How to Make a Purple Velvet Cake

This purple velvet cake with white chocolate cream cheese frosting (in purple) is adapted from an Epicurious red velvet cake. I clearly remember the first time I made the red version. I brought it to a friend’s house for a potluck, and someone asked me to make the cake for their wedding. Talk about instilling fear in a new cake baker.

This cake is the third of my favorite birthday cakes for my 50th birthday cake-a-palooza. Cake #1 was the tiramisu cake (all the goodness of tiramisu without raw egg). Cake #2 was the fudgy triple layer chocolate cake with chocolate ganache icing. I promise, if you are a chocolate lover, that is the cake for you.

a piece of purple velvet cake on a plate.

This cocoa-flavored purple velvet cake was also created for the reddit 52 weeks of baking challenge, week 15: Decoration Challenge: Monochrome. I was originally going to make the traditional red velvet cake and turn my white chocolate cream cheese frosting red, but I seem to have a purple thing going with recipes like this purple cow milk bread, mashed purple sweet potatoes, and ube crinkle cookies. I’m running with it.

 

Red velvet cake was reported developed around the end of the 19th century. It is traditionally made with just a hint of cocoa, using a only a tablespoon or two for the cocoa’s anthocyanin which produces a red color when combined with buttermilk and vinegar. That red isn’t particularly vibrant, so many recipes now include food coloring in one shape or form.

two slices of purple velvet cake and a cake stand.

Tips and tricks for this recipe

I’ve adapted the original recipe in a few ways. When I make chocolate cakes, I always dust my greased cake pans with cocoa powder instead of flour to avoid any possibility of having noticeable white powder on the outside of my cakes. I’ve also tripled the amount of cocoa in order to give the cake more chocolate flavor. It makes it harder to get a rich purple color, but I’ll take that challenge in order to have a cake taste like chocolate, eh?

cake pans dusted with cocoa powder.

And I made it a purple velvet cake. I have been using the Wilton concentrated food coloring, and the cake layers took 46 drops of pink, 8 drops of blue, and 1 drop of red. It still doesn’t achieve a deep purple color, but it’s clearly purple. For the frosting, I frosted the inside of the cake and a thin layer of the outside using 5 drops of pink, 2 blue, and 1 red, and then did a second layer after adding 3 more drops of pink and 1 of blue. If you are using a different food coloring, play around with it until you get your desired color. The frosting will be more forgiving than the cake with extra beating.

In looking at the monochrome challenge, I wish I had thought to make it a purple ombre. Next time.

liquid ingredients and purple food coloring.
purple cake batter in a pan.

FAQs about this purple velvet cake

What does purple velvet cake taste like?

It tastes just like red velvet cake – it has a mild chocolate flavor with a soft, velvety texture (thus the name). If you are looking for a more chocolatey cake, check out my fudgy triple layer chocolate cake (linked above and below).

What’s up with the vinegar?

Vinegar is added to this cake in order to provide leavening as part of a chemical reaction with the baking soda.

Do I have to weigh out my ingredients?

Do you have to do anything? No. But there is so much variation in how people measure that you are much more likely to get a reliable result if you weigh your ingredients

Can I freeze this purple velvet cake?

Absolutely, especially if you decorate the cake simply like I do. After the cake has been in the refrigerator overnight, I cut the cake into family sized portions. I double-wrap each piece in plastic wrap and then place it in a plastic bag with as much air removed as possible. When you want to eat a piece, remove it from the refrigerator, unwrap it and put it on a plate, and let it come to room temperature before serving.

What do I do with extra icing?

If you’re like me and you like only a thin layer of frosting on the cake, you might end up with extra icing. You can freeze frostings and have a variety for a batch of cupcakes. Or use extra frosting for cake balls or cake pops the next time you have a cake failure. Because they happen to all of us.

Can I make a blue velvet cake or orange velvet cake or a velvet cake in other colors?

Yes, though given those anthocyanins in the cake, orange would probably be easier.

