Black Folks Southern Red Velvet Cake Recipe

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Do you want to make a delicious cake for your next event? 

Then why not wow the crowd with a classic Southern dessert– Black folks red velvet cake!

It’s the best way to celebrate a special occasion.

From anniversaries to birthdays to graduations. Or for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, or Valentine’s Day.

Southern Desserts Soul Food Red Velvet Cake

What is a Black folks’ Southern red velvet cake?

A Black folks’ Southern red velvet cake is a made-from-scratch decadent red sponge cake. It’s made with a bit of yummy cocoa powder and homemade cream cheese frosting that’s just sweet enough to be irresistible!

It’s a cake so good that people will ask, “Which bakery did you buy it from?”

Did Black people create red velvet cake?

What’s the story behind red velvet cake? Did Black folks invent it?

Red velvet cake is considered to be soul food of the South!

Because like most Southern cuisine that originated in the 1800s, red velvet cake is believed to also be of African-American origin. 

So what does red velvet cake have to do with Juneteenth?

Red is the prominent color of Juneteenth celebrations to recognize the bloodshed and honor the lives of Black ancestors pre-emancipation. Those who never got the chance to taste the freedoms we savor today. 

You’ll typically find red velvet cake included as a Juneteenth food on the menu at most celebrations today.

What’s the secret to Southern red velvet cake?

  1. The secret to any red velvet cake is that the intense red color comes from red food coloring. 
  2. Also, vinegar is an essential ingredient for this cake, which balances the chocolate cocoa powder with a bit of acidity and tang.
What’s the secret ingredient in this Black Folks Southern red velvet cake?

What’s the secret ingredient in this Black Folks Southern red velvet cake?

Two secret ingredients make this Black folks’ Southern red velvet cake moist and delicious: 

  1. Sour cream
  2. Mayonnaise

Using these ingredients for scratch red velvet cake or box mixes will eliminate the age-old question, “Why is my cake dry?”

Bonus ingredient: This red velvet cake recipe includes a bonus ingredient of chocolate chip morsels!

How do you make a Black folks’ Southern red velvet cake?

  • Butter is stirred into all-purpose flour to create a light texture. 
  • The iconic red hue comes from adding beets or food coloring. 
  • The granulated sugar provides sweetness and a hint of tang from the buttermilk and vinegar. 
  • Complete the cake mix by adding vanilla extract and milk to give it that lovely light flavor. 
  • Finish off your red velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting made from fresh whipped cream and confectioners’ powdered sugar sprinkled on top.
  • Red velvet cake should be moist (with the additions of mayo and sour cream) yet fluffy on the inside and velvety as it touches your lips!
Soul Food Red Velvet Cake Recipe

 

Black folks Southern red velvet cake recipe

Red velvet cake is a dichotomy: fluffy and, at the same time, moist.

The texture will melt in your mouth just like cotton candy does when you eat it. 

Once baked, the outside of this red velvet cake has a light crust, while the inside remains soft with a hint of chocolate flavor that makes every bite worth savoring.

I promise you won’t regret trying out this classic cake today!

Plus, there’s no need to worry about leftovers since everyone will return for seconds (and thirds) when they get their hands on this scrumptious dessert!

It’s so easy to make, too – follow my recipe instructions below!

How To Make Southern Red Velvet Cake From Scratch - Black Folks Southern Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Suggested kitchen equipment for Black folks Southern red velvet cake

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Ingredients for Black folks Southern red velvet cake

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • ⅓ teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • ⅓ cup of unsalted butter, softened
  • ¼ cup of mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup of sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅓ cup of vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cup of buttermilk (see this recipe HERE for how to make buttermilk, ratio 1:1)
  • 1 tablespoon of white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons of red food coloring (liquid or gel)
  • 1 cup of mini semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
  • ¾ cup of water (for the Instant Pot)

For the frosting

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened or whipped cream cheese
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
What’s the secret to Southern red velvet cake?

