This post contains affiliate links. Please read my disclosures.
This Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake knocks socks off its peers. It is light, fluffy and flavourful, made with carefully a chosen triumvirate of gluten-free flours. No xanthan gum is needed as the texture is soft and tender but still incredibly moist. The cake is then lavishly topped with a whipped vanilla enriched cream cheese buttercream.
The first time I tried a Red Velvet Cake was when the Hummingbird Bakery first opened its doors in Notting Hill. This style of American baking was very new to the UK. I trekked across London religiously for their addictive red velvet cupcakes. I scoured cookbooks for recipes and my obsession led me to discover food blogs which were in their infancy (yes this is a true origin story!)
I followed all the American baking bloggers I could find, consumed by the world of cake which had suddenly opened up. As soon as the Hummingbird Bakery published its first cookbook I put in my pre-order and when it arrived I thrillingly re-created its Red Velvet Cupcakes time and time again for friends, family and work colleagues. Over time I adapted the cake to suit my evolving tastes and of course when I became gluten-free more changes need to be made.
These days the Red Velvet Cake is nothing new and can often get overlooked. All too often the sponge itself can taste bland and the buttercream overly sweet. This version though is very close to my heart and is made with alternative gluten-free flours (as opposed to your normal bag of gluten-free flour). It is absolutely packed with flavour and boasts a gloriously tender velvety crumb. The cream cheese buttercream is rich light and smooth and kissed with vanilla for a perfect flavour compliment.
I guarantee this Red Velvet Cake Traybake will reignite your fondness for this very special bake and confirm why it is such a classic cake these days on both sides of the Atlantic.
Table of contents
- Why you’ll love this recipe
- What is the best food colouring for Red Velvet Cake?
- Gluten-free flours required
- Ingredients needed
- Step-by-step instructions
- Pro tips
- Shop the recipe
- How to store
- How to freeze
- More gluten-free cake recipes you’ll love!
Why you’ll love this recipe
- Gluten-free flour choice. A beautifully rich flavour, thanks to the oat flour, without any compromise on texture and moisture balance, thanks to the white flour and tapioca flour.
- No xanthan gum. There is no need as we have balanced our texture and structure with our flour choice. READ MORE >>> Why I don’t bake with xanthan gum
- Gloriously red. There is nothing worse than a muted red velvet cake. It’s all down to the quality of the food colouring. I recommend pastes or gels as you don’t need to add as much for a gorgeously deep red.
- That classic texture. The crumb is soft and tender from its signature buttermilk and vinegar combination.
- Best flavour. The taste of cocoa just peeks through so it’s not a chocolate cake but an amped up vanilla cake taking the richness from the cocoa.
- Cream cheese buttercream. It is my go-to recipe, it’s not too sweet and really rich and creamy. The secret is the pinch of salt and the vanilla extract which bring out all the flavour.
- Gluten-free red velvet sheet cake. This makes it a very easy cake to make, requiring no special decorating skills as opposed to a layer cake and you get a lot of cake for your money.
What is the best food colouring for Red Velvet Cake?
With a Red Velvet Cake it’s all about the colour. I love a beautifully rich red, not too garish. The beauty of this cake being gluten-free is that you can’t overmix it so wait until the batter is completely ready before adding your colour then you can ensure the exact shade you want. If the colour isn’t rich enough for you then just add more.
My favourite colouring to use are good quality pastes and gels as you can control the colour more and you don’t have to add too much in. Plus you are not messing around with the moisture content of the cake.
Gluten-free flours required
We need 3 gluten-free flours to create the perfect blend for our Gluten-Free Red Velvet Traybake.