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Recipe

Purple Velvet Cake with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

4.73 from 11 votes
Category: Cakes
Cuisine: Unspecified
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 1 hour
Cooling: 3 hours
Total Time: 5 hours
Servings: 12
Calories: 519kcal
This purple velvet cake is a variation of the classic red velvet cake that uses purple food coloring instead of red. It's a unique and visually stunning cake with a moist, cocoa-flavored crumb and white chocolate cream cheese frosting.
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Equipment

  • Two 9 inch round cake pans

Ingredients

Cake layers

  • 2⅛ cups (266 grams) all purpose flour 2⅙ is 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons
  • ¼ cup (24 grams) unsweetened cocoa not Dutch processed, if possible. Plus more for dusting the cake pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened plus more for greasing the cake pans
  • cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk use a 2cup measuring cup for convenience
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • food coloring, if desired (see notes)

White chocolate cream cheese frosting

  • 4 ounces (113 grams)white chocolate
  • 12 ounces (340 grams)cream cheese, softened
  • 6 ounces (12 tablespoons or 170 grams)unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • food coloring, if desired (see notes)

Instructions

Purple velvet cake layers

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Grease and line two 9 inch round cake pans with parchment paper, and then grease the parchment paper and dust with cocoa powder.
  • Sift the dry ingredients for the cake layers (flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) into a medium bowl.
    2⅛ cups (266 grams) all purpose flour, ¼ cup (24 grams) unsweetened cocoa, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ¼ teaspoon salt
  • In the bowl of stand mixer (or in a large mixing bowl if using a hand mixer), beat the butter for 3 to 5 minutes until soft and light, scraping the bowl intermittently.
    8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • Add the sugar, and beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, another 1 to 2 minutes.
    1½ cups (300 grams) granulated sugar
  • Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for one minute after each one.
    2 eggs, room temperature
  • Scrape the bowl, add the vanilla, and beat for an additional minute.
    1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Measure out the buttermilk into a 2 cup measuring cup, and then add the vinegar and food coloring (see notes) to the measuring cup.
    1 cup buttermilk, 1 teaspoon white vinegar, food coloring, if desired (see notes)
  • Add the dry ingredients in three parts and alternate with the buttermilk mixture (in two parts), starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only as long as needed to incorporate the addition, and scrape down the bowl as needed.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans, even the batter out in the pan, and give it one or two gentle thwacks (i.e. careful drops) onto the kitchen counter to remove any air bubbles.
  • Bake on a middle rack of the oven for about 25 minutes until a toothpick or knife inserted into the center comes out clean. I start checking at about 18 to 20 minutes.
  • Cool the cake layers in the pans for about 10 minutes and then turn out onto cooling racks. Cool completely.

White chocolate cream cheese frosting

  • Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, being careful not to overheat the white chocolate. Let cool.
    4 ounces (113 grams)white chocolate
  • In a mixing bowl, cream the cream cheese and butter together until soft.
    6 ounces (12 tablespoons or 170 grams)unsalted butter, softened, 12 ounces (340 grams)cream cheese, softened
  • Add the vanilla and cooled white chocolate and blend.
    1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Add food coloring, if using, to achieve desired color.
    food coloring, if desired (see notes)

Notes

This purple velvet cake recipe was edited on April 24, 2024 with the goal of keeping the cocoa flavor but making it easier to obtain a purple cake. The cocoa was reduced from 6 tablespoons to 4 tablespoons, and the flour was changed from 2 cups of cake flour to 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose.
I found that the key to a purple cake is using a strong purple food coloring but also adding white, to lighten the overall color.

Nutrition

Calories: 519kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 20g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 113mg | Sodium: 310mg | Potassium: 169mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 33g | Vitamin A: 1044IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 106mg | Iron: 1mg
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Sue the T rex eating a slice of purple velvet cake.

55 Comments

  1. 3 stars
    I would have made the frosting sweeter, maybe it needed some sugar or perhaps I didn’t add enough white chocolate.

    1. Hi Brooke – a white chocolate cream cheese frosting shouldn’t need any additional sugar, but you can always beat in a bit of powdered sugar to taste if you prefer a very sweet buttercream on your cakes.

  2. Hello!! IM trying this cake for my birthday next week. Do you have any suggestion to make is gluten free? would it be ok to just use GF flour instead?

    1. Hi Francisca – I’ve never made it gluten-free, so I can’t advise but I’d recommend looking for a specifically gluten-free recipe. Good luck and let me know how it turns out!

