Red Velvet Cupcakes

Fluffy and moist, these buttery red velvet cupcakes are my favorite. The tangy cream cheese frosting puts them over the top!

Classic Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting - this recipe delivers. Learn what makes this classic recipe so good! sallysbakingaddiction.com

Over the past year, the most requested recipe on my blog is… red velvet cupcakes. To be honest, I was never a huge fan of red velvet up until a few years ago. Is it chocolate? Is it vanilla? The flavor always leaves me confused.

But I began to fall in love with it when I bit into a lavish 3 layer slice of red velvet cake at my friend’s wedding. It was so unworldly moist, very buttery, full of vanilla flavor with a hint of chocolate goodness. And the tang from the cream cheese frosting was the perfect compliment to the indulgently sweet red velvet crumb underneath.

Simply put? That red velvet cake was the bees knees.

Classic Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting - learn what makes this classic recipe so good! sallysbakingaddiction.com

I have never been able to recreate something like it! I’ve felt like a red velvet failure for the past 3 and a half years. I’ve tried a lot of “good” red velvet cupcake and cake recipes– some great– but nothing that deserves a spot in my archives. When I received the billionth request from a red velvet loving reader (thank you for the nudge, Nancy!), I knew it was time to put on my big girl red velvet pajama pants. Ick! I don’t wear velvet pants.

In the midst of all my pumpkin pie shenanigans last week, I also worked like a mad scientist on a red velvet cupcake recipe. And I am praising the heavens that I finally nailed it. NAILED IT! These cupcakes are absurdly amazing. And I’m not just saying that. My husband who “hates” red velvet inhaled 2 before his dinner of buffalo wings and french fries. The metabolism of a 20 something man, ladies and gents.

I’m getting off topic. So, let me tell ya a thing or two about these here cupcakes.

Classic Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting - learn what makes this classic recipe so good! sallysbakingaddiction.com

What makes red velvet stand out from say, chocolate cupcakes, is its wonderfully buttery flavor. I love that about red velvet. And during some recipe testing, I threw that flavor aside because all I could concentrate on was “make this cupcake moist, sally.” And we all know oil brings so much moisture to cupcakes! But with oil we (1) don’t have that natural buttery flavor and (2) the cupcakes aren’t as light and soft. Something creamed butter imparts into cakes and cupcakes. Furthermore, I often find that too much oil weighs baked goods down.

So, let’s use both. Oil – “the moist maker” (name that quote!) and creamed butter – a tried and true way to a fluffy cupcake crumb.

The cocoa. We’re using that so the red velvet cupcakes can have a hint of chocolate. To me, red velvet is more of a vanilla cake than a chocolate cake. So I use only 4 teaspoons of cocoa to give the cupcakes that subtle chocolate flavor. It’s perfect.

Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe

Though I typically love throwing brown sugar into just about everything I bake, I leave it out of these red velvet cupcakes. I don’t want 1 hint of molasses flavor overtaking the vanilla, butter, and chocolate flavors. Simple white sugar is enough.

Baking Science // Nerd Alert…

Buttermilk is a must when it comes to red velvet. Slightly tangy, lots of moisture, and ultra creamy. You really cannot make these red beauties without it. Besides what buttermilk does to the taste and texture of these red velvet cupcakes, it also helps to activate the baking soda. So does the vinegar. Don’t get scared, a touch of vinegar is normal in red velvet desserts– and no, you cannot taste it. If you don’t have white vinegar, you can use apple cider vinegar. The vinegar also makes the red… redder.

I almost forgot to mention the flour. What may have thrown off all my red velvet cupcake testing was the flour. Cake flour is key to an ultra light cake, but I (and you, I’m sure) don’t really keep cake flour in the pantry. So, I usually develop my cake and cupcake recipes with all-purpose. Well. The moment I added cornstarch to all-purpose flour to make DIY cake flour was the moment I knew this recipe would be the winner. What’s cake flour and why is it so extraordinary? Cake flour is a low protein flour (about 8%) and has a very fine texture. A lower protein count = less gluten forms when you mix it into a batter, thus producing a cake with a fine, soft crumb. Think, angel food cake. In a nutshell, cake flour produces a noticeably lighter cake crumb than all-purpose and red velvet cakes are known for their soft, light texture. Rather than buying cake flour, reduce all-purpose flour slightly and add cornstarch.

