Marcus Samuelsson's Red Velvet Cake

Rich Cream Cheese Frosting, Perfect for a Party

The restaurateur visits "GMA" to discuss his new book and share his recipe for the delectable dessert.
Difficulty: Moderate
Cook Time: min

Chef Marcus Samuelsson shares his recipe for red velvet cake from his new cookbook, "The Red Rooster Cookbook: The Story of Food and Hustle in Harlem."

"It's likely that this Southern classic probably started out in New York—at the Waldorf Astoria. The Adams Extract Company of Austin, Texas, printed up a recipe to promote sales of the red food coloring that’s an integral ingredient in the cake, and a fad began," he writes. "You’ll find red velvet cakes all over Harlem, but we’re real proud of our version. With its beautiful color and rich cream cheese frosting, it's an ideal party cake. Indeed, it’s become a centerpiece dessert for Juneteenth celebrations."


  • 4 cups cake flour
  • 6 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Cooking Directions


    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 10-inch round cake pans with pan spray.

    Whisk the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together.

    Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until very light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl after each addition.

    Add half the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Add the buttermilk, vinegar, food coloring, and vanilla and mix. Add the remaining dry ingredients and mix until the batter is smooth.

    Divide the batter between the baking pans and give each pan a couple of raps on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pans on racks for 10 minutes. Then turn out the cakes and cool on racks completely.


    Beat the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Turn the speed down to low and beat in the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time. Add the vanilla, zest, and salt and beat on medium high until fluffy.


    Use a long serrated knife to slice the dome off the top of each cake, making the cake layers even. Crumble the scraps onto a baking sheet.

    Set one layer on a cake plate and frost the top. Set the second layer on the first and frost the sides and then the top of the cake. Press the crumbs into the sides of the cake.

    YIELD: 1 (10-inch) layer cake

    Copyright 2016 by Marcus Samuelsson. Photographs by Bobby Fisher. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

    Recipe Summary

    Main Ingredients: flour, butter, eggs, cream cheese

    Course: Dessert

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