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Red Velvet Cake Roll

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Our red velvet cake roll is an absolutely stunning dessert. The cake itself has a velvety and tender crumb. It is filled, rolled and frosted with a frosting that is as light and fluffy as whipped cream. This decadent cake roll is beautiful for any occasion, from tea parties to holidays or even casual dinners.

Red velvet cake roll showing the end of the roll with the swirl of cake and ermine frosting filling.

Red velvet cake is frequently paired with cream cheese frosting as we did with our chocolate and cream cheese cake. And that certainly is an outstanding combination but we are taking a step back in time and pairing it with Ermine frosting.

As compared to a cream cheese frosting, this old-fashioned ermine frosting is lighter, fluffier, and not quite as sweet. We think it is a perfect match with our royal red velvet cake roll.

Why this is the best Red Velvet cake roll:

  • It’s a showstopper! You can serve it as a casual dessert but it is also perfect for special occasions. Christmas dinner, Valentine’s Day, birthdays, Mothers Day. You just can’t go wrong with this cake roll.
  • It is an ultimate satisfaction for a sweet tooth yet it isn’t cloyingly sweet.
  • The cake is light and tender but doesn’t fall apart when you roll it into a log. 
  • The Ermine frosting makes a lusciously light and fluffy filling and there is plenty to frost the top of the cake roll. 
  • You can turn it into a Yule Log for Christmas. Just cut a section off the end and stick it on the side of the log so it looks like a branch on the side.
Slices of red velvet cake roll on dessert plates.

What you need to make the best ever Red velvet cake roll:

The best way to make a cake roll is to use a recipe for a sponge cake. This recipe combines the flavor of our red velvet cupcakes with a light and airy sponge cake. Here is the shopping list that we have compiled for you:

  • Flour: Cake flour will make the cake lighter but all-purpose flour will work just fine. Make sure to fold the flour in lightly.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder. Adds a hint of chocolate flavor and brings out a deeper red color so you can use less food coloring.
  • Baking powder and Baking soda. For leavening.
  • Salt. Enhances the flavor and balances the sweetness.
  • Eggs. The eggs give structure and lift. When whipped correctly, they create the airy sponge texture that is important for a cake roll.
  • Sugar. Incredibly important for structure and texture as well as sweetness.
  • Vegetable oil. Sponge cakes are naturally lower in fat than butter cakes which makes them a bit dryer. This cake has a slightly higher portion of fat to balance out the dry texture.
  • Buttermilk. Lends to that classic flavor of red velvet and boosts the acidity level to react with the baking soda and cocoa powder.
  • White vinegar. Increases the acidity level and reacts with the baking soda and cocoa powder to create a deeper red color.
  • Vanilla extract. For flavor. Vanilla is an essential flavor in red velvet.
  • Red food color. If you use too much food color it will affect the flavor. For a more intense red, use gel food color which is more concentrated. Also, see the tips below about the red color.
  • Ermine frosting. This is used for the filling and as a frosting on top of the cake log.
  • Powdered sugar: Sprinkle powdered sugar on the cake before rolling it so it doesn’t stick.

About the red color in red velvet:

This cake gets most of its deep red color from artificial food coloring. If you eliminate the food dye, you can still have a slightly reddish color to the cake, although it will be a light, muddy brown-red.

If you want a deep red color without using a lot of food dye, let chemistry work in your favor. Some of the red color comes from a chemical reaction between the baking soda, vinegar, and cocoa powder.

For the deepest red, choose natural cocoa powder and not Dutch-processed cocoa powder. Dutch-processed cocoa is treated with an alkalizing agent and will not provide the same chemical reaction as natural cocoa.

Ingredients needed for red velvet cake roll.

Ingredients for the Ermine frosting.

Here are the ingredients for the filling and frosting.

  • All-purpose flour
  • Granulated sugar
  • Salt
  • Whole milk
  • Butter
  • Vanilla extract
Ingredients needed for ermine frosting used to fill and frost the red velvet cake roll.

How to make a red velvet cake roll

It might look intimidating but this is really an easy process. Make sure you scroll to the printable recipe card for all the deets.

Bake the cake roll

  1. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl and set aside.
  2. Whip the eggs and sugar until it is thick and almost tripled in volume.
  3. Stir in the oil, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and red food coloring.
  4. Fold in the flour mixture a portion at a time.
  5. Spread the batter into a jelly roll pan and bake.
  6. Slide a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Top the warm cake with powdered sugar, cover it with a towel and place a cutting board on top. Flip the cake over and remove the pan.
  7. Roll the warm cake up into the kitchen towel. Set it on a wire rack to cool completely
Six process photos showing how to make batter and roll the cake for a red velvet cake roll.

