butter with cream cheese, but boiled milk purists can leave it out.

a slice of cake being removed

Read all about Red Velvet’s secret history, how I came to uncover its roots and develop this recipe, here.

Red (Wine) Velvet Cake
12 ounces all purpose flour
2 ounces natural cocoa
16 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
2 ounces safflower oil or other neutral flavored oil
18 ounces brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2¼ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon, preferably freshly ground
scrapings from two vanilla bean pods
6 eggs, room temperature
12 ounces red wine (Zinfandels work especially well)
1½ ounces vanilla extract
1 batch German buttercream, using the cream cheese variation if you like (I do!)

Preheat oven to 350° and line three 8” by 2” cake pans with parchment rounds. Grease lightly.

Sift together the flour and cocoa, set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the butter, oil, brown sugar, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and vanilla bean seeds. Use a hand or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment to cream the ingredients for 10 minutes on medium speed. Periodically, stop mixing to scrape the bowl down with a rubber spatula.

Turn the mixer to medium low and add the eggs, one at a time. Continue mixing after each addition until the egg has fully incorporated before adding the next.

Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour/cocoa mixture alternately with the red wine in about three additions. Add the vanilla at the end. Shut off the mixer and give the batter a few turns with a rubber spatula to ensure a homogenous mix.

Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared cake pans (25 ounces each).

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The oil in the batter makes the cakes slightly more forgiving of over-baking, but try not to let it come to that. Bake until the cakes have puffed but will still retain a slight impression if touched gently with a fingertip. A toothpick inserted into the center should have a few moist crumbs still attached.

Cool the cakes on a wire rack. At first, they will have pronounced domes and a slightly gray-brown color, but as they cool the domes will settle down somewhat and the color will deepen. When they have cooled, run a knife around the sides of the pan and invert onto a parchment lined tray or cooling rack. Continue cooling until no trace of warmth remains.

Before frosting, use a serrated knife to level the cakes. If you have found this step difficult in the past, refrigerate the cakes for 30 minutes beforehand, making them easier to handle and cut.

Assemble the cake on a platter or cake stand, topping each layer with a generous amount of buttercream. Crumb coat by spreading a thin, smooth layer of buttercream over the tops and sides of the cake; this will prevent stray crumbs from flecking the finished layer. Check out my crumb coating tutorial here for more details. Refrigerate the crumb-coated cake for 30 minutes before applying the final coating of buttercream to the top and sides.

For an “ermine” finish

5 ounces white chocolate, preferably in a block or bar
½ ounce cocoa nibs

Click here to see the ermine that inspired this design.

Use a Microplane or Parmesan grater to finely shave the white chocolate. Dust the top and sides of the cake with the shavings until completely coated. It’s easiest to use a folded piece of parchment paper as a “scoop” to distribute the white chocolate as the warmth of your hands will melt the chocolate.

Scatter the cocoa nibs over the cake in a haphazard manner to mimic ermine spots. You’ll really have to fling the nibs to make them stick, don’t be afraid to get a little messy.

red velvet monolith

For information on how to store cakes, see this post from the Kitchn.


« Back to the Recipe Box

Any questions?

Oct 17, 2011 ·  5:04 AM

What a stunning looking cake !!
It’s a real beauty
It took my breath away.
Wonderful wonderful wonderful

 · Winnish ·

Oct 17, 2011 ·  2:25 PM

What a stunning and unusual cake. I have saved this recipe and have marked it with a star. Thanks so much for releasing the recipe. The post is very inspiring. I want to make and eat it right now

 · Tina@flourtrader ·

Oct 17, 2011 ·  2:28 PM

I am not sure what happened to my comment, but anyhow this is a stunning cake as well as creative cake. Love the use of wine and I have saved this recipe.
Very inspiring-I want to make it and eat it now. Buzzed.

 · Tina@flourtrader ·

Oct 17, 2011 · 10:52 PM

Omg this cake looks amazing! That slice is absolutely perfect!

 · Elyse @The Cultural Dish ·

Oct 18, 2011 · 12:58 AM

Not only is the cake gorgeous, but the post is chock full of terrific information. Thank you for sharing your beautiful work!

 · Brooks at Cakewalker ·

Oct 19, 2011 · 10:16 AM

@Winnish, thanks so much! I owe it all to Sarah Jane’s photography, she knocked these outta the park!

@Tina, let me know if you make it. Sorry for whatever weirdness went on with your comment, haha. Oh, technology…

@Elyse, I was prepared to cut a few pieces to get the right one, but it worked out on the first try. Whew!

@Brook, you’re so welcome. Thanks for dropping by!


Nov 14, 2011 ·  8:33 PM

I just made this cake and it was the biggest waste of 6 eggs, 16 oz of butter and 12 oz of wine. It is brown and tastes terrible

 · Kate · 

Nov 16, 2011 ·  7:37 PM

Hi Kate, I’m so sorry you had a bad experience with the cake. It’s definitely not a red cake (as the pictures illustrate) but I hate that you didn't enjoy it. If you have any questions or think something might have gone wrong with your cake, let me know, I’d love to help you get to the bottom of it.


Nov 17, 2011 ·  1:07 AM

thanks stella! i definitely got thrown off by the oz measurements but was measuring with oz in a measuring cup trying to be accurate. my wet:dry ingredients ratio was off and the batter was almost grainy from so much brown sugar i think? and i don’t know if 12 oz was too much wine. i’m not sure if this is a tricky recipe (your steps are very clear so it my issues!) and appreciate you trying to help-i love your recipes and photos, keep it up!

 · Kate · 

Nov 17, 2011 ·  9:47 AM

@Kate, I do all of my baking in a restaurant, so I don’t have cups, lol! I wish I convert my recipes to cups, but I unfortunately just don’t have time. My guess is something was lost in translation in the guesstimations between ounces and cups. The batter turns out just like a normal cake batter would, no graininess, etc.

At any rate, having had to throw away all those ingredients with a bad batch, you’re probably not looking to spend any more money, but I can’t recommend enough a kitchen scale. (My favorite part: recipes come together super fast because you can measure the ingredients straight into the bowl, no cups to clean!) I don’t know where you live, but in my neck of the woods Bed, Bath & Beyond sells a really great digital scale for about $30.