Instructions for Southern Black folks red velvet cake

  1. Grease a round cake pan and set it aside.
  2. Starting with the wet ingredients, combine the buttermilk and vinegar in a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir, and set aside.
  3. In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well to blend, and set aside.
  4. Mix the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until creamy.
  5. Add the vegetable oil and mix again.
  6. Add the eggs one by one, beating each one into the butter mixture.
  7. Then add the mayonnaise and sour cream and electric mix again.
  8. Add the red food coloring and mix gently with a rubber spatula to achieve a batter with an intensive red color.
  9. Next, pour in the vinegar and buttermilk mixture into the red batter.
  10. Gradually pour in the dry ingredients flour mixture that was set aside. 
  11. Then gently fold in the chocolate chips (optional) as you combine all the ingredients into the batter.
  12. Mix gently with the rubber spatula until all ingredients are absorbed into the batter, and the mixture is uniform.
  13. Pour the batter into the greased pan.
  14. Bake the red velvet cake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  15. * If you’re using an Instant Pot for this recipe, follow all the instructions. If baking your cake in the oven – skip to instruction number 22: Cover the top of the baking pan with a paper towel and wrap it tightly with aluminum foil, keeping the foil and the paper loose so there’s room for the cake to rise.
  16. Open the Instant Pot lid and pour ¾ cup of water into the stainless steel inner pot. 
  17. Place the cake pan into the Instant Pot baking sling and place the sling with the cake pan into the inner pot.
  18. Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 50 minutes.
  19. When the cooking time is finished, allow a natural pressure release for at least 20 minutes.
  20. To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
  21. Use the baking sling handles to remove the pan from the Instant Pot. 
  22. Pick up with the instructions for an oven-baked cake: Remove the cake from the oven and test it to see if it’s done by inserting a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, your cake is ready! (For an Instant Pot cake – If it’s not ready after the toothpick test, wrap the pan again with a paper towel and aluminum foil, cook for 10 more minutes, and then allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes.)
  23. Set the cake pan on a baking rack to cool for at least 10 minutes. 
  24. Then, carefully turn the cake out of the pan and onto a baker’s cooling rack.
  25. Allow the Southern red velvet cake to cool to room temperature for at least 2 hours before frosting. 

🎙 Listen to The Soul Food Pod episode: Black Folks Southern Red Velvet Cake

Pro tips: How do you make layered cakes?

  1. To make a layered red velvet cake, bake at least two cakes and frost the top of one of the cakes. This will be the bottom layer of the cake.
  2. This first frosting makes the inner layer of frosting for the layered cake – and a little frosting here goes a long way! 
  3. Then stack one cake on the other, inverting the top cake so the bottom side of this layer is now the top, for a flat look on the cake.
  4. Now, frost the entire cake stack, using a cake scraper to make a nice clean coat of frosting on the outside of the cake around the stacked layers.
Southern Red Velvet Cake Recipe

How do you coat a red velvet cake?

Pro decorating tips: 

  1. Before frosting, shave off a fine layer of the bottom cake and crumble it for a red velvet cake crumb coating after frosting.
  2. Refrigerate the frosted cake for 15 minutes to firm up the icing before adding the final crumb coating.

Instructions for the cream cheese frosting

  1. Add the cream cheese to a large mixing bowl. 
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  3. Turn the mixer down to low and add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. 
  4. Once the ingredients are combined, turn the mixer up to medium and beat for another 2 minutes. 
  5. Spread the cream cheese frosting onto the cooled red velvet cake.
  6. Optionally, garnish with chopped pecans, crushed pecans, or red velvet cake crumbs.
  7. Pro tip: Refrigerating a cake with cream cheese frosting for a few hours will give it a firm texture, making slicing easy upon serving.
  8. Slice, serve & enjoy! 
Southern Red Velvet Cake

Black folks Southern red velvet cake FAQs

The real question with most people is what type of cake it is?

Red velvet is a one-of-a-kind cake. 

It’s chocolatey and decadent. But not as sweet as traditional chocolate cakes because of the vinegar and buttermilk. 

This original recipe for red velvet gets its name from the deep rich color that comes from two vital ingredients: cocoa powder and food coloring. 

Red velvet is so wonderfully different than any other cake you’ve ever tried, with an irresistible “red” twist!

Southern Desserts Black Folks Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Is red velvet cake chocolate cake?

Although red velvet cake is made with cocoa powder, it’s not a chocolate cake.

Chocolate cakes require much more cocoa powder and don’t use vinegar to lighten the chocolate taste.

Is there a natural alternative to red food coloring?

Red food coloring is the common coloring additive in red velvet cake. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t an alternative out there. For example, beetroot is a terrific and all-natural substitute for red food coloring.

It may come as a surprise to learn that the redness of red velvet cake wasn’t always so apparent. It’s said that the chemical reaction of vinegar and cocoa powder yields a red color. So, folks started enhancing it with beet juice and then moved on to the intensity of red food coloring.

Can you substitute the blue food coloring for red and make blue velvet cake?

The answer is yes! A blue velvet cake would be a great addition to any dessert table for those who seek variety or who wish to stand out from traditional desserts. It’s easy to make and tastes great! Substitute the blue food coloring for red, and you will have the same delicious, beautiful, and vibrant-looking cake.

Black Folks Southern Red Velvet Cake Recipe

How much should you fill the cake pan?

Every baker has a different way of making a cake. However, following a general rule will ensure consistency. The best filling for a cake pan is about three-fourths to half of the way up the side. 

