Updated: Jul 13
Red Velvet really just means adding red food coloring right? Not Exactly. Red velvet is a unique flavor all it’s own, and the rich, red color is a great bonus. Back in the 1800’s, cakes were referred to as “Velvet” when they utilized luxurious (at the time) cocoa powder. According to Sunflower baking company, “A chemical reaction between the cocoa and acid give the cake it's red color. Natural cocoa has a lot of acidities and works well with the baking soda and buttermilk”
That hint of cocoa powder and the striking color (that we now achieve with food coloring) is what makes red velvet cakes and cookies so special.
To create this recipe, I had to refer back to an old family recipe. My great grandmother, Mamaw’s Eva’s red velvet cake was actually the first thing I ever baked on my own in my mama’s kitchen. I remember the first time I tried red velvet cake at a family get together at Mamaw Eva’s house. It was one of those old fashioned recipes with the runny coconut icing that seeps into the cake like a sweet sponge. I think I ended up having two pieces! I told Mamaw Eva how much I loved it, and she offered to write down the recipe for me. I stood with her in her kitchen as she listed the ingredients and the instructions in beautiful cursive hand-writing.
Red Velvet cake was the only thing I could confidently make on my own for awhile, and it became my go-to dish when friends came over and when we went to church dinners. So, naturally when I wanted to create a new cookie recipe, red velvet was the first flavor that came to mind.
To make this recipe, start with two sticks of softened unsalted butter (don’t stress about it if it’s salted, just leave the salt out of the recipe like I did in the video). You want your butter to be softened to the point that you can press it with your finger and it will leave an imprint. It also won’t be cold when you touch it. It should be room temperature.
Add the butter along with a cup of granulated sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. I love my KitchenAid, but any stand or hand mixer will do the job. I use the paddle attachment with the silicone scrapers on either side which you can find here on amazon. It makes quick work of creaming butter and sugar together.
Cream the butter and sugar for a minimum of 3-4 minutes or until the butter turns from light yellow to a fluffy, airy cream color and it all kind of looks like a cloud. This will create the most pillowy, soft cookies.
I like to be efficient and start sifting the dry ingredients together while the butter and sugar is creaming in the mixer, so in a hand-held sifter, I combine 4 cups of all purpose flour, ⅓ cup of corn starch (which helps avoid spreading), 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and ¼ tsp salt. Be sure to fluff the flour with a butter knife or fork before measuring to get a more accurate measure. I also like to level the top of the measuring cup with the back of the butter knife. I sift all that into a seperate bowl and give it a little whisk which will help make sure it’s all combined before going into the mixer later. Set that over to the side, and we will come back to it shortly.
Once the butter and sugar are creamed together, add a tablespoon or two (depending on how intense you’d like the color to be) of red food coloring. I love the Americolor Very Red which you can find here on Amazon. The gel color allows you to achieve an intense red without the dough becoming bitter or changing the consistency of the dough by adding tons of food coloring.
Combine the creamed butter and sugar with the food coloring then add two large eggs, one at a time allowing each to incorporate fully. I like to crack eggs into a separate bowl first just to watch for bad eggs. You may have to turn the mixer up to a higher level to get the eggs fully incorporated. The mixture should be totally homogeneous and have no pieces of any individual ingredient visible.
After it’s all combined add a generous pour of good vanilla extract. If you’ve been around me any length of time, you know I pour vanilla with my heart rather than a measuring spoon.
Now, grab that bowl of dry ingredients that we mixed up earlier. I like to start my adding just a couple of cups to the mixer and mixing on low until it’s pretty much mixed in. Then, I gradually add a little more at a time, mixing on low until it’s all combined. You may have to raise the mixer up to a medium/high speed toward the end to get it all mixed in. The dough should be fairly thick and clumping together in the end.
I grab about half the dough and turn it out onto a floured counter or one with a silpat mat. In the video, I didn’t use parchment but I was wishing I had! For a neater rolling process than I had, place a sheet of parchment over the dough before rolling, and flip that rolled sheet of dough onto a baking sheet to place into the freezer. Repeat with the other half of the dough. I like to freeze rolled sheets of dough for about 15-20 minutes before cutting. You can absolutely freeze overnight or wrap baking sheet, dough, and all in tight plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months. If it’s been in the freezer longer than 30 minutes though, I recommend allowing it to thaw for around 10 minutes before cutting unless you have a tile cutting saw handy.
Freezing the rolled dough makes cutting shapes so much easier, and helps keep the edges of the cookies from spreading in the oven.
Once you’ve cut the cookies, place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a oven safe baking mat and bake at 375 F for 6-8 minutes. In my oven, exactly 7 minutes is perfect, but every oven is different, so start watching them around the 5-6 minute mark the first time you make these. Once the tops are no longer shiny, they’re ready to pull out.
I allow them to cool for around 5-7 minutes on the baking sheet and then transfer to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely before decorating.
These cookies bake up smooth on top so they’re the perfect canvas for trying out some royal icing decorating techniques.
Decorate with royal icing or top with the icing of your choice, and be sure to pass the recipe on to someone you love.
Thank you so much for reading this post, and if you’d like to learn more about sugar cookie decorating, business, and more, here are a few posts you might like!
Yield: around 2 dozen cookies
2 sticks softened unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon of red gel food coloring
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
4 cups of all purpose flour
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1/3 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
Cream together butter and sugar
Add red food coloring
Add eggs, one at a time, then vanilla
Sift together flour, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt
Give the dry ingredients a whisk then add 1-2 cups of dry ingredients at a time until all ingredients are mixed
Divide dough in half and roll to a quarter inch thickness
Cut desired shapes and bake at 375 F on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper for around 7 minutes or until the tops are no longer shiny