Perhaps Santa will pick one up for you. Thanks for stopping by, have a great Thanksgiving!


Dec 11, 2011 ·  1:23 PM

Thank you for this, Stella! Yes, I cannot agree more using a kitchen scale!

 · Annapet ·

Dec 11, 2011 ·  1:41 PM

Hey Annapet! About to undertake some holiday red velvet? Yup. Scales totally rule!


Dec 23, 2011 ·  6:34 AM

Hi Stella, gorgeous recipe, I’m about to make it for Christmas lunch. One question though (and apologies if it’s stupid!) – when you list the measurements in ounces for things like wine or oil or vanilla extract, I assume you mean fluid ounces? Thanks!!

 · Amanda · 

Dec 24, 2011 ·  3:23 PM

@Amanda, not a stupid question at all! All of my measurements are by weight and never by volume, so just pay attention to what your scale says, not your measuring cups. Merry Christmas!


Jan 15, 2012 · 10:21 AM

If I wanted to bake this marvelous cake in a tube pan instead of the 3 rounds, any idea how long I should bake it?

 · themagiccloset · 

Jan 15, 2012 · 12:47 PM

@themagiccloset, oh honey, I have no idea. I always fail with tube pans, overbaking, sticking, you name it. They are my archnemesis. That being said, as a cake these bake fairly slowly, so I would say they need over an hour if I had to guess. If you have success, please come back and let me know!


Jan 26, 2012 ·  3:52 AM

So just to clarify on the measurements.. because apparently my brain is foggy. And I usually use cups. Though I do have a scale. Do you just pour the ingredients in a bowl and put them onto a scale to obtain your measurements? I’m being slow, I know.

 · BananaAnna ·

Jan 26, 2012 ·  2:00 PM

@BananaAnna, It can be quite a transition going from cups to weight! But I’m so happy to hear you have a scale, hurray! Just put a bowl or measuring container on the scale, then turn it on. If any weight registers, just press “Zero” or “tare” to get it back to 0. Then add in your ingredient until you get the right amount. You can press zero/tare and add the next ingredient, if they’re to be mixed together, or add a new container then zero out and measure your next ingredient. Does that make sense?


Feb 10, 2012 ·  9:21 AM

Hi Stella,
This cake looks absolutely stunning and I’ll bet it tastes even better. I’ve really been wanting to have a bash at making it ever since I first saw it, and have decided that now is the time to do it!
I was wondering whether it freezes well? I have a load of baking to do, so making some things in advance would really be handy. Can’t wait to get stuck in!
Thank you,

 · Becsbakes · 

Feb 10, 2012 ·  9:43 AM

@Becsbakes, Hmm… I’ve never tried freezing it before. Generally, I only freeze oil based cakes (like carrot or chocolate), I find butter cakes lose their moisture a bit more readily. That being said, this has a little of both, so I don’t know how it would fair; it may be alright. If time is truly of the essence, I have found that the batter keeps fairly well in the fridge for a few days. So at the very least, you could make up the batter and then bake it off a few days later to lighten your work load. If you do decide to give freezing a try, let me know how it turns out! I’ll be curious to hear your results. Good luck!


Feb 10, 2012 · 10:29 AM

Do you? I’ve frozen many a butter-based cake in my time and they’ve tended to stay moist as ever! Handy to know that the batter keeps in the fridge for a short while. But I’ll give freezing the cake a go and keep you posted. It’s for Sunday 19th Feb, so I’ll let you know after that how it went. And give a taste review!
Many thanks for the tips and for sharing your recipe!

 · Becsbakes · 

Feb 11, 2012 · 11:27 AM

@Becsbakes, in my line of work, I rarely have occasion to freeze cakes, so it may just be my lack of experience with it. At any rate, good luck and hope everything goes well. I can’t wait to hear how it turns out for you.


Feb 21, 2012 · 12:02 PM

Hi Stella,
You’ll be pleased to know that the freezing process was a success! The cake survived perfectly, and I must say it was one of the best cakes I’ve made (and eaten!) in a long time!
Beautifully fudgy, dense, chocolatey, vanilla-laced, and the wine was curiously detectable – definitely in a good way.
I did, however, have issues with the German buttercream… I made the cream cheese variation, as suggested (also, not sure I could face throwing ALL that butter in one mix!). I found the mixture to be far to liquidy after the lemon juice was added. Even before that, the consistency wouldn’t match the stiffness apparent in your picture. It tasted lovely though, just ended up sort of slopping over the cake instead of elegently swathing it.
It was thoroughly enjoyable all round =)

 · Becsbakes · 

Feb 21, 2012 ·  8:30 PM

@Becsbakes, I’m so glad to hear the freezing went well, hurray!

As far as the buttercream goes, I’ve found it easiest to handle if it’s fully refrigerated and then rewhipped before frosting. It’s very soft and loose when it’s first made. If you have any of the German Buttercream leftover and frozen, you might try rewhipping it just to see if that shows an improvement. Otherwise, it’s possible it wasn’t cooked long enough on the stove and the cornstarch didn’t get a chance to do its thing. Sorry it didn’t behave for you; fingers crossed for next time!


Feb 22, 2012 ·  3:49 PM

I think it must have been a cornflour issue because the mixture was well chilled. It’s odd because I’ve made non-cornflour custard so many times for ice creams and been very comfortable with reaching the right consistency. However, with this frosting I found that it began to stick to the end of my spoon and scramble slightly (emergency sieve to the rescue!) quite soon, even though it was on a low heat. Perhaps I turned off too soon due to the scramble-scare and should have persevered with a whisk for a minute more. Ah well, I’ll know for next time!
Thanks again for sharing both delicious recipes! =)

 · Becsbakes · 

Feb 22, 2012 ·  7:40 PM

@Becsbakes, Sounds like that might be the issue. Cornstarch based custards definitely need to be whisked vigorously to prevent scorching and they have to cook for a full minute while bubbling. So anything shy of that would definitely have prevented you from getting a good set. Hope that helps!