Assemble the cake roll

  1. Cook the flour, sugar and milk mixture for the Ermine frosting then set it aside to completely cool down.
  2. Whip the butter until it is creamy. Add the cooled flour mixture a little at a time. Add the vanilla and beat the frosting until it is light and fluffy.
  3. Unroll the cake log and spread half of the Ermine filling over the surface.
  4. Roll the cake back up into a log and place the seam side down.
  5. Make an angled cut about three inches from the end of the log. Stick that section to the side of the cake roll if you want it to look like a Yule log.
  6. Cover the cake roll with the rest of the frosting.
Six photos showing how to make the frosting and roll the cake into a log for a red velvet cake roll.

Tips for success:

You really need a genoise or sponge cake recipe to make the best cake roll. A typical butter or oil-based cake will crack and break if you try to roll it into a log. This recipe works for a cake roll because it is a genoise that relies on whipping whole eggs into a thick, fluffy batter.

Tips for making the cake batter

  • Whip the egg mixture until it is almost tripled in volume. It should be light pale yellow and thick enough to hold a ribbon-like trail in the batter for a few seconds. See the video for the right consistency.
  • Let the eggs come to room temperature. Better yet, place them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to get them slightly warmer than room temperature. Warm eggs will beat to a higher volume.
  • When you add the red food coloring the batter might not be as red as you would like. But remember the color will deepen when you add the cocoa powder.
  • Use a wide spatula to lightly fold in the flour mixture. Don’t over mix the batter or the cake will not be as tender.

Tips for assembling the cake

  • Roll the cake into a log while it is still warm and flexible. If you wait until it cools down then it will crack easier.
  • When you make the Ermine frosting, make sure the cooked flour mixture cools down completely before adding it to the butter.
  • Let the cake roll cool down completely before you unroll it and fill it with the frosting.
Red velvet cake roll with a part of the roll on the side of the cake to look like a branch attached to a log.

How to store the cake.

This cake roll will keep for 3 to 4 days in the fridge. Bring it to room temperature before serving it so the frosting and filling get soft.

You can also make the cake roll in advance and freeze it for up to 3 months. Make sure it is stored in a freezer-proof container.


Can I roll the cake into the parchment paper instead of the towel?

Yes! You can use the parchment paper to slide the warm cake out of the pan and simply roll the cake up with the parchment.

The cake will take a little longer to cool down with this method and some condensation will build up under the paper. The cake roll will also be a bit stickier due to the extra moisture from the condensation.

What does red velvet taste like?

The flavor is kind of a cross between a vanilla buttermilk cake and a chocolate cake. It has a very mild chocolate flavor with a bit of a tang from the buttermilk.

What can I use instead of buttermilk?

Since this recipe only calls for a scant 2 tablespoons of buttermilk you can replace the buttermilk with regular milk. There is enough vinegar in the recipe to create the right amount of acidity to react with the baking soda and cocoa powder.

You could also substitute the buttermilk with unflavored kefir or yogurt.

Why didn’t my cake get red?

If you use Dutch-processed cocoa your cake will not get quite as red. Natural cocoa powder will react with the vinegar and baking soda to create a deeper red. You also need some red food coloring. The chemical reaction of the cocoa powder alone will not make a deep red color.

What can I use instead of red food coloring?

If you don’t want to use artificial food coloring you can use beetroot powder. You will need 2 to 3 tablespoons of beet powder to get close to the traditional red color of red velvet cake.

Close up of a red velvet cake roll covered in ermine frosting.

Helpful Tools

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  • Jelly roll pan. The photo shows an example of who thick the cake will be if you use a 9 x 13-inch pan. The cake itself will be thinner if you use a larger pan.
  • Parchment paper. Get the cake out of the pan in one piece!
  • Offset spatula. Perfect for spreading the frosting on the cake and useful for loosening the edges of the cake from the pan.


Our vanilla panna cotta with strawberry sauce is an extra luxurious dessert. The creamy white custard is a perfect background for the vibrant red strawberry sauce.

This wacky chocolate cake is crazy. It doesn’t have any eggs, butter, or dairy yet it comes out perfectly delicious.

Our coconut cake has a buttercream that is made just like the Ermine frosting in our red velvet cake roll. The difference is that it has coconut milk instead of regular milk.

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Red velvet cake roll showing the end of the roll with the swirl of cake and ermine frosting filling.

