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Red Velvet Cakes & Cupcakes: A Valentine’s Day tradition

Red Velvet Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Red Velvet Cake from Scratch with Butter cream Frosting

Who doesn’t remember their first Valentine sweetheart whether it was real, imagined, or secret? My first Valentine was my boyfriend, Jim, who brought not just one but two huge heart shaped boxes of candy from the corner drug store to my house: one for me and one for my Mom. Talk about scoring brownie points!

This Valentine’s Day remember those who might be alone or could use a bit of cheering up. I like to buy a box of kids Valentines – lots cheaper than single ones and really fun and cute – brings a smile every time!

I hope each of you has a really nice Valentine’s Day filled with love and lots of chocolate!

Here are recipes for red velvet cake, one from scratch, two from cake mixes & tips on making any into cupcakes.



When I see a recipe like this, I wonder how it was ever developed. Red velvet cake is a “happy” cake – the vivid color makes me smile. The cocoa gives a hint of chocolate. Yes, you do need a whole bottle of red food coloring. There are recipes I’ve seen that use beets as a natural coloring agent. This recipe has to have food coloring. But heck, it’s only once a year…

2-1/2 cups all purpose flour – I used King Arthur all purpose

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks butter, softened (1 cup)

2 cups sugar

4 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup regular sour cream

1/2 cup milk – 2% or regular

1 oz bottle red food coloring

2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.

Grease and flour two 9” round cake pans. This means greasing the pan and then sprinkling it lightly with flour, then tapping excess out. Or use baking spray with flour.

Whisk together, sift or push through a sieve the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time so that they incorporate well. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low until blended. Don’t overbeat. Pour into pans.

Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool on wire rack before frosting.

Tip  from Rita’s kitchen: Put eggs in liquid measuring cup with spout. They will be easy to pour out one at a time.

Buttercream frosting

I like a thick frosting so I usually double the recipe. The left over buttercream can be frozen for a couple of months.

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened

4-1/2 confectioners sugar, sifted or pushed through a sieve if necessary to remove lumps

2 teaspoons vanilla

4-6 tablespoons milk or bit more if needed

Beat butter until creamy and then beat in sugar, vanilla and enough milk to desired consistency. Makes 3 cups.

Cream cheese frosting
Beat together until fluffy:

8 oz cream cheese, softened

4-6 tablespoons butter, softened

4 cups confectioners sugar or bit more if necessary

1 tablespoon vanilla



  • Adapted slightly from the cake mix doctor, Anne Byrne
  • Solid vegetable oil shortening, for greasing the pans
  • Flour, for dusting the pans (or use baking spray with flour)
  • 1 (18.5-ounce) package plain butter recipe golden cake mix
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/3 cups buttermilk, low fat or regular
  • 1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar


1.Place rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease 3 9-inch round cake pans with shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out excess flour and set the pans aside.

2.Place the cake mix, cocoa powder, buttermilk, food coloring, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, baking soda and vinegar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until ingredients are incorporated, 1 minute. Stop machine and scrape down side of bowl with rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes longer, scraping the side of the bowl again if needed. The batter should look well-blended. Divide batter evenly among 3 prepared pans, about 1 ½ cups batter per pan, smoothing the tops with rubber spatula. Place pans in the oven. If your oven is not large enough to hold 3 pans on center rack, place 2 on that rack and one in the center of the rack above.

3.Bake cake layers until they just start to pull away from the sides of the pans and the tops spring back when lightly pressed with a finger, 17 to 21 minutes. The layer on the higher rack may bake faster so test it for doneness first.

4.Transfer cake pans to wire racks and cool for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and give the pans a good shake to loosen cakes. Invert each layer onto a wire rack, then invert it again onto another rack so the cakes are right side up. Let the layers cool completely. Make frosting.

5.To assemble the cake, transfer one cake layer, right side up, to a serving platter. Spread the top with some of the frosting. Place a second cake layer, right side up, on top of the first and frost the top. Repeat this process with the third layer. Frost the side of the cake with a thin coat just to set the crumbs. Use the remaining frosting to go back over this and liberally frost the side, working with smooth, clean strokes. To make slicing easier, place uncovered cake in the refrigerator until frosting sets, 20 minutes.


Cream Cheese Frosting:


Place 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese and 1 stick (8 tablespoons) of room-temperature butter in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer on high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Stop machine and scrape down side of bowl with rubber spatula. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 4 cups sifted powdered sugar; beat on medium speed until well combined. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat the frosting for 1 minute longer.




1 package (2-layer size) German chocolate cake mix with pudding


1 cup sour cream


1/2 cup water


1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder


1/4 cup vegetable oil


1 bottle (1 ounce) McCormick® Red Food Color


3 eggs


2 teaspoons McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract


Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:



1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened


1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened


2 tablespoons sour cream


2 teaspoons McCormick® Pure Vanilla Extract


1 box (16 ounces) confectioners’ sugar




Preheat oven to 350°F. For the cake, beat cake mix, sour cream, water, cocoa powder, oil, food color, eggs and vanilla in large bowl with electric mixer on low speed just until moistened, scraping sides of bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes. Pour batter into 2 greased and floured (9-inch) round cake pans.

Bake 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely on wire rack.

For the Frosting, beat cream cheese, butter, sour cream and vanilla in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners’ sugar until smooth. Fill and frost cooled cake with frosting.



Each of the above recipes can be turned into cupcakes – makes about 24 or so. Line muffin tins with cupcake paper liners. Fill each one a little more than half full. Bake at 350  from 18-25 minutes, until top springs back when touched with your finger or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Don’t over bake.


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