This is a brilliantly economical gluten-free flour, it’s easily accessible and has a delicate light texture and flavour. You can use either white or brown rice flour here. However, used in excess it can be a little gritty depending on the brand so we do need to balance it out with another wholegrain flour and a starch to keep our cake together. READ MORE >>> The Ultimate Guide to Rice Flour
Oat flour is used here for flavour. It has a lovely toasted vanilla flavour which compliments the cake beautifully. It also gives our cake fluffiness due to its unique texture. READ MORE >>> The Ultimate Guide to Oat Flour
Tapioca flour (tapioca starch)
We need this starchy flour to help bind our cake together, keep it light and give a softness to the bake. READ MORE >>> The Ultimate Guide to Tapioca Flour
Substitution. You can switch the tapioca flour for another starch like potato starch.
- Butter. We need the butter unsalted so we can control the salt content and at room temperature.
- Sugar. We use caster sugar here which is a fine white baking sugar but you can use granulated.
- Eggs. This recipe uses medium eggs, which are about 60g each. If you can’t get hold of the right sized eggs you can weigh them for the correct amount.
- Red food colouring. A paste or gel is my recommendation.
- Vanilla extract. Good vanilla extract is essential for the buttercream and a nice to have for the sponge itself.
- Cocoa powder. Go for great quality cocoa powder. I use Dutch Processed Cocoa powder which is usually what is available in the UK, although it can be hard to tell in the packaging. Green and Blacks is a good brand.
- Rice flour. You can use either white or brown rice flour.
- Oat flour. You can buy gluten-free oat flour or grind your own in a food processor using gluten-free rolled oats.
- Buttermilk. If you can’t get hold of buttermilk you can make your own if you whisk together 400ml whole milk with 2 tablespoon white vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes before using. To this you can then add the 1½ tablespoons of vinegar that the recipe requires.
- Vinegar. You can use either a neutral tasting white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
- Salt. It’s needed for both the sponge and the buttercream. Essential to enhance our flavours. Use sea salt or kosher salt though, not table salt which is far too harsh.
- Bicarbonate of soda. For rise and an ultra tender crumb.
- Icing sugar (powdered sugar). For the buttercream.
- Cream cheese. I really recommend full fat for a better flavour and greater stability for the buttercream.
For full recipe instructions for this Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake go to the recipe card at the end of this post.
- Cream the butter and sugar together, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Sift together the cocoa powder, flour and bicarbonate of soda.
- Mix together the buttermilk and vinegar in a jug.
- Add the flour and the buttermilk in thirds, alternately into the cake batter.
- Add the food colouring and vanilla extract.
- Pour into the cake tin and bake for 60 minutes.
To make the buttercream
Cream the butter and icing sugar until very light and fluffy. Add the salt, followed by the vanilla and finally beat in the cream cheese until the buttercream is smooth.
- Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature before you begin, including the eggs.
- Pre-heat the oven at least 30 minutes before you start baking your cake. It takes a while for a lot of ovens to come up to the correct temperature.
- Cream the butter and sugar together for a good few minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl regularly so it is evenly mixed. The longer the mixing the lighter your batter.
- Break the eggs into a separate bowl first in case of broken shell which is harder to pick out from cake batter. Add one at a time for a lighter batter.
- If you have time then allow your cake batter to rest in the mixer for at least 15 minutes before giving a final mix and pouring into the cake tin. This flour blend contains rice flour and oat flour which both enjoy a little soak to absorb the liquid better.
- Rest the baked sponge in the tin for 5 minutes before removing which allows the sponge to relax and pull away from the sides of the tin.
- Cool the cake on a wire rack and make sure it has cooled to room temperature before adding the buttercream.
- To decorate the cake, wait until the cake has cooled but before you add the buttercream run a very sharp knife evenly across the top of the cake (don’t go to the edges or it will be noticeable), removing a wafer thin slither of sponge. Crumble the sponge in the food processor to create lovely red crumbs for sprinkling over the top.
Notes on cream cheese. In the UK we can only buy cream cheese which has added water content. This is great for spreading on bagels but not so much for cream cheese buttercream as it means our buttercream can be a little unstable.
- Keep the cream cheese in the fridge until the very last second.
- Mix the cream cheese until just incorporated in the buttercream, try not to overmix as it will become too warm.
How to store
You can store the undecorated cake in a cool dark place in an airtight container up to 2 days before decorating and serving.
