Grandmother’s Red Velvet Cake Recipe

What's left of Grandmother's red velvet cake this morning. I wanted a pic before it was cut but nobody could wait.
What’s left of Grandmother’s red velvet cake this morning. I wanted a pic before it was cut but nobody could wait.

Grandmother, Barbara Holland Koone, never made anything by a recipe. It was a handful of this and a pinch of that, a cup, a spoonful and a dribble. Everything was made from scratch. In her late eighties, we granddaughters convinced her to measure her favorites and write down the recipes for us. She agreed to give us one recipe each. We had to choose only one.  I had not planned to post this week, but this is my gift to you.

Being the best cook in three counties, with the County Fair ribbons to prove it, picking just one recipe was difficult for some. Not me, I wanted the Red Velvet Cake recipe. I watched her pinch and pour and measure as she prepared this recipe for me and demonstrated how to prepare this cake. Now, I make these every Christmas without fail, a holiday tradition.

This one is a cherished “secret recipe”. My WordPress family is as close to me as my own family and though I have never shared this recipe with a soul, not even my own family. All of my family close to me gets my posts via Facebook, and they will need to print it out. Just make sure to print the one or two pages of the actual recipe, or you will get reams of paper;

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour two cake pans. You will need two large mixing bowls.


Dry Ingredients:

2 ½ cups of flour (I use 1 ¼ self-rising and 1 ¼ plain)

2 tablespoons of Hershey’s cocoa powder (I use special dark)

1 teaspoon of salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

Sift dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Sift them a second time.

Wet Ingredients:

1 ½ cups of granulated sugar (you will mix the wet ingredients into this)

1 cup cooking oil

2 eggs

1 whole 1 oz. bottle of red food coloring

1 tablespoon of vinegar (clear white distilled 5%)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk

Mix the wet ingredients together with the sugar on low for two minutes. Spoon the sifted dry ingredients by large spoonful gradually into the wet mix taking care to thoroughly mix before adding another large spoonful. This will take about three minutes of mixing.  Once thoroughly mixed, pour half batter into each of the greased and floured cake pans.  Bake for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Take care not to overcook browning the edges. Turn out onto rack and let cool before frosting.

No Cook Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. pk, Philadelphia cream cheese (softened)

1 stick real butter (softened)

1 box powdered confectioner’s sugar (1lb.)

1 ½ cups chopped pecans (whatever you do, don’t leave these out…it won’t be a true southern recipe if you do)

Mix all ingredients on high then fold in the nuts. Spread half over top of bottom layer and place top layer onto this, spread remainder on top. No need to frost the sides.

If you have had red velvet cake in a restaurant and did not like it, you will be surprised at how moist and delicious this cake is.  Also, the cream cheese frosting with pecans makes the cake.

Enjoy! Merry Christmas 2013!

43 thoughts on “Grandmother’s Red Velvet Cake Recipe

  1. My grandfather always made the Red Velvet cake at Christmas time! I don’t have the recipe he used as he cooked the same as your grandmother – a pinch – a handful – a dribble. Now your grandmothers cake can be a new tradition for me. Thanks for sharing. Have a wonderful Christmas!


    1. You are very welcome. That is why I shared this. So many good recipes go by the wayside. I have yet to find a red velvet cake in a restaurant that eats like this one. Many make a plain red cake, totally leaving out the cocoa…it’s just not the same! Enjoy :


      1. A tall glass of milk or a nice cup of coffee and she will be your best friend sister forever…also that you thought of her after hours of slaving through the holiday as most of us nurses are all too familiar with.


  2. My favorite cake… They used to use beet juice for the coloring.. Is that true? And the more butter cream frosting the better! I wish I knew how to cook.


    1. Never, ever would use butter cream frosting! Big No, no! ONLY CREAM CHEESE! Huge difference. Don’t know about the beet juice. I guess before the red food color was available commercially they might have. My favorite also 🙂


      1. I always remember to protect things but forget to protect my own clothes, HA! I’ve gotten a bit better at it over the years but used to come away looking like I had been to a bloody massacre.


  3. Reblogged this on S.K. Nicholls and commented:
    I’m revisiting this post because it’s the season and this is an irresistible cake that is a southern tradition. I’ll probably pull this forward every year just so it’s handy to share at baking time 🙂 Enjoy!!!


  4. Can you believe I have never had red velvet cake? I’ve always wanted to try it; it looks so delicious. Now I have an excuse to make my own. Thank you so much for sharing such a family treasure!


    1. It’s a festive treat that’s sure to be eaten. Fairly easy to stir up. Don’t do it like a store bought cake mix though and pour the wet into the dry. Part of what makes it work is the directions to slowly add the dry to the wet. Let me know how it turns out for you.


  5. I have a similar one in my recipe box but haven’t made it in a long time – festive for this time of year and who cares about the calories! The story about your cajoling Grandma into writing down her recipes is priceless, love it!


  6. Thank you so much for sharing your grandmother’s recipe, Susan! That looks absolutely delicious! I’ve always loved Red Velvet Cake, but I haven’t had it since I was a kid. I’ve been trying to track down my grandmother’s recipe for German Chocolate Cake, so far, no luck. 😦


      1. Will do! Have you ever used the Red Velvet recipe to make cupcakes? I would like to try the recipe out for my parents. My father feels less guilty eating a cup cake for some reason. 🙂


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