Old Family Recipe, the REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe

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Before my husband and I were married….somewhere around 24 years ago….

I had Red Velvet Cake for very the first time.

His Aunt made it for a baby shower that I attended.
The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake

What a wonderful and tasty delight! oh my
Of course I immediately got the recipe.
Now listen up, this is the REAL recipe. Not the recipe that has since evolved. (cream cheese frosting, wha???)

The cake portion is pretty basic for Red Velvet Cake. It’s the frosting that people have changed over the years.

In my experience anyway.

Red Velvet everything nowadays………..but with the wrong frosting every time.

Some variation of vanilla or cream cheese. Basic frostings….and good ones…..

Just wrong for true Red Velvet Cake.

And if you’ve never had this frosting on anything Red Velvet, I promise you will never go back once you do!
So I will go over the making of the cake…..
….and then tell you what the real Red Velvet frosting is composed of.

Here are the ingredients….

The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
I forgot to get the buttermilk so I used regular with a dash of vinegar to make it “buttermilk”.
Not ideal. But will work in a pinch!

Follow the directions above.
Then dissolve the baking soda in with the vinegar….
The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
Add this to your mixture last.

The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
Pour into 4 (or 2) 9 inch round pans. I have 2, so did 2.
The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake

Let them cool completely.
I decided to cut mine in half to make the four layers.
The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
You don’t really have to but the frosting is my favorite part so I wanted to layer it in….a lot!

OK….now for the frosting. The most important part, in my opinion!

Cook the milk and flour until it has a thick, gravy consistency.
The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
Nice and thick….
The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
Put into the fridge and cool completely. It will get even thicker as it cools.
Next, cream the butter and sugar.
After the flour/milk mixture has cooled add in the creamed sugar/butter mixture.
The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
Cream together thoroughly.

Add vanilla last.

The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
And there you have it…
THE Red Velvet Cake Frosting.
The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
And it is, by far, THE best frosting ever….again, in my humble opinion, of course! ;)
Frost the layers….
The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
Then frost the entire outside, top, sides… all.
With 4 pans and really neat lines, you can and should, leave the outside layers visible on the sides. Much prettier that way!
Mine were not so neat so I covered it.
But you can still see the layers from the inside.

I just LOVE my little retro cake plate/cover….another fantastic thrift store find!
And even labeled…in case you were unsure of what could be found inside……;)

The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake
I am into eating much healthier now so I don’t make this very often anymore.
I do usually make it for the Holidays though…and it is always a hit. (and expected!)

So there you have it.
The original Red Velvet Cake Recipe.
I hope you will try this if you never have!
It is a bit more involved but so worth it.

Love it? PIN it to save it!

This is a MUST try!! Not like everything else out there!! LOVE this one! The REAL Red Velvet Cake Recipe (the secrets in the frosting!) artsychicksrule.com #redvelvet #redvelvetcake


5 from 6 votes

The REAL Red Velvet Cake

Old family recipe...the secret's in the frosting
Author Nancy @ Artsy Chicks Rule


For the Cake

  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup shortening
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 Tbsp Cocoa
  • 2 oz. red food color
  • 1 tsp baking soda dissolved in 1 Tbsp vinegar

For the Frosting

  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup flour
  • dash salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla


  1. Cream shortening and sugar. Add eggs, beat well. Sift flour, salt & cocoa. Add alternately the buttermilk & flour mixture to the creamed mixture. Add vanilla & food color. Fold in dissolved vinegar mixture last. Grease and flour 4 - 9 inch pans.
  2. Bake @ 350 for 25-30 minutes.
  3. Cool completely before frosting.

Frosting Directions

  1. Cook the milk and flour over medium heat until thickened consistency. Stirring constantly.
  2. Cool in the refrigerator. While that is cooling, cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix together the cooled milk/flour mixture with the creamed butter/sugar mixture. Add vanilla.
  3. Frost between the layers and top.
  4. Enjoy!!!!


Let me know if you do and how you like it.

