Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Swirl

With a characteristic tang and a heaping pile of cream cheese frosting, this one bowl Red Velvet Bundt Cake with a cream cheese swirl is easy, delicious, and a true crowd pleaser! The red velvet flavor and color you love – in an easy to make bundt cake form!

red velvet bundt cake covered with cream cheese frosting with one slice on the side

You guys knew this was coming, right?  A bundt cake of the month series, so what else would we choose for February other than… red velvet!

Red velvet is such a confusing cake flavor, because… what is it, exactly?  There’s a little chocolate, but it doesn’t have a distinct chocolate flavor.  There’s a little hint of sourness and tang.  The texture is a little different too – it’s so light and fluffy compared to other cakes.

And of course, the most obvious part: it’s red!

Red velvet cake usually comes as a layer cake, but as we all know – layer cakes can be complicated and time consuming.

Instead, we’re going to use the classic characteristics of red velvet (buttermilk, vinegar, cocoa powder, red food coloring) and turn it into an easy bundt cake.

And since red velvet cake always has cream cheese frosting, we’ll include this two ways: cream cheese frosting on top AND a cream cheese swirl in the middle of the cake!

red velvet bundt cake sliced into small slices and lined up on a cake plate

Why is Red Velvet Cake Red?

Let’s talk a little bit about the history of red velvet cakes. It involves my favorite topic: science!  Have you ever wondered why red velvet cakes are red?  I mean, a bottle of food coloring does nothing to add to the flavor, so why do we use it?

Time for a little science and history lesson with my favorite subject, kitchen chemistry!

Kitchen Chemistry

Back in the day, cocoa powder contained a compound called anthocyanin.  Anthocyanins are flavonoids that change color based on pH.  Red velvet cake gets its unique tang and texture from some acidic additions: buttermilk and vinegar.  When the anthocyanins react with the acid, the color changes from brown to deep red.  Science!  So why do we now add red food coloring?  Most cocoa powder today is processed with an alkalizing agent to neutralize the pH.  This makes cocoa powder taste more chocolatey, but it also makes it darker brown and prevents the color change.

Pretty interesting, right?  (Okay, maybe I’m the only one who loves kitchen chemistry.)

fluffy red velvet cake in a bundt pan showing off the deep red color

Best Red Velvet Bundt Cake Recipe

To get the characteristic red velvet flavor and texture, we need to use buttermilk and distilled white vinegar for the acidic component.  Don’t worry, you don’t taste the vinegar at all!

We need some baking soda to help give the cake a little extra rise.   You guys all remember the vinegar and baking soda volcano experiment from elementary school, right?

And now, we add some red food coloring to replicate the traditional color change from the anthocyanins.

Here’s the great debate on red velvet: should it be BRIGHT red or brownish-red?  A lot of cakes now are super red.  Like, red red.

You can achieve this by adding a lot of food coloring.  A lot of recipes call for a full one ounce bottle.  I… I just can’t get behind adding that much food coloring when there’s no real reason.

This red velvet bundt cake uses 3/4 of a tablespoon, which gives it a reddish color, but not super bright red.  I prefer to think of it as a more authentic color, versus the modernized super red version.

(Another fun history fact: the super bright version started thanks to Adam Extract, a company that made food coloring. In an attempt to boost sales, they created a recipe for red velvet that required lots of red food coloring… leading us to the BRIGHT red color we often see today.)

layer of cream cheese swirl inside red velvet bundt cake batter

Red Velvet Bundt Cake with Cream Cheese Filling

Of course, since this is a bundt cake, the texture will be a little more dense than a layer cake.  Even with all the baking soda and vinegar and buttermilk, the increased depth of a bundt cake adds to the density.

But this thickness means that bundt cakes are ideal for adding a little layer of something in the middle – like a cream cheese swirl!

Traditional red velvet cake includes cream cheese frosting. We’re doubling up here, with a cream cheese frosting swirl right in the middle, too!

Just drop dollops of the cream cheese mixture on half the cake batter, use a knife to spread it around, and top with the rest of the batter.