Feb 23, 2012 · 10:59 AM

Thanks Stella =) I shall bear this in mind next time!
Happy baking to you,

 · Becsbakes · 

Jul 11, 2012 · 12:54 AM

This looks frrrrreakin’ amazing!!! Great photography!

 · sweetlab ·

Jul 11, 2012 · 10:13 AM

@sweetlab, pretty pictures are thanks to my friend Sarah Jane. She’s the best!


Sep 02, 2012 ·  2:09 AM

Absolutely incredible! I substituted flax seed for the eggs (for a guest in my home that was allergic) and it still turned out as lovely as ever. Also in a trajic lack of forethought I realized, part way through, that I had no wine in the house. In a desperate attempt to salvage the recipe I did the traditional milk and vinager, but used balsalmic to give it a little bit of a twist (I was feeling bold). I don’t know how it compares to the red wine but it yielded a vanilla infused velvety moist unfathomably delicious cake with a unique but incredible taste with a touch of a kick thank you so much for the recipe. I can’t wait to make it again and to do it right!

 · kels · 

Sep 02, 2012 · 10:02 AM

kels, I’m so thrilled to hear the cake held up even under such “wild” substitutions! I just bought a pint of flax seeds, cos I’m eager to learn about how they work as an egg substitute, I’m really glad to know they came through in this recipe! And your idea of a dash of balsamic sounds phenomenal, I will definitely try that out, thanks for sharing.


Sep 13, 2012 ·  5:26 PM

Any substitute for the wine? We don’t consume any alcohol! Thanks!

 · AK · 

Sep 13, 2012 ·  7:04 PM

Hi AK! Although I haven’t tested it for myself, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble substituting grape juice (if you want to go for a similar flavor). If I were to try the grape-juice version for myself, I would probably start off with twice the amount of grape juice and then reduce it by half, to give it a similar intensity to wine. But that’s going the extra mile, and I think you’d be okay with just plain grape juice.

You could also substitute coffee or black tea, which will take the flavor in a bit of a different direction, but should be tasty none the less.

You’ll have to let me know how your version turns out! Happy baking.


Sep 14, 2012 ·  3:03 PM

Im eager to try it out! So just plain ol’ grape juice from the chiller section will do? Just making sure instead of ending in a disaster!

 · AK · 

Sep 14, 2012 ·  5:16 PM

Hi AK! I’m not sure; the kind of grape juice I’m used to seeing in stores isn’t refrigerated (like Welches brand) at the store. Just make sure to look at the ingredients, if there’s corn syrup or sugar added, it may change how the recipe works. Look for something that’s 100% juice. Hope that helps!


Sep 17, 2012 ·  5:32 PM

Well, maybe I should just make some at home On my to-do for my bday this month! Hope it turns out ok! xx

 · AK · 

Sep 19, 2012 ·  8:01 PM

Thank you for being so generous with your gorgeous recipes! I am planning on making this cake for an upcoming birthday. This may be a silly question but how do I bake 3 layers at the same time in a standard home oven? Should I put two layers on the top rack & one layer on the bottom rack and rotate halfway through?

 · Harriet · 

Sep 19, 2012 · 10:32 PM

Hi Harriet! You’ve got it. When I bake at home, I put the racks in the two middle positions and then put the cakes in (it doesn’t matter if you go for two top/one bottom or vice versa) and rotate once or twice during baking.

Keep an eye on the cakes, your oven may run hotter at the top or bottom, which may make rotating 1/3 of the way through a better option. But if they look even, half way is fine. Good luck!


Sep 20, 2012 ·  7:59 PM

Thank you!

 · harriet · 

Nov 21, 2012 ·  4:47 AM

What a gorgeous and elegant cake! I can’t use alcohol so what would you suggest as an alternative?

 · Kellie ·

Nov 21, 2012 ·  9:08 AM

Hi Kellie. You can make it with strong black coffee or black tea. The flavor will, of course, be different in that case. You might also look for some non-alcoholic wine, which has a more robust flavor than grape juice and would help you keep a similar flavor profile in the cake.


Nov 24, 2012 ·  3:07 PM

I saw this recipe in the Mensa magazine and made it for Thanksgiving. It turned out excellent and everyone loved it. It is not really red, which is fine since it means the food coloring was not there. I wondered if I did anything wrong, but I see in the photo that it looks very similar to what I made, so all is fine. Thanks very much for a great recipe.

 · Smsmd · 

Nov 25, 2012 ·  9:59 AM

Hi Smsmd! Thanks for looking me up! Any redness this cake has is definitely as an undertone, rather than a predominate color. I’m glad that you, like me, are willing to make this trade off in order to ditch the dye. Cheers!


Nov 27, 2012 ·  9:38 AM

Just wondering… can this cake be made ahead and frozen? I have a party in a few weeks. Many thanks.

 · lisa · 

Nov 27, 2012 ·  7:10 PM

Not sure if this posted twice, but wondering if I can make this cake ahead of time and freeze it (without being frosted). I have a party in a few weeks from now and would like to make this for it.

 · lisa · 

Nov 29, 2012 ·  9:13 AM

Hi Lisa! I’ve never tried it myself, but a reader has reported back with success on freezing before. My advice would be to keep a very close eye on it during baking; butter cakes are prone to drying out, especially when frozen and thawed. But keep a close eye on it and pull the cakes as soon as they’re done. my friend Gail swears by wrapping the hot cakes in plastic wrap to lock-in moisture, but I’ve never tried it. I always cool the cake completely and then wrap. If you’re on twitter, you can ask Gail, @THEToughCookie, more about her technique if you like.


Dec 02, 2012 ·  8:00 PM

Many thanks! I can’t wait to bake this cake.

 · lisa · 

Dec 03, 2012 ·  2:45 AM

I love this cake! I just made it for my best friend’s birthday and I have never seen a cake vanish so fast. The only changes I made were that I used a Merlot instead of a Zinfandel, purely because the corner shop near my house didn’t have any Zinfandels, and I couldn’t find vanilla pods there either, so I put a bit of extra extract in for taste. I’m sure it’s even better with the vanilla pods.

