Red Velvet Cupcakes

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

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

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.

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting on a white plate

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.

red velvet cupcake batter in a cupcake pan before baking

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 cupcakes without frosting

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.

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

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.

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red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

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 (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

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 (about 195g) instead of all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Here is all you need to know about the 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 haven’t tested this recipe with a natural alternative.
  4. 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.
  5. Layer Cake: Here is my recipe for Red Velvet 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

174 Comments

  1. Hi Sally,
    Have you tried these Gluten free? They look amazing, and the reviews are great. Just wondering if anyone had tried a GF version.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Cassandra, we haven’t tested a GF version of these cupcakes, but let us know if you do!

  2. Hi Sally, These are amazing, although I may have overfilled the liners because the tops were a little bit flat (I did get 14 cupcakes exactly;). Would you recommend adding a bit more baking soda, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon? I used cake flour..Maybe cupcakes don’t need to raise as much as muffins, since they’re being frosted? Thanks for your help!

  3. Cassandra Hughes says:

    Hi Lexi
    I did! and they were fabulous. I used Gluten Free Flour for the main flour and replaced the cornstarch with the same measure of coconut flour and they were absolutely perfect. Crumbly, looked just like the picture. I was so surprised and so pleased. Now to make the same again today for my daughters 21st birthday party. Thanks for a great recipe.

  4. Hey I just tried this recipe, but the cupcakes didn’t rise properly so there’s a dip on the tops of all of them. What could this have been caused by?
    I did accidentally set my Whipped egg whites by the hot oven and they melted a bit is this why they fell? They also turned out a little dry but I pulled them out as soon as they were done. I’m going to try it again at some point but would love advice on how to make it work better!

    1. Hey Asche,
      In my experience, a slight dip on my cupcakes tends to mean my baking soda has expired. The baking soda’s role is to make the goods rise. I’ve never noticed a significant taste difference–just a slight textural difference, and the visual can be compensated with judicious use of frosting!

      That’s the more likely reason, but this can also happen if you use too much flour. If you have a scale, it’s ALWAYS best to measure out your flour (and all of your dry ingredients, but DEFINITELY the flour) by grams. Fortunately, this recipe lists ingredients in cups as well as in grams. (For recipes that don’t, you can do some math conversions with the help of the nutrition facts label on your dry ingredients.) If you don’t have a sifter, remember to never pack your dry ingredients (except brown sugar, which must always be packed), and never shake your measuring cups and spoons to level them off as that’s a form of packing, but use the smooth side of a butter knife to scrape off excess.

      Also, which type of flour did you use? Sally discusses making cake flour from all-purpose with corn starch. I’ve never done that, as I always keep cake flour in my kitchen. If you go the all-purpose/corn starch route, be sure to follow her tips to ensure even dispersal of corn starch, as that could have also been a factor in your cupcakes.

  5. Not sure what I did. Baked first ones for 18 minutes and they were very dry. Second ones were done at 14 but still dry. Going to try again but sure I measured correctly.

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Tam! Make sure you spoon and level the flour to avoid over-measuring for dry cupcakes. Here’s a helpful article about baking the best cupcakes that you may enjoy as well. Thank you for giving these a try!

  6. Hi Sally, would it be possible to make these red velvet cup cakes on a 1/4 brownie base in a cupcake liner? If so, should I cook all batters layered together or partially cook the fudgy brownie base first? Thank you

  7. Very tasty. I doubled the recipe and it wasn’t too much batter to handle. The recommended cream cheese frosting was delicious, too. It made probably 30% more frosting than I needed, so the amount probably assumes you heavily frost your cupcakes.

    Without any food coloring, the cupcakes come out a normal chocolate brown color. But you can taste the red velvet flavor compared to plain chocolate!

  8. Can you just replace the flour with gluten free flour?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Shaylee, we haven’t tested a GF version of these cupcakes, but let us know if you do!

      1. I just don’t know if I should use more or less gluten free flour for my coworker is the issue ahah.

    2. Hi Shaylee! I usually bake with gluten free flour and usually a one to one ration (so using the same amount of gluten free flour that is recommended in the recipe! You will just need to mix for batter a minute or two longer to activate the flour so that the cake will rise.

  9. omg, I made these cupcakes for my red velvet loving daughter and granddaughter, and they didn’t have enough thumbs to put up! This is an *amazing* recipe, and has already been handed down (with attribution!) to the two younger generations. It’s beautiful. Delicious. Perfect. Thank you.

