A striking red sponge with rich cream 'cheese' icing - this vegan red velvet cake is truly a showstopper!
Readers have been asking me for a while for a Red Velvet Cake recipe, and I have to admit that I was a bit unsure. Isn't it just a not-very-chocolatey cake with red food colouring in for no particular reason?
But in fact since recipe testing and photographing this cake it has become a firm favourite. I wouldn't have thought of the combination of cocoa-spiked cake with cream 'cheese' icing, but it is a winner. And the red colour is such a fun pop of colour especially if you leave the outside of the cake plain and unadorned like I did.
I've used the same oil-based sponge as my much-loved Coffee & Walnut Cake, with a few tweaks. It makes a very soft and moist bake, which is even better if kept overnight in an airtight tin before icing.
There's nothing understated about a red velvet cake. It is is a fun, in-your-face, all-American sugary tower. Not what you want every day, but now and again it is just what you need to brighten a dull afternoon.
📝 What you need
Dairy-free milk and yoghurt Make sure you use unsweetened plant milk and yoghurt, this cake is sweet enough already! I use soya in baking, as it has the highest protein content of the plant milks so behaves most like the eggs it is replacing, but you can use oat or nut milks if you prefer. Just avoid anything with a strong flavour of its own (like coconut or hazelnut).
Sunflower or rapeseed oil A flavourless oil is important here too - sunflower or rapeseed are perfect, but avoid olive or any other strongly flavoured oil.
Red food colouring Make sure you use a concentrated gel, not a liquid, so that you get the maximum colour pop for the smallest amount of colouring. Many red food colourings are not vegan so do check the labels. I recommend Wilton*, Colour Mill* (some of their pinks are not vegan, but their red is), or Sugarflair*.
Vegan cream cheese There are now many tasty vegan cream cheeses available in supermarkets, when even a few years ago they were few and far between. I often use Violife or Nush cream cheese for this, but most supermarket own brands are pretty good too - Asda's in particular.
Vegan block margarine Do use a good quality block margarine rather than a tub of spread. The water content is much lower so it makes a much creamier icing and is less likely to split.
Salt If you don't think salt has any place in a cake or icing, do give this a try. You can't actually tell it is salt, it just adds something really special to counteract what is quite a hit of sweetness!
You don't really need any special equipment for this cake - it doesn't need a food mixer or even electric hand whisk - just a large bowl and spoon or spatula.
Some good quality cake tins do make a difference, however. I use these loose-bottomed tins from Lakeland* which are heavy and sturdy and feel like they will last forever.
Two other things I couldn't face baking without are pre-cut baking parchment circles*, (who needs all that measuring and cutting!), and also this cake release spray* that makes cakes just slide out of the tin after baking every time.
🧁 Make it as cupcakes
This recipe would be just as good for red velvet cupcakes. The quantities would make a LOT of cupcakes, so I would halve the recipe to make about 12 cupcakes. (Or just make the whole lot and freeze some!).
❄️ Freezing and Storing
The cakes themselves freeze very well - I do this often. Just wait until they are completely cool then put a layer of baking parchment or greaseproof paper between each sponge, and wrap the whole lot in tin foil or put into an airtight container.
However, the icing doesn't freeze so well, so if you are making this in advance, by all means freeze the cake but do make the icing on the day you are serving it.
It is actually much easier to freeze a cake that is still frozen, so layer it up and put the icing around the sides as soon as it comes out the freezer, then leave it to defrost until serving.
For more quick and easy vegan recipes take a look at my latest book Vegan in 15.
"Brilliant! Chock full of easy recipes and great tips and advice" Hello! Magazine
⭐️ Reader Testimonials
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ "This is the first successful vegan cake I’ve made. It turned out a treat & my past vegan cakes haven’t been very successful at all. My family loved it. I followed your recipe religiously & am so happy that I’ve managed to make a vegan cake that tastes nice. Thank you!" Clare
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Vegan Red Velvet Cake
For the cake:
- 10 g cocoa powder
- 400 g self-raising flour
- 240 g caster sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp salt
- 200 ml unsweetened dairy-free milk
- 200 ml unsweetened dairy-free yoghurt
- 160 ml sunflower or rapeseed oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tsp red food colouring gel (not liquid) (check it is vegan)
For the cream 'cheese' icing
- 200 g vegan cream cheese
- 250 g vegan block margarine
- 500 g icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- pinch salt
- Preheat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4.
- Grease and line 3 x 23cm cake tins with baking parchment. (Or two tins for two thicker layers).
- In a large bowl mix the dry ingredients - cocoa powder, flour, caster sugar, baking powder and salt.
- In a jug, mix the wet ingredients - plant milk, vegan yoghurt, oil and vanilla extract.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl and mix until smooth.
- Add 1 tsp red food colouring and mix, then adjust adding a little more if you want a brighter cake.
- Divide the cake mixture between your tins then bake for 18-20 minutes (or 20-22 for two thicker layers) until an inserted skewer or knife comes out clean.
- Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. If you can, the cakes are even softer and moister if you store them overnight in an airtight tin or container, to add the icing the following day.
- To make the icing, mix all the ingredients together until pale and fluffy.
- Layer up the cake with icing and smooth around the edges with a palette knife.
I'm linking this recipe with the CookBlogShare challenge, hosted this week by A Strong Coffee.