Anyway, it was stunning and a huge success! There wasn’t a single crumb left to take home afterwards so thank you for this fantastic recipe.

 · muckseen · 

Dec 05, 2012 ·  9:29 AM

Hi muckseen! I’m so thrilled you liked it!! The recipe is very flexible as to what wine you use, Merlot was a great choice! I use vanilla pods at work, but I know for most they’re not quite as easy to come by. Glad you worked it out to your liking. Thanks for the feedback!


Feb 01, 2013 ·  1:21 AM

Hello Stella!
I remembered you mentioning that you measure by weight not by volume and this got me kind of confused. Do I measure liquids with a scale too? I’m sorry if this is a silly question.

 · Krysten · 

Feb 01, 2013 ·  9:48 AM

Hi Krysten! Not at all. I measure everything by weight, even liquids. As a rule of thumb, “ounces” should always refer to weight no matter what the ingredient is, but it’s confusing because there’s also “fluid ounces” or “fl oz.” Fluid ounces are for measuring liquids by volume. Two totally different ways to measure something, but such a similar name! Hope that makes sense. Happy baking!


Feb 03, 2013 · 12:33 AM

Hi Stella…Do you ever use a sub for vanilla beans…I know the beans would be BEST but seldom do I have them on hand…I want to make this cake and need to know if it would “kill the over all” if I did not use vanilla beans…Thanks!

 · pj · 

Feb 03, 2013 ·  2:22 PM

Hi pj! No, you’ll be fine. I’d use a Tablespoon of vanilla for every one vanilla bean. If you’d ever like to stock up, there’s a website called Beanilla where you can buy vanilla beans in bulk, which makes them much more affordable and what you buy will last you a year or longer. Way better than those tough, hard beans they sell in stores.


Feb 03, 2013 ·  9:56 PM

STELLA….omg….I made the Red Wine cake tonight and it was AWSOME….can’t say it looked as good as your photos…I still have trouble with leaning cakes…but this is definately a 5 star wonderful cake….THANK YOU for the recipe….I am taking what remains of the cake to work tomorrow and they will be real happy campers….

 · pj · 

Feb 04, 2013 · 10:00 AM

Hi PJ! I’m soooo glad it turned out for you, yay!! Definitely takes a bit of practice to master the straight-sided cake, which just means you have to make more cake Hope your coworkers appreciate your generosity, I’d be in the corner at home eating up all the leftovers by myself.


Feb 14, 2013 · 10:38 AM

Hi, Stella. You are such an inspiration!! I’m soooo gonna make this for my boyfriend’s birthday next weekend. Wish me luck!!

Oh, and I just made my first sprinkles. They turned out wonderful! Thank you for the recipe

 · Dita · 

Feb 14, 2013 ·  5:50 PM

Hi Dita! Sprinkles and a cake? Lucky guy! Hope the cake turns out just how you’d like. Happy baking!


Feb 22, 2013 · 12:08 PM

just fantastic . iv shared with a friend who does the most wonderful cakes for all occasions.. she may very well add this to her repertoire. thanks for posting. from the Emerald isle.. check out ‘‘Cosmic Cakes by Sheona’‘

 · Seamus Ward  · 

Feb 23, 2013 ·  2:57 PM

Hi Seamus! I’m so glad you and your friend enjoyed it, thanks for sharing! Maybe it’ll start a red velvet craze in Ireland.


Mar 08, 2013 · 12:30 AM

Hi there Stella!

Was searching for a new recipe for red velvet cake and thought I’d try something new since yours had Both butter and oil. My friend wanted a Red cake so I added some food colouring just so it won’t look like a chocolate cake. Hehe. We don’t take alcohol so subbed that with buttermilk, but was too chicken hearted to try out the balsamic version suggested in one of the post So apple cider vinegar it was. I made half of the recipe and it yielded a 9×13×1.5 cake and 4 cupcakes. Well cake was for a friend, and the cupcakes were for Me!! Quality control you know
This is a great recipe! It was soft.. really soft and forgiving about baking time as you said. Mine came out at 30 min with a toothpick clean. Errrk.. should’ve checked sooner next time.
Would definitely make this again! Now should probably try the German buttercream next to go with it.. or just thaw the extra swiss meringue buttercream to save time!

 · sharina · 

Mar 09, 2013 ·  6:10 PM

Hi sharina! Oh, I’m so glad the cake turned out to your liking even with the substitutions!! It’s great with the Swiss BC too, so I say thaw away!


Mar 21, 2013 ·  7:43 AM

Hi there Stella!

Am baking for mum’s birthday this Saturday(day After Tomorrow!) and she requested a tiered cake. Gulp! And she really likes this one. Question is, being such a Soft cake, do you think it can withstand the weight of a tiered construction? What do you think?

This would be my first tiered cake.. Oh gosh.. pressure!

 · Sharina · 

Mar 21, 2013 ·  8:51 AM

Hi Sharina! Despite the softness of the crumb, I haven’t found the cake itself to be fragile, so I don’t think it would have any trouble in tiers. Of course, be sure to use support rods within the cake itself! No cake should have to bear the weight alone.


Apr 08, 2013 ·  7:04 PM

what is the name of the dessert plates shown in the first photo of the red wine velvet cake?

 · Diane · 

Apr 08, 2013 ·  9:05 PM

Hi Diane! I’m not sure, they were my grandmother’s. I’ve got them in storage at my folks’ house, I’ll have to ask ‘em to peep the underside of the plates to see if they’re marked. I’m 99% sure they’re Japanese, and I think they were a wedding present (dating them to the 1950s). I’ll post again if I find out!


May 03, 2013 · 11:24 AM

Hi Stella,

I was super-excited about making this cake for a friend’s birthday. I made the layers last night and was dismayed that I had 2 problems: 1) the layers didn’t just settle as they cooled, they sunk; and 2) one of the layers cracked right in half. What did I do wrong?


P.S. Tastes great, though!

 · Allison · 

May 05, 2013 ·  7:19 PM

Hi Allison, awww, bummer! Let me ask a quick question just to make sure we’re on the same page, did you use a scale or convert to cups? Also: any substitutions, or reduction of the recipe (ie a half batch)? Hate to ask such boring questions, but it’s hard to diagnose without knowing all that for sure. Let me know and we’ll get to the bottom of this!


