This red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting is an absolute showstopper of a dessert! It’s easy to make and one of the most moist cakes you’ll ever try! Top it with sugared cranberries for the ultimate holiday dessert!
Everyone always talks about doing holiday cookie trays full of yummy things like Christmas tree brownies, chewy molasses cookies, and maybe even a cherry cheesecake cookie.
The thing people don’t talk about that often is holiday desserts. They don’t get nearly the love that homemade apple pie and no bake pumpkin pie get during Thanksgiving.
This red velvet cake deserves all the love, especially when topped with sugared cranberries. It’s beautiful, delicious, and surprisingly easy to make!
Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Cake mix starter – this cake starts with a cake mix then adds enough things to it (like these hot chocolate cupcakes), that you’ll never even know it started with a box!
- Moist cake – unlike many red velvet cakes, the sour cream and milk in this cake keep it super moist!
- Beautiful – if you’re looking for a gorgeous cake to finish off your holiday table, this is it. Forget holiday decorations, all you need is this!
- Yellow cake mix – I just used a standard Betty Crocker yellow cake mix, but you can use your favorite.
- Whole milk + lemon juice – this is used to make a buttermilk for the cake. If you have buttermilk on hand, you can just use buttermilk as well.
- Red food coloring – you want to use a bottle of liquid red food coloring, not gel or powder. This will help keep the color even and the brilliant red you see in the photos.
- Cream cheese – the cream cheese frosting makes this cake, so make sure you’re using the full fat, full sugar kind. Also, make sure it’s totally softened before you try to mix it.
- Butter – I always recommend the best butter you can afford, especially for the frosting since it’s not being baked and will keep it’s flavor.
- Sugared cranberries – this is so good garnished with these sugared cranberries. They’re super easy to make and such a nice touch!
How to Make Red Velvet Cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F and spray two 8″ round cake pans with cooking spray and dust lightly with flour.
Start by combining the milk and lemon juice together then let is sit for 10 minute to make a buttermilk. You could also just use buttermilk if you have it on hand.
Now mix the cake mix and the milk and lemon juice mixture together in a large mixing bowl. Use a hand or stand mixer to combine well.
Next add the sour cream and melted butter, mix, then add eggs and mix well.
Then add the unsweetened baking cocoa and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Once the cocoa is mixed in, add the red food coloring and mix again until color is an even red.
Pour the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans. Tap lightly on the counter before you put in the oven to cake to help with even cooking.
Reduce heat to 325°F before putting pans in the oven. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the sugared cranberries if you’re going to add them.
Once your cakes are done baking, remove them from the oven and let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.
While the cakes are cooking, make your frosting. Start by mixing the cream cheese and butter together.
Next you will add the vanilla and mix well, then slowly stir in the powdered sugar and continue mixing until smooth.
Take your cooled cakes and put the first cake bottom down on your cake stand or plate. You can put a little frosting under it to help is stay in place. Add a layer of frosting on top of the cake as well as around the sides.
Frost the first layer and then put the second layer on top, with the top of the cake facing down. If the cake is not flat on top, use a knife to carefully cut off the domed area of the cake.
Finish by frosting the rest of the cake. You can either completely frost the cake or lightly frost the cake for more of a naked red velvet cake look.
Garnish with sugared cranberries for an extra pop of red color or some grated chocolate. You can also sprinkle any remaining sugar mixture from the cranberries on the top of the cake if you want to if using sugared cranberries.
Serve immediately sliced into pieces. This cake typically serves eight people if you cut larger slices or you can cut it into 12 for smaller slices.
Store cake in the refrigerator before serving because of the cream cheese frosting.
Remove cake from refrigerator about 30-45 minutes before serving so that it can get soft and come to room temperature.
Store leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container and enjoy within a week.
Serve topped with sugared cranberries or chocolate swirls or flakes if you’re making this during a time other than the holidays.
Double the frosting if you like a lot of frosting on your cake. This recipe was written more with the intent of doing a light layer of frosting, so you’ll want to double it if you want it layered with lots of frosting.
A red velvet cake does have cocoa in it, so it could technically be considered a chocolate cake with red food coloring. However, a red velvet cake also typically uses acid like the lemon juice (or sometimes vinegar) and sour cream to really moisten it up, a typical characteristic of red velvet cake.
This cake makes one two-layer eight inch cake. It can be cut into eight large slices or 12-16 smaller ones.
Red velvet cake can be left out for a couple of hours while serving it but when you’re done serving the cake, it should be refrigerated because fo the cream cheese frosting.
The buttermilk (milk + lemon juice) in this recipe is what keeps it moist and really makes it red velvet cake. If you don’t have milk + lemon juice on hand, you can also substitute white vinegar for the lemon juice.
More Easy Desserts
- Oreo truffles – the easiest chocolate dessert ever and one that everyone loves!
- Sopapilla cheesecake – if you like cream cheese and cinnamon sugar, you’ll love these sopapilla cheesecake bars!
- Chocolate brownie cake – think grandma’s brownies but in cake form – so good!
- S’mores bars – chocolate, marshmallow, and two types of popular candy make these the best s’mores bars ever!
- Snickers poke cake – chocolate, caramel, and nuts. Need I say more?
Easy Red Velvet Cake
- 1 box yellow cake mix 15.2 oz
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 TBS lemon juice
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup unsalted butter (melted)
- ¼ cup unsweetened baking cocoa
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 bottle red food coloring 1 oz
- 1 ½ cups sugared cranberries (optional garnish)
- 12 ounces cream cheese (softened)
- ¾ cup unsalted butter (softened)
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups powdered sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350°F and lightly spray two 8" round cake pans with cooking spray and dust with flour.
- First, combine the milk and lemon juice in a large bowl and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- After ten minutes, add the cake mix to the milk and lemon juice and mix well.
- Next, add the sour cream and melted butter and mix well, then add the eggs and mix again until well incorporated.
- Now add the unsweetened cocoa powder and vanilla and mix until smooth, then add the food coloring and mix until it is a consistent color throughout.
- Pour the batter evenly between the two prepared cake pans.
- Before you put the cakes in the oven to bake, reduce the heat to 325°F. Then bake cakes for 25-30 minutes. Cakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.
- When the cakes are done, let them cool in the pans for about 10 minutes before transferring to cooling rack to cool completely.
- While the cakes are cooling, make the frosting. Start by combining the cream cheese and butter together. Mix until smooth.
- Add the vanilla and mix well.
- Slowly add the powdered sugar, mixing well as you add it. Mix until nice and smooth.
- Put one cake on the cake stand or plate bottom side down. You can put a little frosting on the surface to help hold it in place. Frost the cake.
- Put second cake on top of first cake with top side down. You may need to trim cake to make it flat. Frost the entire cake.
- Garnish with sugared cranberries and remaining sugar, if desired.
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