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

292 Comments

  1. They look perfect! I hardly have any cupcake recipes on my blog but the one recipe I too was getting request for, over and over, was RV! I decided what the heck, and researched my little heart out trying to perfect my own RV cupcakes a year or so ago. And yes to buttermilk, not tons of cocoa, and the frosting! Love how you incorporated vinegar and cornstarch too – I would love to make a batch of these babies! Pinned 🙂

  2. Sally, these are so special! I love the color of the cupcake. I know you’re still getting used to being a new wife and you’re super busy with blogging…but one day can you post a pic of your wedding cake and you eating it 😛 ?? (*Of course I’m not trying to invade your privacy) It’s just that I know how excited you were over your wedding cake! p.s. I JUST got done baking the pumpkin break from your cookbook. My kitchen smells so wonderful

  3. MY SANDWICH WITH A MOIST MAKER!

    Sally this looks beautiful. I like that you are true to the red velvet, I had a baking teacher once go on a rant about how true red velvet always has vinegar and isn’t just a regular cake died red. Anyway, these look amazing & I will definitely be making for this Thanksgiving or Christmas.

    Thank you for taking so much time to perfect this and share!!

    – Amy

  4. “YOU THREW IT… AWAY?” (while pushing on eyes)

    Red velvet eluded me for soooo longgggg. I used to make cakes/cupcakes as a side business, and it wasn’t until I had to make almost 200 RV cuppies that I perfected my recipe. I also went through about 3 HUGE bottles of red coloring. My kitchen was a crime scene, for sure. Love the photos! Glad you finally conquered your RV fears!! Wahoo!

  5. Oh these look so good! I never make red velvet anything because it’s always seemed more complicated to me then a simple chocolate or vanilla baked good. But these don’t look too bad! I’ll have to try them. I’m making Halloween cupcakes later for some preschool kids and it’s toss up between this and your very vanilla cupcakes! 🙂

  6. ok, I seriously cannot wait to try this recipe. . I have not found a homemade recipe that can replicate the best red velvet cupcakes I’ve had from a bakery. . so excited!!!

  7. I loved reading your thought process behind these, Sally! It is so interesting and makes a lot of sense. I am kind of unsure about red velvet cake – I can’t even remember when I last/ever had it and I’ve always been curious. Your recipe looks and sounds amazing. I am pinning and would love to try it! : )

  8. I am not a red velvet lover but it could be the red velvet I have tasted so far! I mean, as long as it’s a cupcake it’s good but red velvet wouldn’t be my number one choice! And I love using vinegar (in the buttermilk) in cake recipes because I think it makes them so much lighter/fluffier when it reacts with the baking soda! I swear by it!

  9. Red velvet is my all time favorite cupcake/cake flavor, but I will not buy it unless I know for sure it is worth it – meaning, moist, delicious, etc. BTW, if in a bind, believe it or not, Kimberly’s cupcakes (out of Toronto) sells the best store bought red velvet cupcakes at Wallmart.

  10. Hi Anna – I don’t suggest it, actually. IT would be “fine” But real buttermilk is best in terms of texture and flavor.

  11. I’m not ashamed to say, that as soon as I got home from work today, I made these cupcakes. Red velvet cake / cupcakes are my all time favorite, and it was such an amazing coincidence that my coworkers were talking about them today at work! I had myself a little taste when they came out of the oven, and Sally, I’m pretty sure that these are my absolute new favorite. (Instead of 14 cupcakes, I have 12 and 4 minis, so I could taste a little one). 🙂 Thank you for this oh so fabulous recipe!!

  12. Hi again Sally!

    First of all, your honeymoon pics look amazing! Makes me wanna visit Hawaii 🙂
    I was wondering, after reading this recipe, if there was anything that I can replace buttermilk with. Because here in Korea, nobody uses buttermilk and thus nobody sells it. I love red velvet and I have used regular milk so far but I wonder if I can create something similar to buttermilk.
    And also would it be ok if I post translated versions of your recipes on my personal blog or share them with people on baking community? I will of course cite your website url and reveal that the recipe originated from your wonderful ideas. Your recipes are awesome and I would like more people to know about them.