May 16, 2013 ·  6:20 PM

Hi Stella, I had a nice recipe for a red raspberry velvet cake, which was a twist on the usual red velvet. It was well liked, but I hadn’t made it in over a year and just baked it recently. I made sure all my baking ingredients were fresh, etc, but oddly, it had no flavor. So, I’m looking for a new recipe and I like the ommission of red dye. Anxious to give your beautiful cake a try. One question though, how do you dust the sides of your cake (or do you). Since the white chocolate is so fragile, how do you get it on the sides? I suppose I could search the web, but thought you might be able to endure yet another specific question. I love your website and really appreciate the depth of research you have shared and poetic perspective you have re your creations. Lovely. You are, indeed, a brave little tart. And those of us who strive for perfection know that cooking and baking can be intimidating to even the most brave. Thanks!

 · Eva · 

May 16, 2013 ·  6:31 PM

Hi Eva! I’m happy to help! I grate up all the white chocolate on a microplane, onto a piece of parchment. Then I sort of fold the parchment down the middle, and use it to shake out the shavings on to the cake, starting from the top edge and working my way down. You can take a metal spatula and gather up all the shavings that didn’t stick, and scoot them back onto the parchment to keep shakin’ it. Hope that makes sense! It’s kinda like trying to describe how to tie your shoes!

You’ll have to let me know how you like the cake; definitely not as red as the “classics” but I’m happy to ditch the chemicals.


May 17, 2013 · 12:26 PM

Thanks Stella. I’ve got the picture now. Simple. Just couldn’t quite envision how you managed the sides. I intend to check out some of your other recipes and videos. You’re a real gem!

 · Eva · 

May 17, 2013 ·  7:27 PM

Sweeeeeet! Good luck with the cake, you’ll have to let me know how it turns out.


Jun 11, 2013 ·  1:11 AM

This looks amazing and I am going to try it out and maybe use it for my wedding cake, but I was wondering if any of the alcohol remains in the cake after its baked?

 · Tcrabby · 

Jun 11, 2013 ·  9:45 AM

Hi Tcrabby! By the time the cake is baked and cooled, the amount of alcohol left is on par with what you’d find in some vanilla extract. You could eat the whole cake and not feel anything but a sugar rush.


Jul 04, 2013 ·  8:45 PM

Hi Stella, Great cake! looks yummy. I wanted to read your history of the red velvet cake, but the link to Guilt Taste does not work. Could you repost a current link? Thanks.

 · Kathy · 

Jul 05, 2013 ·  8:39 PM

Hi Kathy! Ahh, Gilt shut down just last week, I am sorry to say. I will repost the story here on BraveTart ASAP! If you subscribed, you’ll be emailed when it’s updated, otherwise just check back soon. Thanks for the reminder.


Aug 24, 2013 ·  3:08 PM

Just put this cake in the oven….replaced the wine with strong coffee and the batter was grainie…you know that look when you add a liquid that goes away when you add the dry ingredients ….well That grainie would not go away so I ended up shorting the coffee by 4 oz. any suggestions…stirred in a teaspoon of powered coffee to ramp up the flavor but still nervous…

 · Pj · 

Aug 25, 2013 · 12:46 AM

Hey Pj! You’ll have to let me know how the cake turned out, if the problem was just cosmetic or if it caused real trouble in the oven. Two quick questions: are you using a hand or stand mixer, and was the coffee room temperature? Let me know and we’ll figure this out- the substitution shouldn’t cause any trouble.


Aug 28, 2013 ·  6:39 PM

Hi Stella!

This looks so fantastic! I was wondering though – would it be reasonable to cut the recipe down by half or 2/3 and use one cake pan? Since I’m pretty new to baking I’m kind of hesitant to attempt something so big and I also have a fairly limited kitchen.

Thanks! Can’t wait to give it a try!

 · Helen · 

Sep 04, 2013 ·  9:53 PM

Hi Helen! If you’ve got a scale, it should be a safe operation. Just multiply each number by 0.333 and you’ll have the new amount. If you’re converting from weigh to volume (which is very risky in and of itself), then I would definitely not recommend it. Too much could go awry. But with a scale, you’re good to go. Happy baking!


Sep 22, 2013 ·  9:18 AM

Hi Stella,

I was going to make your Nouveau-German Chocolate Cake this weekend for a dinner party, but luckily I remembered that one of the guests has a nut allergy! So I whipped up your Red Wine Velvet instead, and it was just beautiful! I reduced the recipe by a third, making a 2-layer 9 inch cake instead. Nothing quite as beautiful as yours, but it was very delicious. Really love the German buttercream – not too cloyingly sweet or heavy. I only have a quick pic, snapped just before we left the house (late, oh shameful), here it is anyway. Need to work on my frosting skills Thanks so much for sharing!

 · dani · 

Sep 24, 2013 ·  8:37 AM

I made this yesterday (with grape juice instead of wine) for my son’s school birthday celebration. I dragged out my postage scale to weigh the ingredients. I didn’t have time to reduce the juice as suggested, but it still turned out really well. The kids were asking me to email the recipe to their parents .

 · Jen · 

Sep 25, 2013 · 11:23 AM

Hi dani! Oh, I’m so glad the recipe behaved for you even at a smaller quantity. With a scale, it’s rarely a problem, but the specter of Math Error always hangs over it (or at least it does for me, because I am terrible at math!). Your cake is gorgeous, thanks so much for sharing the results. You did a phenomenal job!

Hi Jen! Who knew a Postal Scale could do double duty?! That’s awesome. I’m glad your leap of faith into weight and grape juice paid off. This is one of the few recipes from my blog that will also be in my upcoming cookbook (which will have both weight and cups). So hopefully even those without a postal scale can jump in too.


Oct 06, 2013 ·  6:45 AM

I just made this cake for my birthday, and all I have to say is, happy birthday to me! I’ve never had traditional red velvet before, so I can’t compare, but this cake was sensational. It reminded me of drinking a glass of red wine with a chocolate desert….yum. I made a 1/2 recipe (using 2 6” cake pans) and it was perfect. I used a nice Shiraz for the wine and it worked beautifully.
Thanks for the recipe Stella!