That was much longer than I intended it to be. Oy.

Super-moist and rich Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe by sallysbakingaddiction.com

Though the red velvet cupcake itself is pretty impressive, my favorite part about this cupcake is its combination with cream cheese frosting. My frosting is like a cloud from cream cheese heaven. Incredibly creamy, tangy, sweet, smooth, and luscious. It’s my favorite cream cheese frosting recipe and has never steered me wrong.

You’re going to love ’em. Red velvet lovers, now we rejoice.

Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. 

Print

Red Velvet Cupcakes

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours
  • Yield: 14 cupcakes
  • Category: Cupcakes
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Fluffy and moist, these buttery red velvet cupcakes are my favorite. The tangy cream cheese frosting puts them over the top!


Ingredients

  • 2 large eggs, room temperature and separated
  • 1 and 1/3 cups (160g) all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 1/4 cup (32g) cornstarch*
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons (6g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • liquid or gel red food coloring*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, room temperature*
  • cream cheese frosting for topping

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners. This recipe makes 14 cupcakes, so you will have 2 cupcakes to bake in a 2nd batch.
  2. With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat 2 egg whites on high speed in a medium bowl until soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes. See photo at the bottom of this post for a visual. Set aside.
  3. Sift the flour and cornstarch together to make sure it is evenly combined. Whisk this, along with baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  4. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the oil and beat on high for 2 minutes. The butter may look “piece-y” and not completely combine with the oil. This is normal and ok.
  5. Add 2 egg yolks and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the vinegar and the food coloring– until you reach your desired color. I use 2 Tablespoons. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix. Fold whipped egg whites into cupcake batter with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The batter will be silky and slightly thick. (If there are still pieces of butter – and there were in 1 test batch for me – again, this is ok. They will melt inside as the cupcakes bake. Making them even more buttery.)
  6. Spoon batter into cupcake liners filling 1/2 – 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20-21 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Don’t overbake; your cupcakes will dry out. Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.
  7. Prepare cream cheese frosting. Frost cooled cupcakes immediately before serving. I used a Wilton #12 tip; I don’t recommend a star tip. This frosting is a little too thin.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Decorate/assemble cupcakes immediately before serving. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly at room temperature or in the refrigerator for 3 days. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Cake Flour: I use a combination of sifted flour + cornstarch to produce cake flour – if you keep cake flour in the pantry, use 1 and 2/3 cups (192g) instead of the specified all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Here is all you need to know about homemade cake flour substitute!
  3. Food Coloring: The amount of red food coloring is up to you. I tested with varying amounts. To get the dark red color you see here, use 2 Tablespoons of liquid food coloring. Dye the batter until you are pleased with the color. Of course, you don’t have to dye the batter at all if you don’t want to. I have never tested this recipe with a natural alternative.
  4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is required. I use low-fat because that’s what I typically have, but full fat buttermilk is fine here. If you do not have buttermilk, make your own by mixing 1 teaspoon white vinegar or lemon juice with 1/2 cup milk. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Layer Cake: Here is my recipe for Red Velvet Layer Cake.
  6. Mini Cupcakes: For around 36 mini cupcakes, line mini cupcake pans with liners or spray with nonstick spray. Prepare cupcakes and frosting as directed. Bake mini cupcakes for 12-13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Why Room Temperature Ingredients? Here is all you need to know!
  8. Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!