This will give room for the cake to rise while baking, and your batter comes out evenly and gives you enough space in case you need to add more ingredients or toppings later on.

Is it necessary to add vinegar?

Bread dough with a dash of vinegar makes for a good rise, airy texture, and enhances the flavor.

The same goes for adding vinegar to cake batter. It breaks down the starches to produce a lighter, fluffier cake.

So, it’s a good thing, and nothing wrong with using vinegar in your red velvet cake recipe.

Is cake flour an alternative to all-purpose flour?

Whether to use cake flour or all-purpose flour entirely depends on what you are baking?

If you need your baked goods to have a light, airy texture, cake flour is what you need. On the other hand, all-purpose flour is suitable for baking most things, including cake, bread, tea cakescookies, pastries, pizzas, and muffins.

Soul Food Southern Red Velvet Cake

What size cake pans should you use?

The 8″ round cake pan is a favorite choice for many home cooks. It features a well in the center that makes it easy to pour batter into and an outer edge that provides stability while baking.

If you are preparing this red velvet cake recipe in an Instant Pot, then an Instant Pot 7.7-inch round pan is the perfect pan for you.

Does the cake need to be refrigerated since the frosting is made with cream cheese?

Cakes with cream cheese frosting are best stored in the refrigerator. The cream cheese frosting itself does not contain any preservatives. Therefore, it may spoil if left out of the fridge for too long. 

Additionally, refrigerating a cake with cream cheese frosting will give it a firm texture, making slicing easy upon serving. So, it’s best to chill your red velvet cake at least an hour before serving.

Would replacing distilled vinegar with apple cider vinegar be okay?

Apple cider vinegar is made from apples, so it’s not too surprising that people often use apple cider vinegar in their baked goods.

By now, you know that red velvet cake is one of the most common recipes that call for apple cider vinegar.

Some bakers believe replacing the distilled white vinegar with apple cider vinegar would make a better tasting cake. Because it has a sweeter taste and more acidity than regular white vinegar.

How do you make Black folks Southern red velvet cake?

Can this cake be at room temperature, or does it have to stay in the refrigerator?

Several types of cakes can be at room temperature or in the refrigerator. For example, fruit-based cakes like strawberry cake and blueberry cake do not need to stay cold. 

On the other hand, cakes with cream cheese frosting are best when stored in the refrigerator for several hours before eating them.

What do you think about this recipe for Black folks’ Southern red velvet cake?

Will you make it in the oven or in the Instant Pot? 

Leave your answer in a comment below.

And if you like this recipe, you’ll love these best Southern desserts recipes HERE!

The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
The Ultimate Soul Food Recipes Guide
What is soul food? Soul food recipes are African-American recipes full of flavor! A legacy of Southern cooking the Black way. Check out this collection of the best soul food recipes!
Check out this recipe!

This recipe is cited as a source on the origins of red velvet cake’s Wikipedia page.

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Southern Red Velvet Cake Recipe
Black Folks Southern Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Southern Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake is considered to be soul food of the South!
A Black folks' Southern red velvet cake is a made-from-scratch decadent red sponge cake with homemade cream cheese frosting. A cake that's just sweet enough to be irresistible!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Pressure Release Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Soul Food, Southern Food
Servings: 12
Calories: 445kcal

Equipment

  • Instant Pot 7.7-inch round pan (or a 8″ round cake pan if not using Instant Pot)
  • Instant Pot baking sling (for Instant Pot)
  • KitchenAid stand mixer or electric mixer
  • Aluminum foil (for Instant Pot)
  • Paper towel (for Instant Pot)
  • Baking and cooling rack
  • Cake scraper (optional for ease in frosting a layered red velvet cake)

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar granulated
  • teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • cup butter softened
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • ¾ cup sour cream
  • 3 eggs
  • cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar white
  • 4 tablespoons food coloring red (liquid or gel)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips mini, semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
  • ¾ cup water (for the Instant Pot)

For the frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese softened or whipped cream cheese
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