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      1. Hi Jessica! I have never made it in a pan like you mentioned but I am sure you can. I would imagine you would use the same temps just keep an eye on it for doneness. I would mention that you would lose some of the “flavor” of this cake if you do it this way as part of the texture/flavor is in the delicate layers with icing in between. But again, it is certainly doable!

    1. Vicky…it is yummy!! ;) And yes, the frosting is to die for, really. I could just sit and eat it. IMO, it makes the cake and is so different from the cream cheese version.
      Thanks for the pin!! :)

  1. I had forgotten the frosting originally used with this cake. THANK you for the reminder and for the recipe for it.

  2. You are completely right with the frosting! My grandma would always make it with this frosting and I never understood why people put cream cheese frosting on red velvet!

    1. Oh yes! Love this! :) The cream cheese frosting is great but it is not the true “red velvet” frosting! I think somewhere along the line someone did it because it was easier to make and more “mainstream”. But in all honesty…this frosting is not difficult and makes the cake, IMO!

    1. Yes, it really is the best! Before “red velvet” became all the rage, this was the frosting used (in my little part of the world anyway)…somehow it got switched to cream cheese! Not the same ;) Thanks for stopping by!!! Have a blessed night!

    1. Hi Traycie!

      Thanks for stopping by! Oh that is so cool to hear!! And yes, I agree with you, it is the BEST ever! It totally makes it, in my opinion. :)


  3. Yum! Can’t wait to try this!

    The printed recipe is just for the cake, correct? Is there one for the frosting somewhere? I definitely want them both printed so I have easy access to them! :)

    Thank you, Nancy!

    1. OH my gosh!! duh….so sorry Karen!! I installed a new recipe “plugin” for my blog and redid the printable recipe for this post. Great catch!!! Thank you so much~!!! I am fixing it right now. (this brain is on overload lately,lol)


  4. I do love red velvet cake and that frosting sounds so delicious. I applaud your use of some organic ingredients, but the red food coloring really kills it for me. Did you know that red velvet cake was originally made red by using beets? My sister and I made red velvet cupcakes using a can of beets…no taste that makes you think ‘beets’ and it made the cake super moist! Give it a whirl!

    1. Hi Courtney!
      Oh yes, I do try to eat healthy and have for many years now! :) I hate that is uses the red food coloring but don’t make it often (usually once a year) so just roll with it. I am SO thrilled to hear you can use beets! I love beets anyway..and yes they are very red! Good to know. I’d love to remove the coloring.
      I will definitely play around with the recipe and try it….I’ll post how it turns out here!

      Thanks so much for that info!


    1. It is divine. DIVINE. I can eat it right out of the bowl!! lol I only make it once a year..it is dangerous. ;)


  5. now that i have seen this, I am definitely going to try this. ESPECIALLY THAT FROSTING……but…….there’s just one thing i wanna know. does the frosting hold up better than the conventional buttercream or just the same? u know how they say old things work the best? well i wanted to see if this could possibly my permanent, go-to buttercream recipe that doesn’t fall apart as fast as an angsty teen.

    1. Hi Edward,
      The frosting is amazing. :) But, I would say it probably does not hold up as well. It does have a slightly different texture than buttercream or cream cheese frosting. I actually have a post (and recipe) going out in about a week concerning just this! ;)
      I do hope you will try it anyway…it is so worth it!


      1. i cant wait to read your new post. the thing is that i love buttercream but i hate using a truckload of confectioners sugar in order to make it stable and i am looking for a recipe that gives me just that. although i do have a good swiss merengue buttercream recipe for when i have to go to a soiree and im unsure about the serving time of the cake but they are not the ideal consistency that i search for in icing. I dont want a cloud but i dont want cement, but these are the only ones that hold up. The perfect buttercream ought to be the secret to the creation of life.

  6. YES!!! Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake! I cannot convince people that THIS is how this cake should be made and NOT with that nasty, heavy, cream cheese frosting. This cake is too light and flavorful to be overshadowed by the frosting. This is the cake my mom and granny used to make from scratch for birthdays. A box mix doesn’t even begin to compare. Thank you for posting this. I’d love to see more people enjoy this incredible cake the way it was meant to be. YUM!

