This is the most amazing Vegan Red Velvet Cake Recipe thanks to its moist, soft, lightly chocolate cake, topped with a simple vegan cream cheese frosting. It has a perfect velvet texture! This easy red velvet cake is recognizable with its bright red color offset by a white, creamy frosting.
For a dramatic effect, add some shaved vegan white chocolate to the top of this cake.
A new favorite cake has moved into town and I call it, the Vegan Red Velvet Cake. I’ve always said that my favorite cake is my Vegan Coconut Cake. And trust me, I do love that cake! However, this one is edging its way to the top.
You may recall a lot of eggs and milk in the traditional recipe so it may seem impossible to make a red velvet cake vegan. However, this dairy-free red velvet cake is both delicious and easy to make.
Why This Recipe is a Winner
- A perfect combination of ingredients is part science, part art in creating this soft, velvety crumb.
- Most red velvet cake recipes insist on creaming butter and sugar, but I found a much simpler process with amazing results!
- A precise amount of cocoa powder gives this cake a distinctive velvet flavor without overpowering the other flavors.
- Tangy flavors are added to the frosting, creating a cream cheese-like topping that’s thick, smooth, and delicious!
What does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like?
I asked several taste testers to describe the flavor of a red velvet cake, and everyone struggled. It’s not quite chocolate, not quite vanilla. It’s sort of a mystery cake. To be honest, red velvet is a combination of several flavors and textures, including:
- Creamy frosting with a soft, moist cake
- Subtle cocoa flavor
- Subtle vanilla flavor
- Tangy (in the cake and frosting)
- Buttery, both in flavor and texture
Between you and me, it’s the red velvet cake’s texture that really, well, takes the cake!
What You Need
You can find the full printable recipe, including ingredient quantities, below. But first, here are some explanations of ingredients and steps to help you make this recipe perfect every time.
Here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:
- Flour — I recommend all-purpose flour.
- Granulated sugar
- Cocoa powder — We’ll use natural cocoa powder. Dutch-process is too dark for this cake.
- Salt — Adding a little bit of salt adds complexity of flavor to this sweet cake.
- Baking soda — The baking soda combines with the vinegar to create a lofty, moist texture.
- Cornstarch — I love adding a bit of cornstarch for the perfect texture.
- Vegetable oil — I know we want a buttery flavor, but the frosting delivers that. So, for the cake, we’re using vegetable oil only for a moist cake that is also light.
- Water — No cream or milk! It’s an interesting ingredient for a cake, but the water interacts with the gluten in the flour.
- Apple cider vinegar — The vinegar delays the development of gluten, therefore creating a softer crumb. It’s also an agent to activate the baking soda, creating more lift in the cake.
- Red food coloring — You don’t have to add any red food coloring, but then the cake will be kind of plain. Add as much or as little food coloring as works for you.
- Vegetable shortening — For the frosting, we’ll combine vegetable shortening (such as Cristco) with vegan butter for a rich flavor and texture.
- Vegan butter — I use Earth Balance buttery sticks or I’ll make my own non-dairy butter.
- Lemon juice — You can use either fresh or bottled lemon juice.
- Powdered sugar
- Vegan creamer — I like using a thick vanilla-flavored vegan creamer (the kind used for coffee). You can substitute soy milk.
How to Make Vegan Red Velvet Cake
In this vegan red velvet cake recipe, I am recommending specific ingredients, in specific amounts. My process is unique, but I believe it creates the best red velvet cake.
Step One: Combine Dry Ingredients
We’ll start by whisking together the dry ingredients. The beginning step of a glorious red velvet cake is so humble.
Step Two: Combine Wet Ingredients
Next, stir together the wet ingredients, including food coloring.
Step Three: Batter & Bake
Pour the the wet ingredients into the bowl with flour mixture to create the batter.
Before combining the wet and dry ingredients make sure your pans are prepared and the oven is preheated. You want to take advantage of the chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar!
Once your batter is mixed, pour it into the prepared pans and bake.
Step Four: Frosting
Once the cakes have cooled completely use a serrated knife to level any mounds from the tops of each cake. Be sure and reserve any shaved cake pieces!
Then, frost the top of one of the cakes with a third of the frosting. Place the second cake on top of the frosting and frost the top and sides of the cake.
Place shaved cake bits in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Decorate the cake with red velvet cake crumbles.
A Few Tips
- Prepare Your Pans. Cut rounds of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pans. Spray the inside of the cake pans (bottom and sides) with cooking spray. Then place a cut round at the bottom of each pan and spray again.
- Gently Folding. Once the liquid ingredients are added to the dry, gently fold the two together to create the batter. I like to use a whisk to break up lumps of flour. Once any lumps of flour are gone, you should stop stirring it.