Instructions for Southern Black folks red velvet cake

  • Grease a cake pan and set it aside.
  • Starting with the wet ingredients, combine the buttermilk and vinegar in a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir, and set aside.
  • In a separate medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring well to blend, and set aside.
  • Mix the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer for 2-3 minutes until creamy.
  • Add the vegetable oil and mix again.
  • Add the eggs one by one, beating each one into the butter mixture.
  • Then add the mayonnaise and sour cream and electric mix again.
  • Add the red food coloring and mix gently with a rubber spatula to achieve a batter with an intensive red color.
  • Next, pour in the vinegar and buttermilk mixture into the red batter.
  • Gradually pour in the dry ingredients flour mixture that was set aside.
  • Then gently fold in the chocolate chips (optional) as you combine all the ingredients into the batter.
  • Mix gently with the rubber spatula until all ingredients are absorbed into the batter, and the mixture is uniform.
  • Pour the batter into the greased pan.
  • Bake the red velvet cake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. 
  • * If you're using an Instant Pot for this recipe, follow all the instructions. If baking your cake in the oven – skip to instruction number 22: 
  • Open the Instant Pot lid and pour 3/4 cup of water into the stainless steel inner pot.
  • Place the pan into the Instant Pot baking sling and place the sling with the cake pan into the inner pot.
  • Close the Instant Pot lid (make sure the valve is up – in the position for sealing) and pressure cook on high for 50 minutes.
  • When the cooking time is finished, allow a natural pressure release for at least 20 minutes.
  • To open the Instant Pot lid, move the valve to ‘venting’ and manually release any remaining pressure, if applicable.
  • Use the baking sling handles to remove the pan from the Instant Pot.
  • Pick up with the instructions for an oven-baked cake: Remove the cake from the oven and test it to see if it's done by inserting a toothpick in the center. If it comes out clean, your cake is ready! (For an Instant Pot cake – If it's not ready after the toothpick test, wrap the pan again with a paper towel and aluminum foil, cook for 10 more minutes, and then allow a natural pressure release for 10 minutes.)
  • Set the cake pan on a baking rack to cool for at least 10 minutes. 
  • Then, carefully turn the cake out of the pan and onto a baker's cooling rack.
  • Allow the Southern red velvet cake to cool to room temperature for at least 2 hours before frosting. 

Instructions for the cream cheese frosting

  • *See the pro tips in the notes below for frosting a layered red velvet and creating a decorative crumb coating.
  • Add the cream cheese to a large mixing bowl.
  • Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese on medium speed for 2 minutes.
  • Turn the mixer down to low and add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract. 
  • Once the ingredients are combined, turn the mixer up to medium and beat for another 2 minutes.
  • Spread the cream cheese frosting onto the cooled red velvet cake.
  • Optionally, garnish with chopped pecans, crushed pecans, or red velvet cake crumbs.
  • Pro tip: Refrigerating a cake with cream cheese frosting for a few hours will give it a firm texture, making slicing easy upon serving.
  • Slice, serve & enjoy!

Video

Notes

Pro tips: How do you make layered cakes?
  1. To make a layered red velvet cake, bake at least two cakes and frost the top of one of the cakes. This will be the bottom layer of the cake.
  2. This first frosting makes the inner layer of frosting for the layered cake – and a little frosting here goes a long way! 
  3. Then stack one cake on the other, inverting the top cake so the bottom side of this layer is now the top, for a flat look on the cake.
  4. Now, frost the entire cake stack, using a cake scraper to make a nice clean coat of frosting on the outside of the cake around the stacked layers.
How do you coat a red velvet cake?
Pro decorating tips: 
  1. Before frosting, shave off a fine layer of the bottom cake and crumble it for a red velvet cake crumb coating after frosting.
  2. Refrigerate the frosted cake for 15 minutes to firm up the icing before adding the final crumb coating.
Southern Red Velvet Cake Recipe Card

Nutrition

Calories: 445kcal | Carbohydrates: 66g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 305mg | Potassium: 122mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 49g | Vitamin A: 449IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 75mg | Iron: 1mg
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18 Comments

  1. I’m from the south our food don’t look nothing like that.

    1. Yay – I’m from the South, & this recipe was made in the South too! It’s easy for anyone to have their cake look like this – it’s simply the Bundt cake pan that does the beautiful work for you!

  2. Charlotte says:

    5 stars
    I’ve never made a cake from scratch! This is GORGEOUS and will be my first scratch recipe!!

  3. 5 stars
    This is being made in our house this year. Hoping to be able to get out and get all the ingredients

  4. Ronald Gagnon says:

    5 stars
    I am from Canada…

    I have never even heard of Black Folks Southern Red Velvet Cake

    But it sounds fantastic

  5. Cyrene Jo Peñas says:

    5 stars
    This cake would be nice for Valentines Day too!

  6. 5 stars
    How does this recipe fare with cupcakes? I’m looking for a good red velvet cupcake recipe. It sounds delicious but I was wondering if anyone has tried to convert it?

    1. 5 stars
      This Southern red velvet cake recipe can convert for cupcakes. Bake in the conventional oven and watch closely as cupcakes tend to bake faster than a whole cake!

  7. 5 stars
    Can you make this in the oven instead of an insta pot? And if so, what temp and how long?

    1. 5 stars
      Yes, bake the red velvet cake at 350 degrees F for 25-35 minutes in the oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. (Remember oven times & temps can vary.)