    1. Yay!! Another TRUE Red Velvet fan!! :)
      And yes, it seems no one really knows about this recipe. Everyone always thinks its cream cheese frosting for the proper topping on this cake…drives me crazy! ;) And no, I agree, a box mix does not in any way compare. (although I do have a recipe I just posted today with a box mix AND cream cheese frosting!! With a ton of disclaimers though lol…BUT I did it for the sake of ease, not to compare in any way with my REAL Red Velvet recipe ;) )
      Happy Holidays to you Dawn!

    2. This is the red velvet cake I prefer with this frosting and NOT the cream cheese frosting that you usually find in recipes. My son wanted this cake, but doesn’t like cream cheese icing, so it is perfect!

  7. Only time I’ve ever seen my family’s recipe outside our family! It’s sooooo good! The only difference is in the frosting, we use Crisco shortening instead of butter! Yeah, Crisco! Not for the health conscious! …and my grandmother had a cake plate and cover just like the one in your picture!

    1. Hi Janette!
      OH I love to meet others who are familiar with this recipe! :) and yes, haha…on the Crisco….but nothing about this cake is healthy anyway, so it’s ok. ;)
      I love that cake plate I found…so neat your grandmother had the same. I found it at a thrift store for 3.00 and snatched it up!


  8. So happy to see a blogger who agrees with me about the frosting. Fluffy white frosting is what I grew up having on red velvet cake and it is way better than cream cheese frosting. My recipe calls for 1/2 cup crisco and a 1/2 cup butter. If I remember next time, I will try it with 1 cup butter instead (I only make once or twice a year).

    One tip I would like to offer is to cover the milk and flour mixture with plastic wrap (pressed completely against the surface) while it is cooling. This prevents any skin from forming as it cools. The skin can cause lumps when mixing the frosting.

    Love the red splattered recipe page. I have my mom’s handwritten recipe with splatters on it too. I keep all my recipes on my computer, but this is one recipe that I am also keeping the handwritten copy. It seems that no matter how careful I am with mixing this recipe (even when I use my Kitchen Aid with the splatter guard), I get red splatters outside the bowl just like my mom did.

    1. Hi Cheryl!
      Oh yay….someone else who knows and loves this frosting! :) It really is the best!
      And yes, I wrote that recipe down in my cook book about 24 years ago…it has been well loved and used since then! All of my own recipes that I come up with still get written down in this book. :) I probably could keep them on my computer now that I keep a tablet in the kitchen to look up recipes, etc, though!! Good idea! And thanks so much for the tip! :)

      Happy New Year to you!!

  9. This is the ONLY frosting my mother ever made. She made many a wedding cake with this frosting too! It is by far, I agree, the most delicious frosting ever.

  10. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I made it as instructed and the cake itself is amazing. The icing however tasty did not turn out like the picture. It is really grainy any thoughts on what I may have done incorrectly?!

    1. You are so welcome! And I am so sorry it didn’t turn out like the photo. Hmm It shouldn’t be grainy. Maybe it was the butter? Maybe it didn’t mix well with the other ingredients. I really just don’t know…it should be really creamy and smooth. Maybe try again?
      Sorry, am not able to be more helpful!


  12. Hi there! Can’t wait to try this recipe! I am making Red Velvet Cupcakes for a Baby Shower! I wanted to see how many cupcakes this recipe will make? Also – 2 ounces of Red Food Coloring…I was thinking of using Wilton No Taste Red – they come in 1 ounces bottles…will I really need TWO? That seems like a lot? What is your food coloring of choice?

    Thanks in advance!

    Can’t wait to hear from you!

