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Red Velvet Cake

From the book James Beard’s American Cookery by


½ cup butter
cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. cocoa
1 tsp. red food coloring
2 Tbsp. water
cups sifted cake flour
tsp. baking powder
1 cup buttermilk or sour milk (or stir 1 tablespoon vinegar into sweet milk and let stand 10 minutes)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. vinegar


  1. Cream the butter, then cream in the sugar until very light.
  2. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then the cinnamon, vanilla, and salt.
  3. Mix the cocoa, red coloring, and water, and add to the creamed mixture.
  4. Sift the flour with the baking powder and add alternately with the milk. Blend well. If using an electric mixer, turn to lowest speed when adding flour and buttermilk.
  5. Dissolve the soda in the vinegar and fold into the cake batter very carefully.
  6. Turn the batter into two 9-inch greased and floured cake pans (or, if you like, grease the pans and then fit the bottoms with greased paper). Do not flour the pans heavily.
  7. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center.
  8. Let cool in the pans on a rack for several minutes, then loosen and turn out onto the rack to cool.
  9. When cool, frost with White Fluffy Frosting.


Culinate editor’s notes: The cinnamon makes this a rather unconventional red velvet cake, tasting more of spice than of chocolate. Omit it if you prefer a more traditional taste.

You can also cut the sugar down to 1 cup and, for more intense color, increase the red food coloring to 2 tsp.

For a more even color in the baked cake, sift the cocoa with the dry ingredients instead of mixing it into a paste with the food coloring and water.

The traditional frosting for a red velvet cake is a buttercream or cream-cheese frosting, not the marshmallow-flavored White Fluffy Frosting.

This content is from the book James Beard’s American Cookery by James Beard.

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