Keywords: red velvet cupcakes

296 Comments

  1. I made these for my first-ever attempt at red velvet cupcakes and they were DELICIOUS! No one could stop eating them and we were all devasted when they were gone. I’ve tried red velvet cakes from stores and some made by other people but they don’t even compare to this recipe! They were absolutely perfect and I would eat them every day if I could 🙂

  2. Hi Sally!

    Your recipe and comments sound so delightful! May you please tell me what the ratio of using all cake flour, as opposed to the all purpose and cornstarch? I cannot wait to try! 🙂

  3. Hey Sally! Ive tried several red velvet recipes and am always disappointed with the dryness of the cupcakes. I just want to make a good red velvet from scratch and your recipe looks promising.

    If I use cake flour, would it be equivalent to the amount called for regular flour in the recipe, 1 1/3 C? Plus omitting the cornstarch?

  4. Hello Sally! I just want to thank you for this recipe! My mom, uncle and churchmates loves it so much and they ask me if I can bake them again 🙂 Thanks a lot 🙂 

  5. Hello – is there any way I can frost these cupcakes (& the chocolate ones I just commented on!) and refrigerate overnight for a birthday party the next morning, rather than do them the day of, as suggested?! Thank you!

  6. I made these for a friend’s birthday dinner this weekend. Everyone LOVED them!! So moist and light! Thank you!!

  7. Late last year I had gastric sleeve surgery so naturally I try and restrict my diet to things like carbohydrates and sugar. I followed this recipe today but made it in cupcake for a for a party at work. I did sneak a piece of a cupcake and it was absolutely delicious and moist. The frosting was beyond amazing, however I did make a little variation from the frosting recipe. In addition to the frosting recipe I added a bit more sugar to make it thicker because I was pipe in the frosting on the cupcakes, and I also added lemon zest to the mixture which brightened it up a bit. I was very pleased with this recipe, and I’m sure everyone will love it.

  8. These came out very tasty. I’d never had red velvet before but my partner said they were spot on! My only problem was that they weren’t red at all. I dumped a whole bottle of food dye in and they stayed a stubborn brown, barely reddish at all. It was pretty cheap food dye, so maybe it’s just not very good?

    1. Hi Michal, I’m so glad you enjoyed the flavor of these! Were you using a gel food coloring or a liquid? Gel colors are much more vibrant and you don’t need to add as much.

  9. Hello Sally, cheers from Indonesia! I hope you have a wonderful day. I want to make cupcake out of your recipe but is it okay to use apple cider vinegar instead of distilled white vinegar? Thank you!

  10. Planning to make these soon. I recently used your strawberry cake recipe to make cupcakes and they were great. I know that recipe called for cake flour or a mixture of all purpose flour and cornstarch as a sub. This recipe calls for all purpose flour and cornstarch- do you recommend that mixture instead of the cake flour for this cupcake.

    1. Hi Shameka, I use a combination of sifted flour + cornstarch to produce cake flour here, but if you keep cake flour in the pantry, use 1 and 2/3 cups (192g) instead of the specified all-purpose flour and cornstarch.

  11. I’m thinking about baking these in my mini bundt pans…. Not sure of the timing… thinking a bit more than the cupcakes but I’ll start checking at the 21 minute mark. Any suggestions Sally?

    1. I’d start checking at 19-20 minutes– all mini bundt pans hold different amounts (due to their designs), so it’s best to start checking early.

  12. Although this recipe was a little more complex than usual, it was so WORTH IT! The cupcakes turned out SUPER soft and fluffy, the flavor wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet nor chocolaty like other recipes! It was so so good, nor greasy, not dry, perfect!
    I made my own cream cheese frosting and adding a touch of ricotta And lemon zest in the frosting and it paired deliciously with the cupcake!!

  13. I made these for the Superbowl last weekend, and they were excellent. The instructions were perfect. I tripled the recipe, producing 48 cupcakes. I used a triple recipe of frosting also, although a double recipe probably would have been enough. I needed about three tablespoons of liquid food coloring per recipe to get the dark 49er red color. I used gold foil wrappers and red and gold sprinkles. They looked absolutely beautiful. Thanks for a great recipe. It is going into my “perfect recipe” file.

