Fluffy and moist, these buttery red velvet cupcakes are my favorite. The tangy cream cheese frosting puts them over the top!
Over the past year, the most requested recipe on my blog is… red velvet cupcakes. I have tried-and-true recipes for chocolate cupcakes and vanilla cupcakes, but red velvet cupcakes were missing. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More Red Velvet to Love:
- Red Velvet Cake
- Red Velvet Cookies
- Red Velvet Chocolate Chip Cookies
- Red Velvet Cream Cheese Brownies
- Red Velvet Whoopie Pies
Follow me on Instagram and tag #sallysbakingaddiction so I can see all the SBA recipes you make. ♥Print
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 2 hours
- Yield: 14 cupcakes
- Category: Cupcakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
Fluffy and moist, these buttery red velvet cupcakes are my favorite. The tangy cream cheese frosting puts them over the top!
- 2 large eggs, room temperature and separated
- 1 and 1/3 cups (166g) all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)
- 1/4 cup (32g) cornstarch*
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 teaspoons (7g) 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
- 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.
- 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 yellow cupcakes with milk chocolate frosting post for a visual. Set aside.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 (about 195g) instead of all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Here is all you need to know about the homemade cake flour substitute.
- 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 haven’t tested this recipe with a natural alternative.
- Buttermilk: Buttermilk is required for this recipe. You can make your own DIY version of buttermilk if needed. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add enough whole milk to the same measuring cup until it reaches 1/2 cup. (In a pinch, lower fat or nondairy milks work for this soured milk, but the cupcakes won’t taste as moist or rich.) Stir it around and let sit for 5 minutes. The homemade “buttermilk” will be somewhat curdled and ready to use in the recipe.
- Layer Cake: Here is my recipe for Red Velvet Cake.
- 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.
- Why Room Temperature Ingredients? Here’s everything you need to know about the importance of room temperature ingredients.
- Be sure to check out my 10 tips for baking the BEST cupcakes before you begin!
Keywords: red velvet cupcakes
Reader Comments & Reviews
I don’t try red velvet much so I’m not sure how it compares, but it tastes great and my friends loved it! Could this recipe be halved safely?
Hi Rey, Yes, you can cut this recipe in half. Happy baking
Can report that these taste much better on day two! I was really unsure at first but the ‘hints of chocolate’ and the texture have been much better day 2. Also both times I have made this it definitely made more than 14. First time I kept to the recipe and divided it into 14 and they were definitely overfilled with crispy overflowed edges. Second time I had to divide it into 17 in order to make regularly sized cupcakes. Other than that golden recipe!! Just be sure to follow the 1/2-2/3 full and not the 14 yield.
Love your recipes I’ve tried! I used this for a 3 layer 6 inch cake but found the cream cheese icing didn’t hold very well. Any suggestions? Is there a better icing I could use? Thank you!
Hi Joanne, We like this cream cheese frosting. Your cakes need to be fully cool before applying the icing. Are you by any chance in the UK? There is definitely a texture difference in the block cream cheese here and in the UK. We’ve run into this problem with UK readers quite a lot. You can add a little more confectioners’ sugar to firm it up. Also- reduce butter down to 2 Tbsp and leave out the cream/milk.
I made these with green food colouring for St. Paddy’s day and they are delicious
These cupcakes were a HUGE hit. I brought 1/2 of them to Book Club and the other half to co-workers. They got rave reviews. The cake was not overly sweet and the cream cheese frosting was delicious. This will be my go-to red velvet recipe from now on.
These are awesome! I used the cake flour measurement (195g) instead since I had some on hand and subbed apple cider vinegar for white since that’s what was in my fridge. All ingredients were room temperature. I feel using a cooking scale for measurement precision also helped, that’s a new thing for me and has been a game changer for my baking. Cooked perfectly at 20 mins. They taste great so far, going to frost tomorrow for my Valentines ♥️ Only thing that didn’t turn out for me was the food coloring, but that’s on me for using a natural ingredient brand. So I now have brown velvet cupcakes instead of red velvet but they taste so good I don’t think anyone will notice!
Hi! I want to use red velvet cupcake recipe and measurements to bake a cake. How many minutes should it stay in the oven?
Hi Eslyn, the amount of batter as written is enough for 3, 6 inch pans. Follow our 6 inch cake recipes for baking times.
I had a professional chef tell me these where the best cupcakes he ever had. I later heard that he bragged about them at a wedding he attended. I’ve never been disappointed with a recipe from this site. Amazing work.
