I admit that the popularity of red velvet cake is a bit lost on me. I can appreciate its deep roots in Southern cuisine. As the story goes, during the Great Depression (not the Great Recession of 2008!), a Texas-based company – Adams Extract & Spice Company – created a moist, noticeably flamboyant red cake in an attempt to lure back customers to their products. You can imagine during the Great Depression that simple ingredients like butter, eggs and cream cheese where expensive and often saved for special occasions. Well, the Adams Extract & Spice Company is still around today and their red velvet cake creation is a star in the culinary world.

I think the reason why I’ve always been surprised by how popular red velvet cake has become is because I’m constantly breaking down recipes and rebuilding them with my favorite ingredients. And when I break down the basics of a classic red velvet cake recipe, once you take out the MASSIVE amounts of red food coloring and the vinegar, the remaining ingredients are fairly standard for any chocolate cake recipe. So from one baker to another (Adams Extract & Spice Company), my hat is off to their genius. With the right leverage of two simple ingredients, they created a new dessert unlike anything before seen.

Red Velvet Cake with Eggnog Frosting

What I like about this red velvet cake with eggnog frosting recipe is the liberal use of cream cheese and bourbon. Cream cheese frosting is always so delicious but when you throw in eggnog and a healthy “splash” of bourbon, it becomes – wait for it – legendary. About a month ago, I was making a microwave-in-a-mug version of red velvet cake (that I’ll share at another time with y’all) for my niece. She ADORES red velvet cake. But she was also dumbfounded by how much red food coloring goes into the recipe to the point where I think she (almost) reconsidered her passion for it. When I explained to her that “red velvet” is more of a “look” than a flavor for a cake, she gave me this perplexed look. So she asked, “what does red velvet taste like to you?” What popped into my mind immediately was the word “bourbon.”  I kept that to myself (she’s still impressionable). So I wimped out and said something like, “well I’m not sure but it doesn’t taste red and it doesn’t take like velvet.”

Red Velvet Cake with Eggnog Frosting

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


For the Red Velvet Cake:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 ounces red food coloring
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Eggnog Frosting:
1 cup butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
9 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup eggnog
3 tablespoons bourbon
ground nutmeg for garnishing


Preheat your oven to 350F degrees. Grease three (3) 9-inch round cake pans with butter and dust with flour. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugars on high speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. With mixer on low speed, beat in food coloring.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in thirds. Alternate with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add vinegar and vanilla. Beat just until blended. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and let cool completely on the wire rack.

While cooling, prepare the eggnog frosting in a large blow. Beat the butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the cream cheese, beating until blended and smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low. Gradually add in the confectioners’ sugar, eggnog and bourbon. Beat until blended. Use as room temperature when frosting the cake.

Spread the eggnog frosting between the layers and on the top, sides of the cake. Garnish with ground nutmeg. Store covered in a refrigerator for up to 2 days.


This recipe adapted from Taste of the South’s Southern Christmas magazine.