 · czipp · 

Oct 06, 2013 · 11:29 AM

Happy Birthday, Czipp! I’m so glad you enjoyed the cake, it’s one of my favorites too. The flavor is remarkably like red velvet, in blind tastings people can’t decide between them, but when you know the wine is there, it’s much easier to pick up on it. Especially with something like a Shiraz, perfect!


Oct 27, 2013 · 11:33 PM

Stella, the grainie was just cosmetic and the cake turned out fabulous. I used a stand mixer and the coffee was room temp. Sorry it took so long to get back to you….

 · pj · 

Oct 28, 2013 · 10:45 PM

Hey pj! Better late than never, haha. Well, I’m so glad the mixture didn’t turn your cake funky. I think it was probably just a matter of timing with the liquids and dry ingredients, but was asking cos sometimes that happens with hand mixers (not enough power!) or cold coffee (which chills the butter and gives the mixture a curdled look).


Nov 15, 2013 · 12:56 PM

Just made this cake and oh my goodness!! it was delicious!! Loved it and so did everyone else. Also, never really been a fan of buttercream, until now. It is now my new “go to” frosting recipe.

 · Rachel · 

Nov 16, 2013 · 10:39 AM

Stella,, I have made this cake at least ten times over the last two years. It is my “go to” cake for every birthday or occasion that calls for cake. Thank you so much for sharing this incredible recipe. My question is this… I’ve been asked to make some Christmas cupcakes for a party and would like to use this recipe. I’m wondering if I added red gel food coloring if it will yield pretty red cupcakes or if I will end up with a redish brown?? Any idea? I might have to experiment, but thought I’d check with you first. Thank you!

 · Kristin · 

Nov 16, 2013 ·  1:50 PM

@Rachel, Ahh, I’m so glad you liked the cake and buttercream. This is definitely one of my go-to classics, it’s so versatile and easy to flavor, and the texture is just right for me. Glad I’m not the only one!

@Kristin, you can definitely add in some gel paste to am up the red color. It won’t ever be a bright, fire engine red because the cocoa color will always be in the background, but petrochemicals definitely back a punch and you can get some serious red overtones with the gel paste even so. I use about 1 1/2 ounces of batter per cupcake, if that helps in your quest. Cheers!


Dec 17, 2013 ·  1:45 PM

Stella, thanks for posting this recipe, I can’t wait to try it.

I know I’m not the first to ask, but are you still planning to post your article from Gilt Taste? As someone who’s eaten red velvet nearly every birthday for 31 years, I’m very interested in knowing something of the history of it.

Thanks again for this post. Great website!

 · Chelsea · 

Dec 18, 2013 ·  9:54 PM

Hi Chelsea! Sadly, Gilt Taste shut down and took the archived story with ‘em. I’d wanted to repost it here, but in doing the research for my cookbook I uncovered so much new information about Red Velvet that my old story’s out of date. But Red Velvet will definitely be in the book!


Dec 25, 2013 ·  1:31 AM

Hey Stella…Merry Christmas…it is 12:17 AM and I just finished frosting a cake for lunch today…I did the red velvet again last week and when it was cut it really did not have the “crumb” look…it was more like a fudge look and while I would think that was under baked…the outside had a very “done” appearance…tasted good but I was just wondering if you would give me your thought….Also, made two Italian Cream cakes….recipe came from Art Institute Culinary School (cat’s out of the bag…I went there)anyway…what’s the “trick” on getting coconut and nuts not to sink while cakes are cooking?…These cakes do not slice real well and it may just be the “bumpy” of the nuts and coconut and a better knife would be a good thing….Your tutorial on frosting has been a great help…they are now sitting pretty and look great…so I have started trying to tweek the texture…I was hoping Santa would bring me a copy of your new cookbook….think maybe I will get one for my Birthday in February?

Happy Holidays!

 · pj · 

Dec 26, 2013 ·  3:58 PM

Hi PJ! It sounds like it may be an issue with your oven, or possible with your cake pans. When I bake these cakes, I use 8” pans that are 2” or 3” deep (I have two sets). If you’re using a shallow cake pan, the cake may not be able to rise to its full height, which could result in a more compact texture. It might also be a result of an oven with an overactive heating element on top or an underactive heating element at the bottom (hence the top would dry out or seem done, while the interior/bottom may be cool)…

As far as the Italian cream, I think it sounds like an issue with the batter. People often say to toss those ingredients in flour or something, but if the batter is too fluid, anything will sink. It’s probably a fairly classic recipe, buttermilk, eggs whites folded in, etc? I do Italian cream cake very differently, with the result of a thicker batter, which holds the chunky bits in place as it bakes. Sadly, I don’t have the recipe posted, it’s one I have to hold onto for my book. Someday!!


Jan 31, 2014 ·  3:49 PM

Hey Stella!

Made this cake with moderate success. Unfortunately, I read some of the reviews a little too late and used a liquid measuring cup for the liquid ingredients. Silly me…So the cake turned out pretty good,…but something was a bit off. My guess is, it was the imbalance of the liquids.

I did have one question though: why not cake flour? I would think that cake flour would have made for a more delicate crumb…more velvety, if you will?? Just curious.

Also, although I am a traditionalist in that I love other red velvet type cakes frosted with an ermine frosting, your german buttercream was a real hit and was absolutely delicious. Thanks again!

 · Wanderlust · 

Jan 31, 2014 · 10:01 PM

Hi Wanderlust! Aw, yeah, measuring with fluid ounces would have made your cake batter just a little fattier than measured by weight. Were you able to use a scale for the other ingredients?

I try to save cake flour for the recipes where it will make the biggest difference, like white or yellow cake. With cakes like this, there are already a lot of bold flavors and tenderizing elements in place so cake flour isn’t crucial for good results. It’s never a problem to use cake flour, so if you’d like to make the swap it would be a-okay.


Feb 01, 2014 ·  5:14 PM

Hello Again!