I am looking forward to making these cupcakes. My husband has to watch his sugar intake. Would Monfruit w/ Erythritol work as a sugar substitute?
Hi Elizabeth, We’d love to help but we are not trained in baking with sugar substitutes. For best taste and texture (and so you don’t waste your time trying to adapt this recipe since it may not work properly), it may be more useful to find a recipe that is specifically formulated for sugar substitutes. Thank you!
These taste great! Only changes we made were to use arrowroot powder instead of the cornstarch, extra virgin olive oil instead of veggie oil and about a teaspoon or so of red food coloring – all simply because that’s what we had on hand. I was concerned the flavor would be impacted by the oil, but no one seemed to notice (and we have a few young, picky eaters). Color-wise, we ended up with a very dark pink/red shade, enough to identify as red velvet. A little labor intensive for a cupcake, but worth it.
Hi I was wondering if I can use cake flour instead of all purpose flour?
Hi Vanji, yes, use 1 and 2/3 cups (about 195g) instead of all-purpose flour and cornstarch.
Is it possible to replace the buttermilk completely or partially with another liquid? I would like to make these boozy, using Disaronno Velvet Cream liqueur, but don’t have time to do a test batch.
Hi Rachel! You need the acidity and the fat from the buttermilk for these cupcakes. You could try replacing a very small portion of it, or add the cream liqueur to the frosting instead – it may take some testing to get right. Let us know what you try!
Sally’s baking recipes are always reliable and absolutely fantastic. Her recipes always have a slight twist compared to it’s traditional and simpler counterparts. And BOY do those subtle changes make a huge difference! I end up feeling like a professional every time I try a new recipe.
The website design is also fantastic; no messy pop-ups every 10 seconds, option of metric values, substitution guides, clear explanations, and a button to skip to the recipe when you want to get stuck in straight away. Hopefully I’ll be able to get her recipe book soon!
Also very grateful for honest and frequent responses to questions in the reviews.
Fantastic red velvet cakes and always a hit. Can’t fault them.
Thank you so much for this sweet note, Jess! And thank you for making and trusting our recipes 🙂
I have made this recipe a dozen times! It works out perfectly each time and friends and family always request it! Sally never does me wrong!
I had a request to make them guten free, can I replace the all purpose flour with gluten free flour and expect similar results?
Hi Connie, we haven’t tested this recipe with gluten free flour but let us know how it goes if you do!
Hellppp – I made these and they are quite dry 🙁 The tops were also hard, which i guess means overwhipped the eggs?? I actually was worried about that when I whipped them – they definitely had full peaks.
Hi Rebecca, it does sound like you may have over whipped your egg whites — you want to whip them just until soft peaks form. Also be sure not to overbake the cupcakes, as that can dry them out significantly. Both easy fixes for next time!
I was amazed at the quality of the cupcakes I made from this recipe. High end bakery worthy. The process is a little fiddly. I used a hand held mixer and high end european butter. Its a small amount of batter so the hand held mixer worked great. I think you would lose a lot of batter and control with the stand mixer. I got a wonderful emulsion of butter, sugar and oil by adding just a little oil first which beat in beautifully, then added the rest of the oil. So no butter was visible. I put in the 1 tsp vinegar suggested here. I used the milk plus vinegar instead of buttermilk. I’m sure buttermilk would be a better taste but no one had anything but praise for the end result with milk. This is a really great cupcake. I think the irish butter helped the frosting too. I added the 1 TBS corn starch to the frosting – why wouldn’t you want it stiffer? It was easy to pipe and hold a pyramid shape. The end result was totally yummy and impressive looking.
I made these as a make up for my son’s 17th birthday after the Red Velvet cake I bought from a patisserie was awful! Unfortunately, the cupcakes sank in the middle, I figured I did something wrong and it was fine because it just left room for more icing. I just made another batch because the last was so popular and they sank again.. I followed everything to the letter and double checked my oven temp with a digital thermometer before putting them in. Any idea why?? I won’t stop making them because they’re delicious and no one would know they sunk but I know
Hi Kate, We are so happy you enjoy these cupcakes! When cakes or cupcakes sink in the middle, it usually means they are slightly under baked and could use an extra minute or two in the oven. How was the texture? You can use a toothpick to test for doneness and try extending the bake time by a minute or two next time.
They sank in the middle early on, puffed up nicely then sank. Definitely done in the middle. I thought the same thing about giving it an extra minute or two in the oven to try and fix it but they started to get too cooked around the edges so I had to pull them out
Not sure if this could possibly be the issue, but I overcrowded my oven by putting 2 pans in at the same time, resulting in uneven flow of heat for the cupcakes to rise properly. They tested done & I could tell they looked ready to collapse as soon as I took them out of the oven. They were still delicious, but very fragile (but still completely baked). The last batch, I put only 1 pan in the oven & they rose perfectly.