Once decorated with buttercream the cake can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for 1-2 days. However, the cake will start to dry out very quickly in the fridge.
How to freeze
For best results freeze the cake prior to decorating with buttercream. Wrap the whole sheet cake in plastic wrap and aluminium foil to avoid spoilage and store in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Allow to defrost fully at room temperature before unwrapping and decorating with buttercream.
More gluten-free cake recipes you’ll love!
- Hummingbird Cake
- Chocolate Fudge Cake
- Lemon Blueberry Cake
- Sticky Toffee Banana Cake
- Fresh Strawberry Cake
- Apple and Cinnamon Cake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream
- Carrot Cake
I urge you to give this Gluten-Free Red Velvet Traybake a try. If you do then please leave a comment below and give the recipe a rating which helps others find the recipe on Google. If you then go on to use this recipe as a launch pad for your own culinary creation then I’d also love it if you’d share it and tag me on Instagram. It is so lovely for me to see your versions and variations of my recipes.
Gluten-Free Red Velvet Cake
- 200 g unsalted butter - room temperature
- 500 g caster sugar
- 4 eggs - medium size, 60g each
- 1-2 teaspoons red food colouring
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 50 g cocoa powder
- 225 g rice flour
- 175 g oat flour
- 100 g tapioca flour - tapioca starch
- 2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
- 400 ml buttermilk
- 1½ tablespoons vinegar
Cream Cheese Buttercream:
- 250 g unsalted butter - room temperature
- 300 g icing sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 180 g cream cheese
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 160°C fan assisted oven/ gas mark 4 and line and grease a 13”x 9” deep cake tin.
- Beat the butter and caster sugar together in either a stand mixer or a large bowl with an electric beater for about 6 minutes until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl every so often.
- Add the eggs one at a time and beat well.
- Sift together the cocoa powder, gluten-free flours and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and set aside for a moment.
- Mix together the buttermilk and vinegar in a jug.
- Add the flour mixture and buttermilk into the rest of the cake batter alternately. Mixing well after each addition. Add the flour in 3 additions and the buttermilk in 2 additions, starting and ending with the flour.
- Stir in the food colouring and vanilla extract and mix until the colour is as desired.
- Allow the cake batter to rest for 15 minutes before giving a final stir and pour into the prepared cake tin.
- Bake for 60 minutes or until an inserted cocktail stick comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven then rest the cake for 5-10 minutes to allow the sponge to retract from the sides of the tin.
- Carefully remove the cake from the tin to finish cooling onto a wire rack.
- Using a very sharp knife, cut a very small wafer thin slice of the sponge away (not up to the edges of the cake to avoid it being noticed) and whizz up to cake crumbs in the food processor for decoration.
Cream Cheese Buttercream:
- Cream the butter until soft then add the icing sugar and mix for about 6-8 minutes, in either a stand mixer or with an electric beater, until very light and fluffy and pale in colour. Scrape the sides of the bowl down every so often.
- Add the salt and vanilla and mix again to combine.
- Beat in the cream cheese until the buttercream is smooth.
- Spoon the buttercream out onto the cooled cake and swirl into a sweeping cloudlike pattern with a palette knife.
- Sprinkle the red velvet crumbs over the buttercream then cut the cake into 16 slices to serve.
- Flours. You can use either white or brown rice flour. This recipe has not been tested with a rice flour substitute. You can substitute the oat flour for sorghum flour or millet flour. You can substitute the tapioca flour for potato starch. I do not recommend using a plain gluten-free flour or cup-for-cup flour for this recipe.
- Buttermilk. You can make your own by whisking 400ml whole milk with 2 tablespoons vinegar. Let stand for 10 minutes before using. To this you can then add the 1½ tablespoons of white vinegar that the recipe requires.
- Red food colouring. How much red food colouring you use is completely dependent on the brand. I recommend using either a good quality paste or a gel as you will need only a minimal amount and it will not affect the moisture content of the cake.