Per your advice, I do go out and buy a food scale and used it to measure all of the dry ingredients. Why I failed to weigh the liquid ingredients? Who knows, right? Next time Now I only wish that I could find even more recipes that utilize weights over measurements…guess I’ll just have to try all of the recipes on your site, lol. (Confession: Since I came across, I’ve spent hours upon hours reading your blogs and tutorials, looking over the recipes and making notes and lists of stuff to try..I’m kinda hooked). As a wannabe super amazing baker…I am constantly searching for perfection. Your site has provided me with the tools to improve upon so many techniques and “brave” the unknown…so cheers to you, BraveTart. You’ve inspired me!

 · Wanderlust · 

Feb 01, 2014 ·  5:16 PM

P.S. Not sure what’s up with the lines through my message (Hopefully it’s only on my computer). Sorry about that. Weird…

 · Wanderlust · 

Feb 03, 2014 ·  2:55 PM

What an outrageously nice thing to say!! I’m so happy you ran out and got a scale and have been puttering around my site, that seriously made my day. The good thing about a scale is having it on hand when you need it, even if not every recipe in the world calls for weight.

Oh, I figured out the weird lines! I think the little “noses” in your smilie faces were causing the HTML reader to interpret a strike-through in the text. I changed the text smilies to emoji to fix it.


Feb 06, 2014 ·  3:36 AM

Mmm…is it possible to bake in a square tin, frost only the top and cut into mini cakes? I’m not a cupcake fan and thinking of alternatives to give away as Valentine’s Day treats to colleagues (with a heart shape strawberry on top for the kill!)

 · Sophia · 

Feb 07, 2014 · 10:14 AM

Hi Sophia! That shouldn’t be any trouble at all. The only problem (compared to cupcakes) is that with 4 exposed sides the pieces of cake will dry out very quickly. So long as they’re cut and served without delay, it should be alright!


Feb 12, 2014 · 10:53 AM

Cake came out uber moist, chocolatety, not too sweet…OMG just plain heaven. I only had Cabernet Sauvignon and it gave a barest hint of wine flavor that was really unique.

Chocolate, Vanilla, Red Wine, I’m lost!!! I can’t decide which one I loved the most. LOL

 · Sophia · 

Feb 12, 2014 · 10:44 PM

Sophia, that’s great!! You must have some seriously great coworkers if you’re willing to share. I hope they appreciate your efforts. Happy Valentine’s Day.


Feb 16, 2014 ·  8:55 PM

I made this into cupcakes with the cream cheese German buttercream for valentines day and they were soo delicious but they sunk in the middle after I took them out of the oven. I used 1.5 oz of batter per cupcake and baked for 20 mins. I was careful not to over mix the batter so I’m not sure what went wrong. Perhaps my baking powder needs replacing. I would like to try this recipe again – do you have any suggestions for preventing sinking? I just filled the “holes” with buttercream so you couldn’t really notice!

 · Alexandra · 

Feb 16, 2014 ·  9:57 PM

Hi Alexandra! Oh no, that’s really weird! Quick question: were you able to weigh the ingredients with a scale, or did you use cup measures? Let me know and we will get to the bottom of this!


Feb 18, 2014 · 11:11 PM

Hi Stella I used a scale and measured in oz by weight as called for in the recipe. I did halve the recipe though so perhaps this changed things a bit. Or maybe I even miscalculated “half” at some point though I thought I was careful to calculate properly!

 · Alexandra · 

Feb 19, 2014 · 10:24 AM

Hi Alexandra! It’s certainly possible that one of the measurements went wonky somewhere along the way. Whenever I halve recipes, I always write it all down because I have experienced a lot of failure just doing it in my brain. Even if everything was perfect, getting half of 3/4 teaspoon baking powder still leaves some room for going under.

The only other thing I can think of is that your oven might be running a little cool…. What kind of wine did you use? I’ve had great luck with every wine imaginable, but I thought I’d ask just in case. It’s the last big-factor that could mess with the pH of the batter and potentially cause problems.


Feb 19, 2014 · 10:47 PM

Hi Stella thanks for your diagnosis! I used a Shiraz-Grenache blend from Australia. Next time I halve a recipe I’ll be sure to write it down – good tip I’ll be extra careful with everything next time I make this recipe so hopefully that’ll solve the problem!

 · Alexandra · 

Feb 20, 2014 ·  5:27 PM

Hi Alexandra! Well, the wine should be a-okay then. One time, a reader eventually confessed to using a wine cooler, so I never rule out any questions when troubleshooting these days. Cupcakes that sink in the middle can be the result of a wonky oven temperature too (both too hot and too cold), so you may try picking up an oven thermometer to see what’s going on. You should be able to get one at a grocery for about $5.


Feb 20, 2014 ·  8:23 PM

Hi Stella!
I’m new to baking and am excited and nervous to try this recipe. I’ve been reading on a couple of other sites (for a dye free red velvet) and others have talked about adding lemon juice to brighten the red color. What are your thoughts about this, particularly for your recipe? (I am guessing the lemon would clash with the wine? – Just a guess). Thank you!

 · Crystal · 

Feb 20, 2014 ·  9:54 PM

Hi Crystal! Thanks for stopping by.

I’d be really careful about using lemon juice in any recipe that doesn’t call for it already. It has an extremely low pH, so it can very quickly alter the pH of the batter which will change how the leavening agents are able to work. The oldest red velvet cakes were not red in any meaningful sense of the word, it’s something of a modern myth that you can get a red color without dye.

If you’re new to baking by weight, please grab a scale. This recipe should not be made with cups. Hope that helps, let me know if you’ve got any other questions. Happy baking!


Mar 11, 2014 ·  3:40 AM

Hi Stella, I have a chocolate flavored red wine I would like to use. Do you think this would be ok?

 · luv2cook · 

Mar 11, 2014 ·  4:20 PM

Hi luv2cook! Hmmm, that’s tough without knowing more about the wine. Can you tell me the brand? If it actually contains chocolate or sugar, etc, it might problems. If it’s merely infused with cocoa nibs, I think it would be fine.


Mar 11, 2014 ·  6:38 PM

Hi Stella, the wine is called Red Chocolatier Decadence “made with dark chocolate flavor”.

