This pink velvet cake is a moist and tender cake with a delicate pink color and light vanilla flavoring with just a hint of lemon, then covered in cream cheese buttercream frosting.
This cake is the perfect homemade cake for a birthday party. It’s a scratch cake, but it’s still easy to put together and will be the star of any party or gathering.
Pink velvet cake is a soft textured layer cake with a pretty pink tint to it. The flavors of this cake are light and meld perfectly together, especially when combined with the cream cheese buttercream.
Feel free to leave the pink food coloring out if you don’t have it, or make it any color you’d like.
I’m sure you’ve eaten red velvet cake and possibly have even heard of purple velvet cake. Some people say that velvet cakes are just cakes with food coloring added in.
But actually, that’s not entirely accurate. Yes, velvet cakes do have food coloring in them, but they also generally use vinegar and red velvet cake has a bit of added cocoa powder in it. Oh and a lot of them use buttermilk as well.
By the way, if you’re interested in my red velvet cake, you can find it at this link: Sour Cream Red Velvet Cake.
Now let’s talk a little about just some of the ingredients in this cake. (The printable list of all ingredients are in the printable recipe card below.)
All-purpose flour: You’ll use plain all-purpose flour for this recipe, so you don’t need to worry about going to the store and getting cake flour.
Lemon juice & vinegar Yes, you’ll add in a bit of lemon juice and vinegar. Don’t panic, the cake will NOT taste like vinegar or really lemony. You’re essentially just making buttermilk by adding the lemon juice to the milk and the vinegar just gives the cake some extra flavor and a softer crumb.
Egg whites: Egg whites are called for in this recipe because they won’t add as much yellow coloring as using whole eggs would. You don’t want the yellow color competing with the soft pink color you’ll add to the batter. That would give you an orange cake.
Princess emulsion: This flavoring is what really makes this cake special. It’s a light combination of vanilla and citrus, but not super strong. This emulsion is from LorAnn oils and you can get it here: Princess Emulsion
(If you can’t order it, I’ve included a substitution in the recipe card below. I don’t promise it’ll be exactly the same, but it will work in a pinch.) This emulsion is also really good for other cakes, icings, cookies and even in pancakes…there are multiple uses for it, so the rest won’t go to waste.
For the buttercream: This buttercream has a bit of tang to it because we’ll be adding cream cheese to it AND a bit of that princess emulsion.
Pink or red gel food coloring: Gel food coloring works the best as its concentrated and you don’t have to add too much. The colors tend to come out better too.
If you use red gel food coloring, you won’t have to add as much to get a pink color.
Here are some options: (You will need a dark pink gel food coloring though as a light pink just won’t color the batter enough.
(Make sure to check out the FAQ section below in this post for ingredient and substitution questions.)
How to Make this Cake:
Let’s talk a little about how to make a pink velvet cake. (The printable instructions are in the recipe card below.)
Make sure to preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease and flour two 8″ round (2″ inch deep) cake pans then set them aside.
First, you’ll make the ‘buttermilk’. To do that, you’ll add one cup of milk to a measuring cup and add one tablespoon of lemon juice to it. Stir and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, add the milk & lemon juice mixture, another ½ cup of plain milk, the vinegar, oil, food coloring, princess emulsion (or extracts) and egg whites. Whisk everything well and set it aside.
Make sure that the butter is at room temperature before you start the next process. Add the room-temperature butter (in chunks) slowly to the dry ingredients.
Mix until all the flour is coated with the butter and the mixture is crumbly and looks a little like the texture of sand.
Next, add about a third of the liquid mixture to the flour and butter mixture. Mix on low to medium just until combined, which will be about 15-20 seconds.
Pour the last of the liquid mixture in and mix again until combined. Be really careful not to mix too long here.
Check the color, if the batter needs to be pinker, add another drop or two of the gel food coloring. (Just note that the batter will need to be even brighter than you want the baked cake to be, since the cake will become more golden in color and may overpower a subtle light pink color.)
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 45-55 minutes. A toothpick inserted should come out with some crumbs on it.
Set the cake layers on wire racks to cool for 10-15 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the racks and let them cool out of the pans completely before adding frosting.
Once the cake layers are cooled, add the buttercream and decorate as desired.
(Remember that the instructions will also be in the printable recipe card below.)
Tips & FAQs:
This pink velvet cake has a combination of vanilla and a very light citrus flavor combined with a cream cheese buttercream frosting.
This pink velvet cake’s got way more going on than just pink food coloring.
It has a soft texture and a soft blend of several different flavors like vanilla, lemon and cream cheese.
Pink velvet cake is a variation of red velvet cake, but is pink and doesn’t include cocoa powder. This cake has a soft pink color to it, along with light vanilla and citrus notes along with creamy cream cheese buttercream frosting.
This cake is covered with a rich cream cheese buttercream frosting although you can use vanilla buttercream as well.
You’ll use pink or red gel food coloring added to the cake batter to get a soft or bright pink-colored cake.
Make sure to spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level off instead of using the cup to scoop the flour into it. That packs too much flour into the measuring cup and can essentially add too much flour to the cake batter and make the cake dry and dense.
Unsalted butter is best here, but if you can’t get it, just go with the salted butter and omit and salt that the recipe calls for.
Make sure the butter used for the cake batter is just slightly cooler than room temperature, but not cold and not warm.
The princess emulsion is what adds the unique flavor to this cake, but if you don’t have it or can’t get it, you can omit it however the flavor will not be the same.
If you’d like to recreate the princess emulsion, you can substitute it with 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon almond extract and ½ teaspoon lemon extract. It won’t be exactly the same but will work in a pinch.
Yes if you want the cake to be pink in color, but no if you’re okay with your cake not turning out pink.
