Vegan Red Velvet Cake

The most amazing, easy Vegan Red Velvet Cake recipe is moist, soft, lightly chocolate cake, topped off with a simple homemade 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.

A slice of layered cake on a plate has a fork beside it and sits in front of the rest of the cake.
Most red velvet cake recipes insist on creaming butter and sugar, but I found a much simpler process with amazing results!
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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. I tried a few variations before I arrived at the idea of using my Wacky Cake recipe as a foundation.

Everything seems to flow from the wacky cake!

What does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like?

I asked several of my 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:

  • 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

These are the flavors and textures that I believe are necessary for a perfect red velvet layer cake. Between you and me, it’s the red velvet cake’s texture that really, well, takes the cake! With every bite, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by a cake that’s so soft and moist. I think that’s why it’s called a velvet cake.

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. I love a nice thick, slathering of frosting on this cake!

A layered vegan red velvet cake has several slices taken out of it.
The secret to any red velvet cake is a tangy frosting and this one is easy and delicious!

Traditional Red Velvet Cake

There’s a lot of confusion about the origins of this cake, but most agree that it originally used beets to create the red color. However, it is a tricky process to reduce the acidity in the cake (in order to keep the beets from oxidizing), thereby optimizing the bright red hue.

I’m sticking to using red food coloring for my eggless red velvet cake. You’ll see below some of my tips on how much of it to use and a couple of natural options that could create a reddish colored cake as well.

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

How to Make Vegan Red Velvet Cake

In this veg 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 recipe.

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.

Then we’ll stir together the wet ingredients, including the food coloring. We’ll add the wet ingredients to the dry to create the batter. This is poured into the prepared pans and baked.

See? This recipe is pretty simple and straight forward to make. That was my goal — to make the tastiest cake possible with the easiest steps and ingredients!

Favorite Tips

  1. Prepare Your Pans. We don’t want any of this delicious cake sticking to the pans. So, prepare the pans by cutting rounds of parchment paper to fit the bottom. Spray the inside of the cake pans (bottom and sides) with cooking spray, then place the cut rounds of parchment paper (one in each pan) in the bottom and spray again.
  2. A Word on Flour. I recommend using all-purpose flour for this recipe. If you’re wondering how to create a velvety crumb with all-purpose flour, we’re adding cornstarch and vinegar to help with that.
  3. Cocoa Powder. Be sure to use natural cocoa powder, not dutch process, which is too acidic for this recipe. I’m using 2 tablespoons to give a light cocoa flavor and not too much color from the cocoa.
  4. Butter vs. Oil. I know we want a buttery flavor for this cake, however, I’m letting the frosting deliver that. So, for the cake we’re using vegetable oil only. This helps create a moist cake that is also light.
  5. Apple Cider Vinegar. This may seem like an odd ingredient for a cake, but trust me, the combination of ingredients works. The vinegar delay 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.
  6. Gently Folding. Once the liquid ingredients are added to the dry, gently fold the two together to create the batter. And only mix until just combined. This helps create just enough structure from gluten formation, but not too much.

Removing Cakes from Pans

The last thing you want is to remove a cake from a pan and to see half of it sticking to the pan. Trust me, I’ve been there before. It’s no fun! To properly remove the cakes from the pan, first allow them to cool for about 10 minutes.

Score the sides of the pan with a butter knife, to help separate any pieces of the cake that might be sticking to the pan. Then place a plate or wire rack over the top of the cake pan and invert it onto a plate or wire rack to cool completely.

Simple Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

It’s a stretch to call this cream cheese frosting, but it does boast a tangy flavor that perfectly complements the flavor of this vegan red velvet cake. I wouldn’t choose any other frosting for this cake.

However, my Vegan Carrot Cake offers a more traditional tasting Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting. Just note that the carrot cake frosting may not be as firm between the layers as this one is. Like I say, I wouldn’t choose any other frosting but this one. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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.

Frosting the Cake

Once the cakes have cooled completely I recommend using a serrated knife to level any mounds from the tops of each cake. Be sure and reserve those 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. 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.

How to Store this Cake

Vegan red velvet cake recipes create a very moist cake. You’ll want to use a cake keeper to cover cake to keep the cake 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. They will keep if properly stored up to 2 months.

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

Red Food Coloring

Let’s talk about red food coloring for a bit. Because when I first set out to do this cake, I wanted to make a more natural red velvet cake, but it’s tricky to arrive at the same vibrantly colored cake.

The way I look at it, 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? The answer, I believe, depends on how much of it you consume regularly and whether or not you have allergies. Each person has to answer this question for themselves.

Truth be told, you don’t have to add any food coloring to this cake — it tastes the same with or without it! However, if you’re going to be using red food coloring, you have options.

I recommend using regular food coloring, to make it more accessible. It’s the kind you can buy at the store (not a gel food coloring). I recommend 2 tablespoons to get the bright red color in my cake. But you can use less if you prefer and you’re ok with less of the color in the cake.

Note: 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 instead of red food coloring.
  • I also like the idea of using Dragon Fruit Powder, although it’s more pink than read. But once baked it could become darker. Take a look at my Blue Velvet Cake which uses a natural Blue Butterfly Pea Powder for its bright color.
  • I love hibiscus so this Hibiscus Food Coloring Powder is a great option too, although it also appears to be more of a pink color than red.

Another way to boost the color is to reduce the amount of cocoa powder used. You can substitute the cocoa powder with a tablespoon of cocoa extract to deliver the light chocolate flavor for this cake.

Vegan Cake Recipes

Yes, it’s true this Vegan Red Velvet Cake recipe is all that and more! But doesn’t that leave you wanting to try some more delicious vegan cake recipes? Here are some great ones to get you started:

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

I hope you love this recipe as we do! Have you tried it? Be sure and leave a comment and a rating of this recipe below and then take a quick photo and share it with me using #namelymarly on Instagram. I love seeing your creations!

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!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Chocolate Wacky Cake Recipe
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 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, not dutch-process)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2/3 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

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening (such as Cristco)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons vegan creamer (vanilla flavored)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Spray two round cake pan with vegetable spray. You can also place a piece of parchment paper at the bottom of the pan 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 to cool completely before frosting.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Cream together the vegan butter and vegetable shortening in a mixing bowl using either a hand held 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 topls of cakees to create a level surface. Reserve shaved cake shreds. Place one cake on 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 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.

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 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 9X13″ cake pan or 12X17″ sheet pan. Bake at the same oven temperature for 40 – 45 minutes for the 9X13″ pan or 20 – 25 minutes for the 12X17″ pan. Use a tester to test for doneness.
Nutrition estimate includes both the cake and the frosting. 
A slice of cake sits in front of the rest of the cake. The text behind it reads, Vegan Red Velvet Cake.

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