Red Velvet Cake

What cake is more suited for Valentine’s day than a gorgeous red velvet cake! Red velvet cake and Valentines, two of my favorite things! I do admit, I love Valentine’s day. Regardless of relationship status, I enjoy the sights of red and pink heart shaped boxes, pretty chocolate candies, and red roses!  Love or hate Valentines day, a classic red velvet cake can be enjoyed any day of the year! Rich and moist with just a hint of chocolate and you’ll fall in love.

Primal Paleo Red Velvet Cake

Red velvet cake originated in New York’s Waldorf Astoria hotel (also home of the Waldorf Salad) but is widely popular in the South. In fact, that is where I had my first piece of red velvet cake. There are so many variations of a red velvet cake, yet there are some “rules” for a truly authentic red velvet cake. Here is what I gathered, many of which I have to bend a little.

Primal Paleo Red Velvet Cake

1. The cake must have buttermilk. Yowch. Dairy ingredients generally are not considered “Paleo” approved (then again, is a dessert really ‘Paleo’?). However the beneficial bacteria in cultured buttermilk predigests the lactose for you, so that’s a good news for lactose intolerant folks. Good sources of dairy are considered “Primal Paleo,” so grass fed organic buttermilk is cool.

2. The cake must have cocoa powder – Don’t have to tell me twice to add chocolate! But only a hint of chocolate is needed for a red velvet cake. Though, in the old days they used natural cocoa powder instead of the widely available Dutch cocoa powder. Natural cocoa powder contains a compound called anthocyanins. It is an antioxidant that is also found in red cabbage and pomegranate.

Primal Paleo Red Velvet Cake

3. The cake must use vegetable oil – Uh no, not here! Light olive oil is a better option than soybean oil yet provides the same airy and moist texture. Butter and coconut oil would be okay substitutions, but would weigh on the cake.

4. The cake must have vinegar – This stumped me. I mean, there’s acid in the buttermilk, acid in the honey, why would I need to add more acid? Apparently, the vinegar and buttermilk react to provide the ideal environment to enhance a natural red color.  In an acidic environment, the anthocyanins compounds in the cocoa radiate a reddish tint (Ref).

5. Pecans – “PEE-can,” “pee-KAHN,” “pick-AHN,” “PEE-kahn.” Doesn’t matter how you say it, it needs to be there. Sprinkle on top or stuff them in between the layers.

6. Cream Cheese Frosting – No argument there! Still “Primal Paleo,” when smartly sourced. I made cute little roses with the frosting! 😀

Primal Paleo Red Velvet Cake

Of course my biggest “rule break” would be throwing out the traditional wheat flour in place of coconut and arrowroot blend. Rules are meant to be broken anyway, not hearts. Decadent and moist, this red velvet cake will steal your heart and send your taste buds to cloud nine. <3

Red Velvet Cake
Makes two 6x2" round cakes or one 8x2" round cake
Serves: 6
For the Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 8 oz of Softened Butter
  • ⅓ cup of Maple Syrup
  • ⅓ cup of Arrowroot Flour
  1. Preheat oven to 350F and grease a baking pan.
  2. Sift together the coconut flour, arrowroot starch, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites.
  4. Whip the egg whites on high speed until a meringue forms.
  5. Sprinkle in the granulated/coconut sugar and whip. Don't worry if the meringue falls a bit.
  6. Combine the egg yolks, olive oil, honey, buttermilk, vanilla, vinegar, and food coloring. Whip until combined.
  7. Mix in the dry ingredients and whip until combined.
  8. Add a heaping of the egg whites into the batter and mix.
  9. Gently fold in the rest of the egg whites.
  10. Pour the batter into the greased cake pans.
  11. Bake at 350F, center rack, for 25-28 min, until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
  12. Let cake cool for 10 minutes inside the pan. Flip out of the pan and let cool to room temperature before frosting.
For the Frosting
  1. Whip the cream cheese and butter together with the starch on high speed for about 2 minutes.
  2. Slowly add the maple syrup while whipping on low.
  1. Combine the pecans with a heaping of frosting. Spread it on top of one the cakes.
  2. Place the second cake layer on top of the pecan layer.
  3. Fill the gaps between the cake layer with some frosting.
  4. Spread a thin layer of frosting over the cake sides and top, making the "crumb layer."
  5. Let the cake cool for 30 minutes in the fridge.
  6. Frost the rest of the cake until the crumb layer is covered.
  7. Use a Wilton 1M tip to make roses.

Sharon’s Notes

  • For the rosettes, use a Wilton 1M tip pipe bag. Start at the center and pipette in a spiral around the center point.
  • The cake should be kept refrigerated, but let sit out for about 20-30 minutes before serving.
  • Kefir can be used in place of buttermilk, but must be diluted. Use 1/4 cup kefir to 1/4 cup water.
  • Non-dairy alternatives for buttermilk would be 7 tablespoons of almond milk (or light coconut milk) and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Maybe throw in a capsule of probiotics too.
  • For a dairy free frosting, try my white frosting with a pinch of lemon juice.


  1. Melissa says

    You are an absolute angel for posting this! I have been looking for a version for Red Velvet just like this. I am a down home Southern girl and I agree about all of your must haves listed above (especially the buttermilk). I was planning on a primal cheesecake for Valentines Day but now I’m thinking Red Velvet! Thank you for all that you do. I will let you know how it turns out and if my picky husband eats it.