    ~ Kelly ~

    1. Hi Kelly,
      I hope you love it as much as we do! :) As far as how many cupcakes make, I don’t know, sorry! I don’t think I’ve ever made it that way! ;)
      But I’d guess as many as a regular cake would make. (around 24?)
      Also, I’ve never heard of no taste Wilton Red. Two is a lot, you could probably get away with one. I plan to create an adapted recipe using a natural alternative (beet powder, some other things, etc) for the “red” soon just to see how it works. I will post about it when I do! :) So keep a lookout for that if you are interested!
      I typically use the food color at the grocery store without issue (Sauer’s, McCormick, etc)
      Hope that helps!! :)

  13. This recipe is almost identical to my Mom’s–and to be sure it is the VERY BEST Red Velvet Cake recipe out there! No other recipe can compare to our “icing” which is FABULOUS!! I pinned yours because if I should ever lose hers, I have an almost identical one to use!! Thank you for sharing!!!

    1. OH that is so neat Kathie! :) And I so agree, it is the best! No question at all. The people who think cream cheese (although tasty) is the best…well, they must not have had the real deal yet! ;)

  14. ohmigosh!! You are the ONLY person I’ve ever met that has the same frosting recipe and cake recipe as my grandmother!! And you are right–it is the ONLY real frosting, IMHO ;) , as well!!
    I have searched the ‘net to try and find the “name” of it. And nope, can’t find it anywhere lol.
    Glad to see someone else has found it from a dear one as well :)

    1. OH that is too funny! No, I haven’t found too many who know this recipe. :)
      I’m so thankful to have had it all these years!

  15. My family has been making this recipe for years! I hate when people think “cream cheese icing” is the norm for Red Velvet Cake!

  16. It’s me again. The name of this icing is Waldorf Icing! I just read the comment about not knowing the name of the icing.

    1. My mom’s recipe is titled Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake. I think a chef at that hotel is credited with this yummy masterpiece.

      1. I think that is right. I have come across that since! I am sure that my family passed down from there. :) But, so many don’t know that ‘cream cheese’ is not the correct frosting for this cake. They don’t know what they are missing! I’d take this version over the cream cheese version any day. ;)

  17. I grew up with this cake as my birthday cake. And now am requested to make it often! I believe it came from the Waldorf Astoria but my recipe source was a cookbook from my teacher grandmother who had a volume of recipes from the 1930’s or ’40’s that had recipes from Home Ec teachers all across the country. I cannot find those books and my recipe box recently got lost in a move. I needed the “real” frosting recipe. So glad you posted this! Thank you.

    1. Oh yay Colleen!! I’m so glad you found my recipe. And yep, I have heard this is the same recipe form the Waldorf. So neat! I adore this recipe. To me, none other is a true red velvet. I guess I am just a purist when it comes to this cake (and frosting!). ;) xo

  18. This looks awesome and so similar to my Grandma’s 60 year old recipe:) I have 9 inch pans but was thinking of doing 6 inch pans. Would that change the baking time? Thanks! Amelia

    1. Hi Amelia! :) Oh, that’s so great! I know this one is quite old too so might be the same one! :) And yes, I would think it would change it by only about 5 minutes or so. Just keep an eye on them. :) Enjoy!! xoxo

  19. Very true that back in the early 1900s or earlier, using cream cheese for frosting wasn’t as easy as it is for us. I’ve had it both ways, and cream cheese is my choice every time I make this cake. Your cake recipe is very similar to my grandmother’s. So good!

    1. That is so true! I do love cream cheese frosting (yummy) just not on my Red Velvet Cake! :) (although, I wouldn’t pass it up with cream cheese either! lol) xoxo

  20. I made this recipe in 1966 for my son’s first birthday.
    I have lost the recipe and have been looking for the one with the right icing. Cream cheese icing is great for carrot cake but not for red velvet cake. I see myself making this cake in the near future.
    Thank you so much.