Yes, the buttercream makes enough buttercream to cover and fill a two-layer 8-inch cake and gives enough to also decorate it. It’s completely acceptable to half the batch if you don’t like a lot of buttercream or if you don’t plan on decorating the cake.
This cake is done baking when a toothpick inserted into the center of each layer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean, but no raw batter.
The cake layers can be made ahead of time and frozen if desired. Let the baked cake cool completely, then wrap the layers in plastic wrap and foil and place them in the freezer for up to a month.
To thaw, place the wrapped cake layers on the counter at room temperature and let thaw completely, then remove the wrapping. Once defrosted, add frosting.
Since this cake is covered and filled with cream cheese buttercream, it will need to be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and can last up to about 5 days.
I have not tested this recipe out as cupcakes, but it should work just fine. Fill 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes) with cupcake liners and fill with batter about ⅔ of the way full. Bake at 350 degrees F and start checking for doneness at around 20-25 minutes.
I have not tested this recipe out as cupcakes, but it should work just fine. Grease and flour a large bundt pan and fill it with the batter. Bake at 325 degrees F and start checking at around 45-50 minutes although the cake may need to bake longer.
This cake is best served close to room temperature. If the cake is cold, set it out to come closer to room temperature for about 20-30 minutes before serving. You can also microwave slices for about 15 or so seconds.
Yes, this cake will work for stacking as long as you use proper supports as you would stacking any cake.
Ok, let’s get to the recipe!
***I write recipes using volume (cups) measurements because here in the U.S., this is what people are used to seeing and using. For weight in metric measurements, click the ‘metric’ button under the ingredients in the recipe card. The weights are converted by a program, not me, and it’s a best guess. Please note that because I develop recipes using ‘cups’ I can’t guarantee that weighing the ingredients will produce the exact same results.
Scratch Pink Velvet Cake Recipe
For the cake:
- 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 cup sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter, almost room temperature but not warm
- 1 ½ cups milk (preferably whole milk)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or canola oil)
- 2 ½ teaspoon princess emulsion (If you can't get this, substitute with 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon almond extract and ½ teaspoon lemon extract)
- 6 large egg whites
- 3 drops red or pink gel food coloring
For the buttercream:
- 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature room temp
- 1 cup salted butter. room temperature (Using half salted butter tastes better, but if you don't have it, just use unsalted here and add in a pinch of salt.)
- 1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature (1 block)
- 7 cups confectioner’s sugar (may use an additional cups if needed)
- 1 ½ teaspoon princess emulsion (If you can't get this, substitute with 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, ¼ teaspoon almond extract and ¼ teaspoon lemon extract)
- 1-2 tablespoon milk
- 2 drops pink or red gel food coloring (optional)
For the cake:
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Grease and flour two 8" round (2" inch deep) cake pans and set aside.
- Add one cup of milk to a measuring cup and add in one tablespoon of lemon juice. Stir and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
- In another bowl, add the milk & lemon juice mixture, another ½ cup of plain milk, the vinegar, oil, food coloring, princess emulsion (or extracts) and egg whites. Whisk well and set aside.
- Make sure the butter is almost room temperature, but not very warm. Add the butter (in chunks) slowly to the dry ingredients. If using a stand mixer, just turn the mixer on low and leave it on while the butter chunks are added a bit at a time, or just use a hand mixer.
- Once all the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until all the flour is coated with the butter and the mixture is crumbly. It will have a sand-like texture. Stop mixing once the flour is all coated. Mixing too long will form the mixture into a paste.
- Pour about a third of the liquid mixture into the flour and butter mixture. Mix on medium until just combined. About 15-20 seconds.
- Pour the last of the liquid mixture in and mix again until well combined. Be careful not to overmix. Mixing the batter for several minutes is too long. Once all the ingredients are incorporated well, stop mixing.
- Use a rubber spatula and scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again for only about 10 to 15 seconds.
- Check the color, if it needs to be pinker, add in another drop or two of the gel food coloring. (The batter will need to be a bit brighter than you want the baked cake to be since the cake will become more golden brown and may overpower a subtle light pink color.) Mix until the food coloring is well incorporated, but be careful not to mix too long here, or it will affect your cake's texture.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake at 325 degrees F for approximately 45-55 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the middle of each layer should come out with a few moist crumbs on it or clean. The cake layers will flatten a bit once cooled.
- Set the baked cake layers on wire racks to cool for 10-15 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto the racks and let them cool out of the pans completely before adding frosting.
- Once cooled, add buttercream frosting.
For the buttercream:
- Add the butter and cream cheese to a large mixing bowl and mix well with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until creamy.
- Add in three cups of confectioner’s sugar and mix on low until incorporated and then on medium until well mixed.
- Add one tablespoon of milk and mix on medium until incorporated.
- Add the last four cups of confectioner’s sugar and mix on low, then on medium until well mixed.
- Add in the food coloring (optional) and the princess emulsion (or extracts), then mix on medium to medium-high until well mixed.
- Check the consistency. If it’s too thick, add another tablespoon of milk and mix. If it's too thin, add another ½ to 1 cup of confectioner's sugar and mix well.
- Once the desired consistency is reached, mix on medium-high speed for about four to five minutes. The icing will fluff up and will lighten a bit in color.
You can also pop a slice in the microwave to warm up a bit. For other questions: Make sure to check out the TIPS & FAQs for this recipe in the blog post, which should answer questions you may have about ingredients, substitutions, other pan sizes etc. Nutritional values are an estimate. *This recipe card may contain affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
How to Share
I’d love for you to share this recipe link or tag it, but please do not share screenshots or copy/paste the recipe to social media as the content and photographs are copyright protected and we (bloggers) work really hard on our content. Sharing the link, tagging us on socials and pinning it is super appreciated though!
Don’t Forget to Pin it Below!