As the cake bakes, the batter will bake around the frosting, leaving a perfect cream cheese swirl running right through the middle!

view of the inside of a red velvet bundt cake showing the cream cheese swirl in the center

Easy Cream Cheese Frosting

Of course, we can’t make a red velvet bundt cake without the best cream cheese frosting!

For super smooth, creamy dreamy frosting, make sure to use room temperature cream cheese – otherwise, there will be lumps and bumps!

I like to use a thicker consistency frosting that can be spread on the cake with a spatula. If you prefer a thinner frosting that can be poured on the cake like a glaze, add an additional tablespoon of milk or water at a time until the consistency is more like white craft glue.

And of course, you can never have too many sprinkles – so top liberally with your favorite colorful sprinkles!

cream cheese frosting on a bundt cake decorated with pink and gold sprinkles

Tips and Tricks for the Best Red Velvet Bundt Cake

  1. New to baking in bundt pans? Looking for the best tips and tricks to ensure your cake doesn’t stick? Check out THIS POST for all my best bundt tips!
  2. No bundt pan?  No problem!  Bake this cake in two loaf pans instead of a bundt pan.  Divide between two well-greased 9×5-inch loaf pans and bake for 40-50 minutes.
  3. Don’t overbake the cake – this will result in a drier, crumbly texture.  Bake just until the edges begin to pull away from the pan and the top is springy when pushed back.
  4. Wait until the cake is fully cooled before adding the frosting – otherwise it will not set and will run off the sides of the cake.
  5. Refrigerate the cake.  Because of the cream cheese swirl and cream cheese frosting, the cake should be stored in the refrigerator.
red velvet cream cheese bundt cake on a cake plate covered with festive sprinkles

More Recipes with Cream Cheese Frosting

2017 Bundt Cake of the Month Series

slices of red velvet bundt cake with frosting and pink sprinkles

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Swirl Bundt Cake

Yield: Serves 18
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 55 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

With a characteristic tang and a heaping pile of cream cheese frosting, this red velvet bundt cake with a cream cheese swirl is an easy crowd pleaser!


For the Cream Cheese Swirl:

  • 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (66 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon sour cream, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Red Velvet Cake:

  • 1 1/4 cup (247.5 grams) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cup (247.5 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (227 grams) buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 2 1/2 cups (300 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon cocoa powder

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (56.5 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups (284 grams) confectioners' sugar
  • 4 tablespoons (57 grams) heavy cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350 °F. Grease a 12-cup metal bundt pan.
  2. Start by making the cream cheese swirl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and sugar and beat with the paddle attachment until combined. Add in the egg, sour cream, heavy cream, and vanilla extract and continue to beat until mixture is soft and pourable. Scrape out the cream cheese swirl mixture into a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Wipe out the inside of the mixing bowl with a towel. Pour in the vegetable oil, sugar, eggs, buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and red food coloring. Beat for 2-3 minutes, until well combined and all the sugar has dissolved. Add in the dry ingredients and beat for an additional 1-2 minutes, until no flour streaks remain.
  4. Pour half the red velvet batter into the prepared bundt pan. Drop spoonfuls of the cream cheese swirl mixture on top of the batter and spread into an even layer with a knife. Pour the rest of the cake batter on top of the cream cheese swirl.
  5. Bake for 55 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake in the bundt pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack to finish cooling.
  6. While the cake cools, make the cream cheese frosting. Using the electric mixer on medium speed, beat together the cream cheese and butter until light and fluff, 3 to 4 minutes. Slowly add in the confectioners sugar, followed by the heavy cream. Continue to beat an additional minute or two.
  7. Once the cake has cooled completely, use a spatula to spread the frosting along the top and sides of the bundt cake. Top liberally with sprinkles.
  8. Transfer the cake to a refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the frosting to set. The cake can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.


Baked cake can be stored in the freezer for up to 3 months. Wrap tightly with plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator, then transfer it to the counter and allow it to come to room temperature, 1 to 2 hours, before frosting as directed above.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 18 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 473Total Fat: 29gCarbohydrates: 49gProtein: 5g

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Red Velvet Bundt Cake: a traditional red velvet cake with a cream cheese swirl, mixed in one bowl. Perfect for Valentine's Day - or any day!