    1. Oh, that is so great to hear, Karen. I am SO happy that I was able to help you with this recipe. I know exactly what you mean! I feel like so many people nowadays think that cream cheese frosting is the norm for this cake, but it’s just not so. AND they are missing out!! This icing is the best! :) Enjoy!! xoxo

  21. Do you use salted butter or unsalted butter for your icing and can you also use all purpose flour for the cake?

    1. I have used both without issue. And yes, all-purpose flour is what I use in this recipe. :) I hope you enjoy it as much as we do! xoxo

  22. This was originally called the Waldorf Astoria cake. I have my grandmother’s hand written recipe for this cake and the cooked topping.
    My grandmother was a baker back in the 1930s and 40s. In our family we just called it the red cake….. no velvet in sight….. lol

    1. Oh yes, I think I have heard that before! What a treasure you have. And yes, the cooked topping is the only way to go with this cake! In my opinion! :)

  23. Very very rarely do I see a recipe for this cake with this frosting, its always cream cheese, the frosting is what makes the cake so kudos to you for getting it right!

  24. I have this recipe (well it is tweaked a little old family recipes). But we use almond extract in our icing. Gives it a cherry taste! Delicious and they want more of it! Give it a try.

  25. I have seen other recipes that call for regular sugar, can you use either one?
    This is the only cake my husband lives and I’ve made it before just can’t remember what sugar I used.

    1. Hmm, I’m not really sure, I’ve only made it as I’ve described here. It is amazing though, hope your husband loves it! :)

  26. I just found this recipe for Red Velvet Cake. It is just like my Grandma’s recipe, which was lost. I hate cream cheese. I think that I am the only person on the planet who does, but I can’t stand it in anything. I even make carrot cake with buttercream. Thank you so much. You brought so many memories at Christmas. I am going to send this to my sister. She will be so happy.
    Donna Fleming
    Corpus Christi, TX

  27. THANK GOODNESS you posted this recipe & I found it online. My brother is getting married the end of July & has decided to have desserts at home following his non-traditional wedding & reception. So, I thought I’d surprise him by making this cake. The back story about this cake… My mother was a dessert baker at a local high school when I was growing up. She got this recipe from cafeteria co-worker. At that time (~1965) it was known to our family as WALDORF ASTORIA CAKE. She made this for all family special occasions. THIS is the melt in your mouth … there is nothing like it … who EVER thought this cake should be made with cream cheese frosting … hands-down the BEST dessert EVER.
    One thing every reader should know… If you make this & use green food coloring, warn your guests about what the green colored cake will do to the body’s “output”. HA!
    Question: Have you tried doubling the food color amount?

    1. I think you could but typically red velvet cake is made in multiple layers with frosting in between each layer. So you will lose some of that delicate nature of the cake, etc.

  28. This is the cake I grew up with. It’s impossible to find it, even at upscale bakeries, made with this ermine frosting. It’s always paired with cream cheese frosting in the pacific northwest. I’ve special ordered it, but even so it did not taste anything like the waldorf astoria recipe. My Mom, who grew up in Japan & was a fairly new wife in the early 1950s – got the recipe from her next door neighbor who was originally from Louisiana. This is the cake Mom made for birthdays & special occasions. I have her original recipe but my cake never comes out as good as hers. I will try with your recipe – this is the best cake in the world.

    1. Oh that is so neat, Jackie! I bet it is similar or same as this on then. I don’t think I’ve ever had “real” Red Velvet Cake anywhere except when making it myself with this old family recipe. Every single one has had some type of cream cheese or other varying frosting types. This one is SO unique and really makes this cake. Too bad not more people know it or get to enjoy it!

  29. This recipe has been in our family for 80 years. I’m making it this year but I don’t know what my mom used for shortening for the cake. She specifies butter for the icing, but I’m looking for guidance on what she may have meant for the cake. Also, she used Kroger brand red food coloring. She said it was always the redest and it was. Deep Christmas red /and she also used two bottles. Any guidance on what she meant for the shortening? I would think if she meant butter she would have specified it that way like she did the icing. Making this year in honor of her as she passed this year.

    1. Hi Theresa! Shortening is used in the cake recipe. Shortening is just a solid oil, like Crisco, for example. You can buy it at the grocery store. And yes,I always use two 1 ounce bottles too. But will have to check out the Kroger brand. Very sorry for your loss, I understand. xo

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