Red Velvet Cake Roll

This red velvet cake roll starts with a light and tender sponge cake that gets rolled up with creamy ermine frosting. This is a show stopper and makes a great presentation.
4.93 from 40 votes
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Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 12 to 14 slices
Calories: 206kcal
Author: Dahn Boquist


For the cake

  • 1 cup cake flour 120 grams (all-purpose flour also works)
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder 15 grams
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 eggs room temperature
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar 175 grams
  • 3 tablespoon vegetable oil 64 grams
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk 30 grams
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 to 3 teaspoons red food color

For the ermine frosting/filling

  • cup 80 grams all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups 400 grams granulated sugar
  • teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups whole milk 472 grams
  • 2 cups 4 sticks butter, room temperature (452 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To assemble

  • powdered sugar


The cake roll

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 9 x 13-inch jelly-roll pan with non-stick spray and line it with parchment paper. 
  • Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a bowl and set aside. 
  • Add the eggs and sugar to a bowl and whip on medium high until nearly tripled in volume, about 5 minutes. The mixture will turn light yellow and get thick. (see notes)
  • Turn the mixer to low and beat in the oil, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and red food coloring.
  • Use a spatula to fold in half of the dry ingredients. Fold in the other half. 
  • Spread the batter into the jelly roll pan 
  • Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until the surface springs back when touched. 
  • Remove from the oven and slide a knife around the edge of the cake pan to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. 
  • Sift powdered sugar over the top of the cake while it is still warm then lay a kitchen towel over the cake. 
  • Place a baking sheet or cutting board over the towel and flip the cake over so it is on top of the kitchen towel. Lift the cake pan off. 
  • Remove the parchment paper and dust more powdered sugar on the top of the cake.
  • Starting at the short end of the cake, roll the cake into the towel jelly-roll style. Cool on a wire rack

Meanwhile, make the ermine frosting/ filling

  • Combine the flour, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan.
  • Add the milk, stirring to combine.  Cook over medium heat, stirring continually until the mixture gets thick.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a shallow dish. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to cool to room temperature.  You can speed the process up by placing it in the fridge for a while.
  • Using a mixer, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes.  Add the cooled cooked mixture a tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat for 3 to 5 minutes until it is light and fluffy.

Assemble the cake roll

  • When the cake is completely cool, carefully unroll the log and spread half of the frosting over the cake. 
  • Gently roll the cake back into a log and place it on a serving platter.
  • Make an angled cut about three inches from the end and stick it onto the side of the log to make it look like there is a branch coming off the side. 
  • Frost the outside of the log with the remaining frosting. 


  • Cake flour will give the cake a slightly lighter, more delicate texture. If you want to make your own cake flour, replace 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour with corn starch. However, there really isn’t much flour in this cake so all-purpose flour works almost equally as well.
  • You can also use a 12 x 17-inch jelly-roll pan but the cake will be thinner and you will need to decrease the baking time to 8 to 12 minutes.
  • The biggest tip I can give you for success is to make sure the eggs and sugar get whipped enough. It will take about 4 to 5 minutes with a stand mixer and 6 to 8 minutes with a handheld mixer. The eggs should get thick and fluffy and reach “ribbon stage” which means if you lift the whisk and let the mixture fall back into the bowl, it will suspend on top of the batter for a few seconds. 
  • If the cake is baked too long, it will be more susceptible to cracking. That’s easy to recover from, just slather on some frosting to hide the cracks and hold the cake together.
  • Parchment paper will make it much easier to get the cake out of the pan without tearing. 
  • If you spray the pan with nonstick spray before you lay the parchment paper down it will help the paper cling to the pan so that batter doesn’t seep under the paper. 
  • Make sure the cake roll is completely cool before you spread the filling/ buttercream on the cake.
  • If you want to make the sugared cranberries and rosemary like the ones in the photo, dip some fresh cranberries and rosemary in egg white then in fine sugar. Set on a rack to dry then use them to decorate the cake roll.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 206kcal | Carbohydrates: 34g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 6g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 57mg | Sodium: 205mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 22g

Dahn Boquist

Dahn is a retired nurse, recipe creator, home cook, baker, and self-proclaimed foodie. She loves creating in the kitchen and cooking for family and friends. She lives in Washington State with her husband and dog. When she isn't cooking or baking, you can usually find her spending time with her grandchildren or exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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4.93 from 40 votes (40 ratings without comment)
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Saturday 30th of December 2023

red velvet cake is my favorite cake with cook frosting and got for my birthday every year until my mom passed away and now I make it for myself

Dahn Boquist

Saturday 30th of December 2023

Thank you for sharing such a sweet memory. I hope you have a blessed birthday this year!

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