  3. I’m getting married this month to my girlfriend of 10 years. Her favorite color is purple, so I’m going to try my hand at making this for our “wedding cake”. I’ve never baked much of anything, so I’m a little nervous, but I think she’ll really love it, especially if it comes out right!! I’m planning on following ALL of your tips (same brands, weighing ingredients, etc.). Also going to give myself a full day, just in case. I’ll let you know how it comes out, including photos, good or bad!! While I want it to be as purple as possible, I also want a good chocolate flavor. Any further tips would be greatly appreciated. Either way, I’m going to do my best to make it Special, just for her!

    1. Rexx – thanks so much for letting me part of your big day! I might suggest making the cake once before the wedding, just so you can ask me questions and get things right? Either way, I’m here for you!

  4. 5 stars
    I followed this recipe to the letter and even made my own butter/buttermilk from heavy cream. I noted it did not have a lot of height but it was very moist and tender. I was also not able to achieve the purple color I was seeking but this was an excellent recipe and I will try it again. As per the other reviews, I may try less cocoa in pursuit of the purple color. Thank you for sharing this!

  5. Just made this recipe into cupcakes. I halved it so I’d get 12. The batter seemed quite thick but then they didn’t rise much but spread out a lot. I think next time I’d use AP flour instead of cake. I used a little less cocoa so I could get the colour nice and purple. I used limino liquid food colouring I got off amazon. Had to add quite a lot to get the batter deep purple.
    The frosting turned out beautifully though. Very fluffy and not too sweet or tart. I made it lilac purple with just a couple of drops of colour.

    1. Hi Judy – I’ve never baked with a mix but there’s no reason you couldn’t. The challenge is getting a deeply chocolate cake to turn purple, and I might use another type of cake mix if your goal is just a purple cake. Best of luck. Let me know how it turns out!

  6. Hi, is cake flour SR or Plain flour? I’m in Australia. Also we don’t have Wilton here only Queen food colouring.

    1. Hi Sarah – cake flour is a lower protein flour compared to plain flour. You can make cake flour by subbing 2 tablespoons of cornstarch per cup of plain/all-purpose flour – so for this recipe, it would be 1.75 cups (210 grams) of plain/all-purpose plus a quarter cup of cornstarch. Or you could also just use your plain flour, and the cake will still work!

    1. Hi Barb – I used Wilton concentrated food coloring, and the cake layers took 46 drops of pink, 8 drops of blue, and 1 drop of red. But if you different food coloring, the amounts might be different and you’ll just have to play around with it.

    1. Hi Melissa – The frosting uses much less – that food coloring was for the cake using Wilton’s concentrated food coloring, but every food coloring is slightly different.

  7. Hi there! Do you know about how many cupcakes this would make? I’m going to try your recipe out this weekend but with blue instead of purple for my little one’s Blue’s Clues birthday party! I tried a different blue velvet recipe and it did not taste good… definitely not enough chocolate lol. Hopefully blue will work just as well as the purple!

    1. Hi Bree – a double layer, 9 inch cake generally should make 24 cupcakes, give or take. I’d bake at the same temperature but just start checking them at 15 or so minutes. I think you could get a deep blue. I’d love to hear how they turn out!

      1. They came out ok! I couldn’t get a nice blue color, it ended up more of a deep greenish blue, even though I added purple to try and cancel out the yellow. Maybe I could have gotten it eventually if I kept adding more food coloring. I also accidentally overfilled them but that’s obviously just a me problem. I did 3/4 full and didn’t expect them to rise so much! The taste is great though and they are fluffy and moist! Thank you!

  8. 5 stars
    I have not made this yet, but I was wondering if you had any suggestions for using Watkins natural food coloring, which does not come in pink, just the primary colors plus green. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jenn – sorry, I don’t have any experience with that food coloring, and they’re all so different. It looks like others say they have no problem with just red and blue making purple using Watkins. I’m guessing it would work fine for the frosting. Just not sure about the cake layers. Let me know what you decide to do!

  9. I made this today. The cakes were very purple and look great but did not rise very high. Brand new baking powder. I ended up making two more for a four layered cake. Thoughts on this?

    1. Teresa, sorry your purple cakes didn’t come out quite right. The recipe uses chemical leavening from baking powder and baking soda plus mechanical leavening from beating the butter and sugar and then eggs together. Most people don’t beat their butter long enough – I know I didn’t when I was just starting to bake. Maybe that?