  14. HI Sally, I think I may have asked this last time I tried to make these Red Velvet cupcakes. Both batches came out with a sunken middle of each cake and most of them were stuck to the cupcake liners making them a mess to eat. Although delicious but messy. I live at high altitude and many at the Super bowl party thought that was the problem. I think you told me that I needed to bake longer but not sure? Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Charlie, Your location could definitely be the issue. I wish I could help, but I have no experience baking at high altitude. I know some readers have found this chart helpful: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/learn/high-altitude-baking.html

      1. Hi Daniel, Unfortunately they are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. We are using the corn starch here to make our own cake flour (you can also just use cake flour, see recipe notes).

    2. For higher altitudes, you generally need to reduce your sugar (not much, by about 1 tablespoon per cup), reduce your baking powder(although with this small amount I’d say dont worry about it) and increase your liquid(by about 2 Tablespoons) and baking temperature (by about 10-20°). Hope that helps

  15. Hi Sally! Thanks for the recipe! The cupcakes tasted wonderful but there was a lot of excess oil on the liners which leaked on to the moulds. I followed your recipe to the T. Any idea why that would have happened?

    1. Hi Rivka, I started using higher quality + grease-proof liners a few years ago. My cupcakes stopped sticking to the sides of the wrapper and the liners no longer oozed grease. If the cupcake liner feels cheap, it probably is cheap. I swear by these parchment paper liners or any quality liners labeled “grease-proof.”

  16. I would love to try out this recipe for my daughter birthday. She love red velvet! I wanted to use an alternative to the red dye/gel. Do you think raspberry juice would be ok? I think she would be ok with the slight raspberry taste. Would I have to alter the ingredients in anyway if i used rasberry juice/ or a powder of some kind?

    1. Hi Dhruva, I don’t recommend adding extra liquid to this batter. For natural coloring, you can use beet powder. If you don’t want to use food coloring, leave it out! The cake will have the same flavor and be a lovely shade of cocoa.

  17. Hi!
    Can’t wait to make this recipe, could I make the batter on Wednesday and bake them on Thursday? Will of course keep it in the fridge.
    Let me know what you think!

    1. Hi Maxine, As soon as you mix your batter together your baking soda is activated, so you need to bake it right away for the cupcakes to rise properly.

  18. These are lovely! I was surprised by the very noticeable cocoa flavor.. I feel like I don’t usually get that when I buy red velvet cake at a restaurant or bakery. I realized I need to order a large tube of red gel food coloring if I want to make more red velvet! I used an entire mini one from an assorted pack on this recipe.

  19. These were yummy but mine came out a little dry. Maybe I overbaked, but I did 19 min in an oven that was measuring closer to 325 so I’m surprised. Any other ideas? I used sunflower oil for the oil.

  20. I tried baking these. Using mini cupcake version however it was dry. Not sure if there is anything I can improve on

  21. It was a lot of work and a lot of steps that were probably uncalled for but they were real tasty at the end

    1. Thanks Whitney! The pictured cupcakes were actually made with liquid food coloring (see note). But when I make these with gel, I use about 1-1.5 teaspoons.

  22. Hey Sally!!!

    This is yet another recipe that i tried for Valentines day and i cannot express how happy i was with the result. Red velvet is my most favorite flavour and they turned out to be super delicious! The texture was crumbly and moist and had a perfect balance of vanilla & cocoa flavours that was simply overwhelming. My husband and mom went nuts over them and always want me to bake this again each time i pick the whisk! Thank you so much for sharing this!
    However i had one comment. I followed the recipe to the dot. But when the cupcakes were out, the crust was hard & crispy (almost like a cookie) and the crust cracked a lot. I covered them with white chocolate ganache and by the next day the crust was fine. No complaints with the taste though. I used all room temperature ingredients and followed your best baking tips as well. Is it normal for the crust to crack and turn this cripsy as soon as they are out of the oven? What could have possibly gone wrong?

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