      • Melissa says

        I made this and it is wonderful. I had issues though, but I think it is my inexperience as a baker. This cake is moist and the texture is a lot like a traditional cake. I doubled the recipe for 2 eight inch rounds. My first issue was I got a little yolk in the egg whites. I think that is a big no no, but I wasn’t wasting all of those eggs so I went with it. I got a nice meringue but when I added the coconut sugar it fizzled and went kaput on me. It didn’t seem to matter much because it rose just as well as my birthday cake (also from this site and excellent). I had to add a lot of food coloring and mine still doesn’t look as red as yours. Maybe I used too much cocoa powder. I think I used too much arrowroot in the frosting, but it is still yummy. When I went to frost the cake the frosting wasn’t quite stiff enough and some of it kept drooping. So I finished frosting and put the extra in the fridge along with the cake thinking I could fix things the next day. Then it was too stiff. Leaving it out to get the chill off helped. Overall this is my favorite Red Velvet recipe and tastes close to how I remember. I am determined to master it. Next time I will make it into cupcakes. Thank you so much for posting this recipe!

        • Sharon says

          Thanks for the comments, Melissa! I’m glad you liked it. Frostings that use Paleo sugars can be a pain in the butt, so don’t get discouraged about that :) What helps is to chill the frosting mixture for about 15 minutes, rewhip, then frost the cake.

    • Kit says

      This is literally the BEST red velvet cake I’ve ever had. Red velvet is one of my absolute favorite cakes and I’ve had many of them, but since going gluten free and paleo(for the most part) I haven’t found a good one, but this one is better than any wheat filled one I ever had. I plan to share this recipe with everyone.

  2. Jill says

    Since I didn’t have any buttermilk, I used 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and then filled the measuring cup with almond milk. It’s so light! Two thumbs up!

  3. Megan says

    Does this cake has a coconut taste to it or does it really taste just like red velvet cake? I was looking to make this for my moms birthday soon but she doesn’t like the taste of coconut

    • Sharon says

      There is no coconut flavor at all when following the recipe or choosing the almond milk alternative. You won’t be able to taste the coconut from the coconut flour or the coconut sugar. Coconut sugar has a caramel-like taste so you’re safe there. Also, coconut sugar is interchangeable with unrefined cane sugar if you prefer. :)

  4. Hannah says

    This recipe looks amazing!! I’ve been looking long and hard for a good paleo red velvet recipe and the search is over.
    Instead of distilled vinegar, would I be able to use apple cider vinegar? Bravo on this masterful creation

  5. OscarM. says

    Hi, Im Mexican, I found your page and I love it.
    Just one question, I see that in all your desserts you use arrowroot starch, here I cant found it! There’s a sustitution? Rice flour, maybe?

    • Sharon says

      Hi Thanks for stopping by! Tapioca flour or corn starch (though not paleo) can work. I think rice flour would be OK too. :)

  6. Megan says

    I’ll be making this to celebrate my birthday this weekend!
    Wondering about these substitutions…
    Melted coconut oil instead of light olive oil?
    Apple Cider Vinegar instead of distilled vinegar?
    Is cacao powder okay to use instead of cocoa?
    Is it okay if I omit the pecans? I have a nut allergy
    Also, is the butter used salted or unsalted?

  7. Sherry says

    Hi, I had a go at making this cake and it came out quite flat and dense but tasted nice.
    The only thing I did differently was pour the wet and dry blended mixture onto the egg whites. Could this have been the reason it didn’t rise? This was my first attempt at baking without wheat flour, will definitely try this again. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

    • Sharon says

      Hi Sherry! Thanks for giving the recipe a try and I’m glad you found it tasty! There could be number of reasons why the cake went flat. If the egg whites are over-mixed with the rest of the batter, then it won’t be as fluffy. Other common reasons for flatness can be baking altitude and expired baking soda. Hope this helps!

  8. Jess says

    Hi. may I know if the cake has some oilve oil taste to it? Also, are 3 drops of red color coloring sufficient to yield the usual red velvet cake color? Thanks!

    • Sharon says

      There won’t be any olive oil taste if you use “Light Tasting Olive Oil.” I think 3 drops may be enough. The batter should be pretty bright red. :)

  9. Cris says

    Hi Sharon,
    I´ve read a lot of recipes on internet and there are too many differences between frostings. I don’t know what is the correct proportion of cheese, butter and sugar. My problem is that the frosting that I have is not enough strong and in spite of I let stand in the fridge I never be success.
    What I have to do? Have I to mix first the butter with the cheese or the butter with the sugar? I think that here is the problem.
    Drop me a line with the solution please!!!! thanks a lot!

    • Sharon says

      The cream cheese is usually whipped first, then the butter is added gradually. Both should be soft to avoid clumps. Then the sugar is gradually added with high speed whipping. :)

  10. Angela S. says

    This looks amazing! Planning on using this as the base for a trifle for this weekend. For make-ahead purposes, how long does it keep and how ought it to be stored?

  11. Jessii says

    Hi Sharon,

    I haven’t tried this recipe yet, but I am anxious too! I do a lot of paleo cooking and baking, and normally arrowroot is my go-to. However, I attempted a couple different cake recipes a couple of weeks ago that call for arrowroot; I did not have a good experience! Both recipes I tried came out very gummy. Not gummy like undercooked, more like gummy due to the arrowroot. Do you have any tips? Should I try dissolving the arrowroot in cold water like you do before heating it in a sauce?

    • Sharon says

      I usually don’t use arrowroot to thicken sauces. Preferably tapioca. Both should be added to the sauce at the end though. I think if it cooks to long, then the starches start attaching to each other and will make your sauce gummy. They’re not gummy in these cakes though. I think the coconut flour cuts into that 😉

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