    Happy Halloween!

  13. Hi Sally! your book just arrived, and I love it! beautiful pictures and great recipes. I love baking cupcakes, and I see that many of the recipes have 2 different temperatures. What temperature should I use if I make tiny muffins or cupcakes? for example for the mighty mango muffin recipe?
    Thanks!

  14. Love love love these, I’ve only made red velvet once from scratch before and they were kind of a flop, maybe I’ll try them again. Great post!

    Sydney
    For the Love of Baking

  15. Oh my gosh these sound amazing! Red Velvet Cake was always something my mom would make me for my birthday but I’ve never tried making my own. It’s definitely a do!

  16. Wow, Sally~! You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for you to make a red velvet cupcake recipe 😀 I’ve wanted to make some from scratch for a long time, but since your recipes have never failed for me and always came out as moist and delicious as you said they would be, I was loathe to try other blogs ^^; I shall be making these the moment I get enough money for cream cheese.

  17. Hi Sally! I’ve been baking for quite some time now and I’ve always used just the top heat in the oven and my baked goods have turned out good, although I always have the issue of increasing baking time a bit. Do you bake with top and bottom heat in the oven? Is there a rule for baking when it comes to top and / or bottom heat for baking? Thanks in advance, Sally, and keep up the awesome recipes!

    1. Hi Charlie, I don’t think there is necessarily a “rule” but I always, always use top and bottom heat when I’m baking.

  18. been on the search for a simple yet effective perfect red velvet cupcake recipe for the longest time and this looks perfect! cannot wait to try it 😀

  19. Hi Sally,

    I am super excited that you posted a red velvet cupcake recipe! My husband is super excited for me to make these, however; I’m allergic to corn. Is there a suitable replacement for the cornstarch or should I add more all purpose flour?

  20. These look amazing and cornstarch with the flour instead of cake flour sounds genius. I do actually have cake flour on hand though. Can I add cornstarch to all of your cupcake recipes and slightly reduce the flour and if so how much?

  21. First encountered w/ your blog. I think I’m in love :P. Was looking for a cupcake recipe to make with my little cousins (they requested it cause they think I’m really good at baking. lol. IT WILL BE THEIR FIRST TIME THO) and this came up. So, I think I’m gonna try this with them since my first Red Velvet Cupcake was a major failure.

  22. Just drop by to say that Itried this recipe tonight. (With my little cousins as I mentioned). They enjoyed making and eating them. And my brother (who usually reject cakes ) even love it! I just wished I know how to make the frosting less ‘thin’ cause I love decorating! HAHAHAH I can’t believe this cupcake turned out great. Cause I always fail in cakes. 🙁 Totally gonna try your other recipes ^^ THANK YOU SO MUCH

  23. Sally how much batter should go in each cupcake I never get even cupcakes! Can you blog about how to full cupcakes? I love so many of your recipes! Please help

  24. I just baked these and they are just MAGNIFICENT. BEYOND WORDS. I cannot explain in words how much I appreciate your blog- from cinnamon rolls, muffins, cookies, cupcakes and RED VELVET- nothing has been a failure so far unless I did not follow the recipe correctly. I am so thankful for your blog since it produces results that are far better than a bakery.

    Love from Korea

    Sarah xx

  25. Hey Sally,

    I made your red velvet cupcakes yesterday (as a Mini version with a green dyed christmas tree frosting) and they were OH-SO-GOOD!!!!!! Best red velvet I have ever made. No left overs, although I made 30 of them… Thank you for this perfect recipe!

    1. By the way, I am using raspberry vinegar in my red velvets. You cannot taste it, but by making them, the smell is so so nice… and it is RED!

  26. I tried this recipe and oh my dog were they ever wonderful. So rich and so moist that i used it again for a bake sale to support our dog rescue, I Am Alive Dog Rescue…needless to say they sold out quick.
    Thanks muchly,
    Deborah

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