 · luv2cook · 

Mar 12, 2014 · 12:01 AM

Thanks for the response, luv2cook. I did a bit of googling and it looks like it’s more or less a straight up wine, with no added sugar content so you should be good to go! The only thing I’ll say is to take a sip before using it, and make sure it’s something you like. Happy baking!


Mar 15, 2014 ·  2:17 PM

Hi Stella, I forgot to add the vanilla at the end. Will the cake still taste ok? Thank you

 · Luv2cook · 

Mar 15, 2014 ·  3:17 PM

Hi Luv2cook! It’ll be just fine! There’s a lot of vanilla in the recipe, which rally gives it an intriguing depth of flavor, but really we’re talking about shades of awesome rather than make or break. Please enjoy!!


May 10, 2014 · 10:38 AM

Wow!! I really want to make this cake for my husband’s birthday. He loves red velvet, but unfortunately I think he will miss it being very red in color, even though I wouldn’t care. Do you have any thoughts on adding pureed beets, as others have? Just curious. I’ll make this cake one way or another.

 · Kara · 

May 12, 2014 · 11:31 AM

I made this recipe with 12 oz of pureed beets instead of the wine in an attempt to make it more red. Since I didn’t try the original recipe, I can’t say that the flavor is the same, but it was absolutely delicious. One guest said, “It’s like I’ve never had cake before.” So, success! My husband loved it. Also it was really fun to make and decorate. And I like that you use both the seeds and pods of the vanilla bean—I never know what to do with the pod, but now I do.

It didn’t turn out very red, probably less red than your pictures. So next time I won’t bother with the beets.I’ve read elsewhere that to be bright red the batter needs to be very acidic, but I didn’t want to mess with the other ingredients. So that may be why.

Thanks for giving me a reason to finally buy a kitchen scale! Next, macarons!!

 · Kara · 

May 18, 2014 · 12:30 PM

Hi Stella! I was trying to go back to your wonderful article about this on Gilt Taste but all I’m getting at are ads now.

 · Krysten · 

May 21, 2014 · 11:22 AM

Hi Kara! OMG, I’m so sorry I didn’t get a chance to respond to you in time, but I’m so happy to hear the cake was a success even with a change such as pureed beets! Thanks for reporting in on the beet variation, good info for anyone who wants to give it a try. And I’m even more excited to see you’ve jumped onto the scaling bandwagon, hurray!

Hi Krysten! Thanks for pointing out the dead link. Sadly, Gilt Taste no longer exists and my little story is without a home on the internet. There will be a revised, and much more detailed/researched version in my book (out next year, aaarrgh).


Jun 27, 2014 ·  3:10 PM

Hi, Stella~I have to thank you for this recipe! I actually made it for the first time GF – using Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose GF flour, and it turned out beautifully! Tasting the trimmings – wow – this will be a new favorite, without a doubt, made “straight” or GF. I used your Cream Cheese Swiss Buttercream instead of the German Buttercream, and it’s fabulous. I can’t thank you enough for your generosity in both sharing recipes and technique with all of us. I can’t wait til your cookbook is released. I hope you’re enjoying your life away from the day-to-day restaurant baking. Wishing you the absolute best!

 · jayneleni ·

Jul 01, 2014 · 10:35 AM

Hi jayneleni! I’m so glad to hear your report that it works with the Red Mill GF blend! I’m sure any gf bakers who browse the comments will be happy to hear it too, thank you for taking the time to share.

I have definitely been enjoying my time off, it’s been good to just recharge for a bit! I hope to be back to blogging soon, I’ve been slowly stockpiling some new recipes to share.


Sep 08, 2014 · 10:48 AM

Woo! It looks so perfect. How long will it stay, 3 months? I would want to make it bt to be eaten in three months

 · mimmie · 

Sep 12, 2014 · 10:59 AM

Hi mimmie. Do you mean frozen? Unfortunately, I don’t have any experience freezing this cake in particular, but I’ve had a lot of success freezing cakes in general. Refrigerate the cake until the buttercream is hard, then wrap it tightly in plastic, three or four times, it must be absolutely secure! After that, put it in the freezer. When it comes time to thaw, take it from the freezer and cut off the plastic. Cover it with a fresh layer of plastic (very loosely) and refrigerate overnight. The next day, take off the plastic and bring it to room temperature for about 12 hours. Good luck!


Jan 10, 2015 ·  6:17 AM

Wow! I am so glad I found this cake again! Two years ago, a friend of mine showed me the recipe on Gilt Taste and I baked the cake three times within one month, the last time I baked it was for my little sister’s birthday and she literally fell in love with it! Since then, she tells everyone about that perfect cake I made for her, so I decided to bake it for her again this year. Today I wanted to print the recipe – gladly I added it to my favorites when I first found it – and I was very dissappointed when I realised that the link does not longer work! Luckily I found it again on after googling for a while. Thank you! Me and my sister would have been very sad if we had lost this great recipe forever! Greetings from Germany (and sorry for any mistakes)! M.L. & M.

 · Maria Luisa · 

Feb 09, 2015 ·  7:30 AM

While looking around to find a recipe for a true red velvet cake I stumbled upon yours. I was intrigued. My partner’s daughter was turning 21 and she wanted a red velvet cake for her birthday so I decided to make it. It turned out beautifully! It was rich, moist, buttery, chocolatey, and just slightly spicy (thanks to the touch of cinnamon). I used a really nice red zinfandel and that really rounded out all the cake’s flavors. I made the German cream cheese buttercream and that too was really good, not too sweet and married well with the cake. The birthday girl and all the guests were truly impressed. She even asked if I could make it as her wedding cake. Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe.

 · Harold · 

Feb 17, 2015 ·  1:33 PM

Hi Stella,

I made this cake with great success a year ago. I put a layer of vanilla cake in between two layers of your red wine velvet recipe.

This time I’m going to try it again with your German buttercream recipe. I’ll report back and hope to post some photos.

Thank you again for the Penzey’s or Barry Cocoa recommendations for cocoa powder brands. It has made the biggest difference in any cocoa powder recipes!

 · Pam · 


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