Vegan Red Velvet Cake

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 slice of layered cake on a plate has a fork beside it and sits in front of the rest of the 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!

A slice of red velvet cake on a plate with a fork holding a mouthful beside it.

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.
  • Vanilla
  • 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.

Ingredients for a cake are in a mixing bowl.

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.

Marly’s Tips

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Red Velvet Cupcakes. Make vegan red velvet cupcakes by distributing the batter into 24 muffin compartments lined with cupcake papers. Bake them for 20–25 minutes (using a tester to make sure they’re done). Allow them to cool completely before frosting.
A layered vegan red velvet cake has several slices taken out of it.

Storage Tips

I recommend a cake keeper to cover the cake and keep it fresh. It will keep at room temperature for up to 3–4 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.

Looking down on a mixing bowl full of fluffy white frosting.

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!

A bite of cake on a fork sits in front of the rest of the cake.

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.

Marly’s Tips

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

A slice of red velvet cake on a plate in front of the rest of the cake.
A slice of red velvet cake sits in front of the rest of the cake.

Vegan Red Velvet Cake

Vegan Red Velvet Cake is a simple, delicious cake with a slightly chocolate-flavored cake with a tangy vanilla frosting that's so delicious bite after bite!
4.88 from 8 votes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 14
Calories: 506kcal
Author: Namely Marly

Ingredients

  • 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
  • cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring (see note)

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

  • ½ cup vegetable shortening (such as Cristco)
  • ½ cup vegan butter
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • ¾ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons vegan creamer (vanilla flavored)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. 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 up to 2 months.

Recommended Equipment

(The products above contain sponsored links to products we use and recommend)

Notes

  1. 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 15–20 minutes before frosting the cake.
  2. Food Coloring: For this vibrant red cake, I used 2 tablespoons of red food coloring. If you have gel, use 2–3 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. 
  3. 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 20–25 minutes for the 12×17″ pan. Use a tester to test for doneness.
Nutrition estimate includes both the cake and the frosting. 
Nutrition Facts
Vegan Red Velvet Cake
Amount Per Serving
Calories 506 Calories from Fat 207
% Daily Value*
Fat 23g35%
Saturated Fat 12g60%
Sodium 420mg18%
Potassium 40mg1%
Carbohydrates 73g24%
Fiber 1g4%
Sugar 50g56%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 308IU6%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 6mg1%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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.

A slice of cake sits in front of the rest of the cake. The text behind it reads, Vegan Red Velvet Cake.

21 Responses to Vegan Red Velvet Cake

  1. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyKeri Reply

    Hi Marly! So many of your recipes are my favorites. I turn to them often when I want to make a positive vegan cooking impression. Everyone who has tried your banana bread loves it. Last evening I made your garlic bread and the spread was AMAZING! My family and guests love it. I’m so excited to try the red velvet cake recipe and share it with those I love on New Year’s day. Thank you for the work you do to make vegan cooking easy, accessible and delicious.

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Keri! I’m SO glad you like these recipes! Makes me happy! I hope you love this red velvet cake as much as I do. Usually, I will have a slice or two of a cake and my husband, Shawn, eats the rest…but not with this one! I took it to Thanksgiving where several of my non-vegan family commented on it (they loved it!) and so by the time we got home there was about a third of the cake left…and I ate it all! It will be perfect for New Year’s Day! ❤️

  2. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly Reply

    As author of this recipe, I’m happy to tell you that this vegan red velvet cake is now my most favorite cake ever! I’ve gone from someone who was highly skeptical to a crazy, devoted fan because of this recipe. I also love the ease of the ingredients, including the vegan cream cheese frosting!

  3. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJess Reply

    I give this four stars because the recipe did work well, it tasted good when it was finished, and it was easy to make. However when I folded the wet and dry ingredients together, the batter was very lumpy after it was pretty well combined. It said not to overmix so I didn’t smooth it out. It came out a little spotty and lumpy after it was baked, although it didn’t affect the texture too much. I wish it was more clear if we were supposed to smooth it out or not.