I also think I should have only filled them halfway, that’s enough, no need to go to the 2/3rd mark.
This is the second time I’ve made this recipe. It’s been a while but my SIL remembered these and asked for them for her birthday! They come out so tender and light. it’s more fiddly than other red velvet recipes online but worth the hassle. I do reccomend using gel over liquid food dye as liquid food dye gave me reddish brown cupcakes last time and gel has given me bright red cakes this time.
Also, I have no idea what size your muffin tin is but I guess it’s bigger than mine, since I got 22 cupcakes from this recipe. Not complaining though!
Can I replace granulated sugar with superfine sugar? How will the cupcake structure/texture differ?
So in this recipe if I use the amount of flour and cornstarch called for, will this simulate cake flour?
Your recipes always turn out! Thank you! I’d like to make red velvet cake pops for a Christmas event. If I make the cake and the icing and combine, following the directions on your other cake pop recipe pages, should that work?
Hi Annie! Many readers have reported success using this batter for red velvet cake pops. You’ll want about a cup of frosting. If you use cream cheese frosting just keep in mind that it should be stored in the refrigerator. Would love to hear how they go!
I want to start making Mini 6 inch layer Cakes since I cook for only 2 now. About how much batter should I use in a 6 inch pan?
Hi Belinda, the amount of batter as written is enough for 3, 6 inch pans. You could halve the recipe, fill your cake pan 1/2 way, and then use any leftover batter for a cupcake or two on the side. Follow our 6 inch cake recipes for baking times.
Sally is my go-to for cake/cupcake recipes and these did not disappoint. After baking an initial batch, I decided to increase the vinegar to 1 tsp. I felt like they were missing the subtle tang that red velvet usually has. I think this little change made the flavor pop even more! I also found my cupcakes were done around the 15-16 minute mark, but this could be due to oven variation more than the recipe.
This recipe is definitely a keeper in our family!!
Great tasting cupcakes, very moist and flavorful, but the tops were hard. They were edible but clearly I did something wrong, any ideas? The recipe is definitely a keeper.
Hi Cheryl, I wonder if you over-baked them? Or perhaps over-whipped the egg whites. I find when I accidentally over-whip the egg whites, they sort of rise to the top of the batter as the cupcakes bake which throws off the texture.
This recipe looks amazing have not made it yet but can I make it in a 9×13 by chance? I have loved all your recipes so far thank you!
Hi Krystal, here is our recipe for red velvet cake that fits nicely into a 9×13 pan. Enjoy!
I was asked by a friend to make these for shower. I said OK, but had not used this recipe before. They turned out great and she was so happy! Thanks! I bake for Church every week and have used many of your recipes, they never fail!
Is there anyway to make these eggless?
Hi Shruti, We haven’t tested this recipe with egg substitutes, so can’t give any advice. Let us know if you try any! Here are all of our egg free baking recipes if you are interested in browsing there.
Please how many cupcakes does this recipe make ?
I made these as cupcakes for Memorial Day weekend and made this yesterday for the Fourth as a 6 inch cake and it turned out to be AMAZING! The pictures in the blog don’t do it justice. Supremely moist, buttery and the best red velvet my family and I have had. Thanks Sally and TEAM! I know this isn’t possible without a fabulous team.
Unsurprisingly, this is another Sally recipe that turned out perfectly and will now be my go-to. I ended up getting 20 cupcakes out of the recipe by filling halfway, which was fantastic because I still had more than enough frosting and the cupcakes rose perfectly. I can’t wait to share with family and friends and let the compliments roll in!
I’m planning on making this for a 3 teir birthday cake. The Red velvet cake is one of my favourites.
I need to to do a practice run, so I need some advice before I begin
Do I need to put rods/straws between each layer and do I need to place cardboard between each layer?
Also, is there a specific type of board to place between each layer?
I’m planing on make 3 x 9″ cakes to layer
Hi Rita, you can read more about making tiered cakes in our homemade wedding cake post. Happy baking!
Hi can I double the recipe??
Hi Jade, for best results, we recommend making two separate batches. Enjoy!
Well shoot. I should have read this before making a double batch. They’re in the oven now. Why do you recommend making two separate batches?
It’s easy to over or under-mix larger amounts of batter so we generally advise against multiplying cake and cupcake recipes. But it can turn out fine! Let us know how they go.