  10. 4 stars
    I made this today, tastes nice but way too much cocoa to make cake go purple, took 35 minutes to bake and didn’t need all the frosting. I would used 2 tablespoons of cocoa not 6 and make less frosting

  11. Hi there, the cakes have been in the oven for 30 minutes and are still VERY loose in the middle. Did I do something wrong? I had to add a lot of food coloring to get any sense of color, so maybe that’s it?

    1. Hi Amber – sorry I’m just seeing this now. If you measured everything correctly, I can’t tell what might have happened – some ovens run hot or cold. Hopefully your cake layers turned out ok in the end once you baked them until a toothpick came out clean. Fingers crossed.

  12. When you say white chocolate, are you intending the use of white baking style chocolate or full flavor white chocolate?

    1. Hi Caine, I’ve used both Callebaut white chocolate chunks and Baker’s brand white chocolate baking bars in this purple velvet cake. I’m not sure where you are in the world, but in the US you should be fine with anything labelled as white chocolate. I’d avoid “white baking chips” and other things not labeled as chocolate because they don’t contain cocoa butter. Hope that helps!

    1. Hi Emilie – thanks so much for dropping a note and letting me know you loved the purple velvet cake. Happy birthday to your daughter! Joanne

  13. Hi! I’m going to use your recipe to make purple velvet cupcakes for our Mardi Gras celebration. I found purple gel food coloring by Wilton but am unclear about how many drops to use. Don’t want the cake batter being too “ liquidy.” What do you suggest?

    1. Hi Nadine – the challenge is “how many do I use?” is that food colorings are all a little different. It’s a pretty liquidy cake batter, so I think you’d be fine adding as much as you needed to get the batter close to the color you want. It won’t ever be a bright purple, given the cocoa. Good luck, and let me know how your cupcakes turn out!

  14. Hi there, is this frosting usable in a piping bag? I’ve made this into cupcakes and would love to do a light and dark purple swirl.

    1. Hi Lena. Thanks for the question. I’ve never tried piping this frosting. I might add a bit of powdered sugar to stiffen it if you do decide to pipe it. It’s a pretty soft frosting as written. Let me know how it turns out!

  15. What is the best purple extract that I can purchase so I don’t have to use the , pink, blue & red mix together to get purple??

    1. Hi Wilda. That’s a great question. I see people rave about AmeriColor purples, but I didn’t test them to see if one would work on this cake. I’d love to hear if you try.

    1. Hi Joan. Thanks so much for asking. Cake flour is a low-protein flour so it has less gluten formation. If you don’t have that available, the cake layers in this purple velvet cake would work just fine with plain flour.

      When you really want a tender cake that calls for cake flour, sift together 1 cup minus two tablespoons of plain flour plus two tablespoons of cornstarch for every cup of cake flour in a recipe.

    1. Hi Katelyn. Thanks for asking! It should read as “add the sugar, and cream (beat) the butter and sugar together…”. I’ll re-write it so it’s clearer for everyone!

      1. Thank you! I actually figured it out after starring at it for 20 mins, I felt dumb after. Lol thank you!!!

        1. No worries! If you were confused by it, it’s likely someone else would be too. Happy to make edits to make it clearer for everyone. THANK YOU!

  16. I have a batch in the oven now, I made these as cupcakes for Halloween. Took A LOT of food coloring, which I knew going in, the batter isn’t as purple as I’d have liked, but having read your whole post first, I knew what I was getting into with the cocoa powder! They are rising beautiful and the batter was such a beautiful silky consistency so I know they’ll be delicious! I plan to use a more traditional ermine icing with these.

    1. Hi Brittany! Yes, that’s the downside of having them taste of chocolate. I’m so glad you decided to make them. Please let me know how you like them!

    1. Thank you, Hillary. I’m still steep on the learning curve for both, but it’s been an incredible learning experience so far.

    1. Thanks, Hillary. Nope, not a typo. The Wilton Color Right concentrated food coloring “color mixing guide” recommends 45 drops of pink, 6 of blue, and 3 of red for a purple buttercream (i.e. not a cocoa-colored cake), so you can imagine how much food coloring would be needed to get the layers even more purple. It’s probably why many of the other “purple velvet cakes” call for as little as a teaspoon of cocoa. But for me, what’s the point of that? I’m all about making things that taste delicious, even if they don’t look perfect.

      Of course, every food coloring is different, so you might not need as much if you are using a different one.

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