  4. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyLucy Reply

    This looks so good, pity it does not list measures in weight.

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Lucy! The recipe card has a metric conversion that can be added, but it has to be manually turned on for each recipe. I just turned it on for this recipe. Hope this is helpful!

  5. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyLilith Reply

    Hi!
    I was wondering what size cake pans you need for this recipe? 8 inch? 9 inch? Thanks!

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      I typically use 9″ cake pans, however, either one will work just fine.

  6. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMichelle Reply

    Question.. I’m looking around for recipes and I’ve noticed you used water instead of milk. Can you tell me why? I usually see ppl use milk for their cakes.

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Michelle. Great question! So, a vegan cake is quite different from a typical cake that uses eggs. With a vegan cake (without eggs) my goal is to use the gluten from the flour to create structure and binding. Water activates gluten, but it also interacts with the sugar in the recipe. Some plant-based milks have a higher fat content and that can rob moisture from the gluten formation, thus creating a gummy or even flat cake. I guess if you’re using something like unsweetened almond milk, it would work. However, I would eliminate the salt in the recipe because oftentimes unsweetened almond milk has sodium already added to it. See? In my book, water just makes it easier. And this cake turns out very moist and flavorful. I hope that answers your question, but let me know if you’d like to chat more about it!

  7. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyRebecca Reply

    Hi! What are your suggestions on baking time and temp for a 6″ version?:)

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Rebecca! If using 6″ round cake pans, divide the batter between 3 pans and bake for 18 – 21 minutes. Be sure to test the cake for doneness (by inserting a tester in the middle of the cake…it should come out mostly clean, a few crumb are ok). I bet you’ll have a beautiful cake when it’s all iced and ready to eat!

  8. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyKathi Reply

    Hey! Thanks for the recipe. This will be my first vegan cake ever! I have a question. Where do I get the crums for the decoration from? Will they be left over in the pan?

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Kathi. Thanks for your comment. When the cakes come out of the oven, there can be a slight dome. I oftentimes use a serrated knife to cut that dome off to make the cakes level. I do this after the cakes cool. Then I use whatever was sliced off to create the crumbles. I hope you love it!

  9. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyRonak Mehta Reply

    Wow. It looks delicious. I love pineapple cakes. So, I will try to make it. Your recipe will help me. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyAthena Reply

    I’m making this cake right now and just finished step 6 in the cake directions. After lifting the cake pan up, both cakes cracked into 3-4 pieces. I live at a high elevation (7000 ft) so I’m assuming that’s the cause, but wanted to see if you had any suggestions on how to prevent this from happening again in the future?

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Athena! Yes, high altitude does have an impact on baking. I recommend these things: 1) Reduce baking soda to 1 1/2 teaspoons, 2) Reduce sugar to 1 1/2 cups, 3) Increase water to 2 1/4 cups, and 4) Increase the baking temperature to 375F. These changes help the cake bake in the higher altitudes. Hope this is helpful!

  11. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyBrenda Reply

    I made your red velvet cake for my grandaughters birthday as she requested a vegan red velvet cake! They said it was amazing!!! I bought one of your cookbooks and I am quite inpressed!

  12. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyQueenT Reply

    I made this today as a test, using half recipe. 1 x 8 inch layer and 4 cupcakes. Instead of all water, I did half water and half unsweetened almond milk. I used 2 tablespoons of red color (will double this for full recipe), 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon imitation butter emulsion. It was delicious without frosting. I will use this as my go-to vegan red velvet cake or cupcakes.

  13. Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyJessie Reply

    I made this for my husband’s birthday and it was a hit!

    • Avatar thumbnail image for MarlyMarly

      Hi Jessie. So glad you liked this cake. It’s my favorite for birthdays too!

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