  10. If I use cake flour instead do I take away cornstarch and is it still the same 1 1/3 cups? Ty

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bernadette, we 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. Hi Sally,
    Can I reduce the recipe by half for 6-8 cupcakes? Will it affect the texture?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Yes, you can cut this recipe in half. Happy baking

  12. Hi there, Im just wondering if I can use this recipe (red velvet cupcakes) for an 8inch round cake. Your red velvet layer cake recipe yields too much for what I need. I just want an 8 inch round approx 2-3″ high. I did look at your conversion post but didn’t understand how to adapt the quantities of your recipe to a smaller quantity.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Leanne, there would likely still be a bit too much batter for only one layer. We’d recommend making this recipe as written, filling your 8 inch cake pan about 1/2 full, and using any leftover batter for a few cupcakes. Hope this helps!

  13. So, if we use cake flour, would we omit the corn starch? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amy, correct. If you’re using boxed cake flour, use 1 and 2/3 cups of cake flour (about 195g) instead of all-purpose flour and cornstarch.

    2. Hi can I frost them ahead of time and keep them in the fridge till I need them?

      1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

        Hi Samantha, we find that cupcakes taste best when assembled the day of serving – see Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions in the recipe notes for our recommendations.

  14. Hi how long does cream cheese frosting last on it’s own at room temperature?

    Is there a way to make it last 1 week?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jake, cream cheese frosting is really best kept in the fridge. You can usually keep it at room temperature for up to a day, but a week will be much too long. Again, fridge is best!

  15. Hi. This looks really good, but could I half-it maybe? We don’t need 14 cupcakes. I suspect if I work with grams it should go fine.

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Kristen, Yes you can cut the recipe in half. Enjoy!

  16. these are really good! my little brother and I made them for our mom for Mother’s Day, and she loved them!

  17. Hi Sally,

    I think this recipe might be a keeper! No more dry red velvet cake. Followed recipe exactly and got perfect, moist cupcakes! However, before I file this recipe away, please can you clarify the following, as I want to ensure this recipe works every time for me:

    1) I whisked the egg whites for 2-3 mins as advised and got medium to stiff peaks, not soft as the recipe states. The cupcakes still turned out though. How important is it that the peaks are soft, as your other red velvet cake recipe states that the egg whites should be ‘fluffy?’

    2) Can I use this recipe instead of the red velvet layered cake recipe to fill two 8 inch pans? Your layered recipe looks like it may be too much batter.

    Thanks again for sharing your wonderful recipes!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Charlotte, It sounds like you whipped the egg whites properly, especially if they came out so well! To make a cake with this recipe we recommend a 6 inch cake. Cupcake batter that produces about 12-15 cupcakes is the perfect amount for a 3 layer 6 inch cake! You could certainly try dividing it between 2 eight inch pans instead, but your layers will be a bit thinner. I’m unsure of the exact bake time needed for 8 inch pans.

  18. I love this recipe, but if i wanted to infuse it with some red velvet baileys liquor, how much do i add to the cake batter? I was thinking about 1/8 cup but I’m worried it might make the batter runny. Thank you

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Vanessa, We have never tested that before! We don’t recommend adding extra liquid but you could try replacing some of the buttermilk with the liquor (you don’t want to replace all of it as buttermilk is necessary here). You might also enjoy these Baileys & Coffee cupcakes. Let us know if you try anything!

  19. I’ve made these cupcakes many times and are amazing however this time they came out dry. I followed the recipe exactly. Why could that be?

  20. Hi Sally, I just love your recipes; they’re always perfect. If I wanted to make red velvet cake pops, what changes or suggestions do you have? I couldn’t find a red velvet cake pop recipe on your site. Please let me know. Thank you so much.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Melissa! 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!

  21. Karmela Jones says:

    You’ve done it again! Consistently my favourite recipe site and this recipe did not disappoint! Impossibly light, delicate crumb, yet moist and flavourful. Do not sub for the buttermilk if you can help it because it is really the flavour engine here. I didn’t separate the eggs, however, but used rapeseed oil and mixed all wet ingredients on high for a several minutes after each addition and this resulted in a very fluffy, light wet mixture that worked a treat. I also reduced the sugar a little as I prefer less sweet cake and a very sweet frosting. Speaking of frosting, cream cheese in the UK only comes as spreadable, no blocks, but I’ve worked out a few tricks to get very tasty, not runny cream cheese icing using UK ingredients:

    First, wrap the cream cheese in paper towel (or kitchen roll, as Brits say) and leave IN THE FRIDGE for at least 15 minutes to remove as much moisture as you can. Then you MUST mix butter and sugar first (1:2 ratio, to start) and until fluffy then mix in vanilla and salt. Then add the COLD, drained spreadable cream cheese until well blended. Add more sugar to taste, if you like. I recommend refrigerating for 30 minutes before piping, piping just before serving, if you can.

    Happy baking!

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