- Red Velvet Cupcakes. Make vegan red velvet cupcakes by distributing the batter into 24 muffin compartments lined with cupcake papers. Bake them for 20 to 25 minutes (using a tester to make sure they’re done). Allow them to cool completely before frosting.
I recommend a cake keeper to cover the cake and keep it fresh. It will keep at room temperature for up to 3 to 4 days, or in the fridge for up to 7 days. To freeze, you can cut it into individual slices and freeze the slices. If properly stored they will keep up to 2 months.
Simple Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
It’s the cream cheese frosting that really sets the red velvet cake apart and my frosting is the best, because it’s firmer than most vegan cream cheese frostings, and is easy to make.
It has a tangy flavor that complements the flavor of this vegan red velvet cake. I wouldn’t choose any other frosting for this cake.
This frosting is perfect because it creates a nice, spreadable consistency but still offers enough firmness to hold up between the cake layers.
New to Vegan Baking?
The idea of making cookies, cakes, or muffins without eggs or dairy can seem like a hill too tall to climb. But with the simple tips in my Guide to Vegan Baking, you’ll be baking like a vegan pro in no time!
Red Food Coloring
It’s tricky to achieve a vibrant red-colored cake with natural food colors.
Most of my food is made without food coloring, so to have some every now and then is not an issue. Is food coloring safe? Each person has to answer this question for themselves.
I recommend using regular food coloring because you can buy it at the store (unlike gel food colorings). I recommend 2 tablespoons to get the bright red color in my cake.
McCormick’s Red Food Dye (the kind you find most available at the store) is noted to be vegan.
Natural Food Coloring Options
If you want a more natural red velvet cake, here are some options to consider:
- You can use Beet Powder but I found it doesn’t create vibrant color.
- I also like the idea of using Dragon Fruit Powder, although it looks pink. But once baked, it could become darker. My Blue Velvet Cake uses a natural Blue Butterfly Pea Powder for its bright color.
- This Hibiscus Food Coloring Powder is an option too, although it’s more pink than red.
Another way to boost the color is to substitute the cocoa powder with a tablespoon of cocoa extract to deliver the light chocolate flavor for the cake.
More Vegan Cake Recipes
Vegan Red Velvet Cake
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ¾ cups granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, not dutch-process)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups cold water
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons red food coloring (see note)
- Preheat oven to 350°F/175°C. Spray two round cake pans with vegetable spray. You can also place a piece of parchment paper at the bottom of the pans and spray the sides with vegetable oil.
- Combine in a large mixing bowl the flour, sugar, cocoa, salt baking soda, and cornstarch. Stir to combine.
- In a smaller bowl, combine the vegetable oil, water, vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring. Stir to combine.
- Pour the water mixture into the flour mixture and gently fold until just combined. Do not overmix.
- Pour the batter into prepared cake pans. Bake for 30–35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Allow the cakes to cool for about 10 minutes before inverting onto a plate. Allow cooling completely before frosting.
Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting
- Cream together the vegan butter and vegetable shortening in a mixing bowl using either a handheld mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment. Cream for 1–2 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the vinegar and lemon juice and mix again for another minute.
- In a bowl combine the powdered sugar and salt. Whisk to combine. Add this to the butter mixture and mix on low until mostly combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vegan creamer, one tablespoon at a time, mixing in between each addition. Continue until you get a smooth, spreadable consistency.
- Once the cakes cool, use a serrated knife to slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a level surface. Reserve shaved cake shreds. Place one cake on a serving plate or cake stand. Top with a third of the frosting. Place the second cake on top and frost the top and sides of the cake. You'll need every last bit of the frosting, so be sure to use a spatula to get it all.
- Place shaved cake bits in a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Decorate the cake with red velvet cake crumbles.
- Allow the cake to set for about 30 minutes before serving. Use a cake keeper to cover the cake. It will keep at room temperature for up to 3–4 days, or in the fridge for up to 7 days. You can cut it into individual slices and freeze the slices. They will keep if properly stored for up to 2 months.
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- Make-Ahead Tips: After layers are baked, cool them completely, and cover in an airtight container. They can be stored overnight at room temperature. You can also prepare the frosting the day before. Simply store in the fridge in an airtight container. Be sure to let it sit at room temperature for about 15 to 20 minutes before frosting the cake.
- Food Coloring: For this vibrant red cake, I used 2 tablespoons of red food coloring. If you have gel, use 2 to 3 teaspoons. However, you don’t have to use any food coloring at all (the cake won’t be red, but will still taste great) or see post tips for natural options.
- Sheet Cake: If you prefer a sheet cake over a layered cake, pour batter into a 9×13″ cake pan or 12×17″ sheet pan. Bake at the same oven temperature for 40–45 minutes for the 9×13″ pan or 20 to 25 minutes for the 12×17″ pan. Use a tester to test for doneness.
The nutrition information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator and should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.