Espresso Red Velvet Cake

February 2023 View more

By Kelli Ra Anderson

Espresso red velvet cake

Few cakes are as luscious and beautiful as the red velvet cake, which made its showstopping debut in the early 1900s. While origin stories are hotly debated, all agree that its velvety, dark-red crumb is a visual, delicious treat worthy of any special occasion. This variation on a classic recipe, with its hint of espresso (cocoa’s perfect partner), wrapped in a light but rich mascarpone buttercream, is a playful twist on this romantic favorite.

MAKES 8 to 10 servings


3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch processed)
2 teaspoons espresso powder
½ teaspoons salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 large eggs, room temperature, separated
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Liquid or gel red food coloring
½ cup espresso simple syrup (½ cup sugar dissolved in ½ cup hot espresso or strong coffee)

Cake ingredients


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two round 9×2 cake pans.

2. Whisk the first five dry ingredients in a bowl. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar for 1 minute on high speed. Scrape down. Add the oil, egg yolks, vanilla, and vinegar and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

4. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites into soft peaks. On low speed, alternately add in buttermilk and dry ingredients.

5. Add food coloring until desired red hue. Gently fold in egg whites.

6. Pour batter into two cake pans. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean).

7. Remove cakes and cool completely before frosting and assembly.

Egg whites



1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 8-ounce block cream cheese, room temperature
1½ cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
4 cups (one 1-pound bag) of confectioners’ sugar, sifted


1. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and cheeses for 3 minutes on medium speed until fluffy. Add vanilla and salt, beating until combined.

2. On low speed, gradually add confectioners’ sugar, scraping bowl down several times.

3. Set aside 1 cup of frosting in a piping bag with a decorative tip if decorating. (Option: Garnish with a few chocolate-covered coffee beans for a burst of flavor and delightful crunch.)



1. Turn out the cooled cakes and trim each top level. (Crumble the discard for traditional decoration if desired.)

2. Brush the tops with ¼ cup each of the espresso simple syrup.

3. Spread a generous layer of frosting between the stacked cakes.

4. Spread a thin crumb coat around the tops and sides of the cakes before spreading with a final layer. Decorate with piping, reserved crumbs, or however desired.

5. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes to set the frosting. Bring to room temperature before serving.

PRO TIP: Place a disk of parchment in the bottom of the buttered cake pans, butter its surface, then dust the bottom and sides with flour to ensure a better release.


Photos courtesy of Kellira Media