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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. 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.

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.

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

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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 1x
  • 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


  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.


  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

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. So great! These cupcakes are everything you said they would be – buttery, moist, fluffy…my kids usually only eat the frosting off cupcakes, but they ate every bit of these. Thanks!

  2. All I can say is wow! Was looking for an appropriate Valentine’s Day cupcake to bring in for my coworkers…they will definitely enjoy these! So light, fluffy and moist! Thank you! I used cake flour and doubled the recipe as well. Absolute perfection…haven’t iced them yet. Will do so tomorrow…with some sprinkles and gummy hearts added for kitsch and fun factor! 😉

  3. I made these today for my family for Valentine’s Day. It took me about 2 hours (I work slowly, I guess, lol) but it was SO worth it! They were absolutely divine! My younger daughter had her heart set on chocolate frosting, so I added about 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the cream cheese frosting mixture. I also used a cup of confectioners sugar rather than 2 because I didn’t want it quite as sweet. They were a huge hit with my family. Thank you so much! (I tagged you on Instagram with a photo of one of the cupcakes)

  4. I made these yesterday, and they were fantastic! I’m usually not a fan of Red Velvet or cream cheese icing (my husband is!), but these were delicious! I also measured my ingredient by weight for the first time, and I think this made a huge difference. Love your site, and can’t wait to try more recipes!

  5. Dear Sally,
    I made this yesterday night to be given to my colleagues this morning. Followed every step in your recipe. Boy! It turns out delicious and yummy!!. Thank you for the awesome recipe. Looking forward to try your other cupcakes recipe. 🙂

  6. Wow! Just made these to-die-for cupcakes. I have not tasted a better red velvet cupcake. Perfect blend of flavors with the right amount of sweetness. I too quit making red velvet cupcakes as I never got it right. Thanks for the incredible recipe.

  7. Sally–

    Thank you so much for this recipe! Made them yesterday for my friend’s birthday, and everyone went CRAZY for them. I’ll be making them again for sure 🙂 Thanks!!

  8. Fantastic red velvet cupcakes. Will use this for my go to recipe. Oh, and the “Moist Maker” is from Friends. Monica puts a gravy soaked peace of bread on her leftover Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches. Well played quote!

  9. Hello Sally!

    I made these cupcakes as well as your vanilla cupcakes and the chocolate s’mores cupcakes (cake part only) for my niece’s Sweet 16 party. I used your cream cheese frosting for the red velvet, a stabilized whipped cream for the chocolate and a vanilla butter cream for the vanilla. They were all delicious! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful recipes!

  10. These were divine. I made them for a birthday party and everyone was raving over the cream cheese frosting. There were none left! Excellent cupcakes!

  11. Sally,

    I LOVE your recipes!! I have a question, can I use salted butter and omit out the 1/4 tsp of salt when making the cupcakes?

  12. I made these into mini cupcakes  today and they are absolutely amazing. I followed the recipe to a T and got the fluffiest, most most cupcakes I’ve ever made. I used to have a really incredible red velvet recipe a few years ago but unfortunately lost it. Like you said in your post, I have also been trying to replicate those cupcakes for so long and this recipe is the closest thing to that! Thank you for sharing this! I’ll be sure to save this recipe for the future 🙂

  13. Made these red velvet cupcakes last weekend and they are perfect. I am from South Carolina and haven’t been able to find any good red velvet cupcakes out here in Arkansas but these are the answer to my sweet tooth prayers. Thanks for the great recipe – I wouldn’t change a thing!

  14. I am planning to make these for a Surprise 80th bday soon (for which I plan to make 3 of your cupcake recipes!) 🙂 … I know the recipe says to frost them immediately before serving, but I am wondering how early I could put the frosting on the cupcakes as I will also be the one decorating for the party.  It would help to be able to frost them an hour or two before the party started, but I also wouldn’t want that to ruin the cupcakes…What are your thoughts?

    PS – I absolutely LOVE your blog! Especially the baking basics..Thank you SO MUCH!! 🙂

    1. Hey Lindsey! You can frost these a few hours ahead of time without any problem. I suggest just keeping them in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Have fun at the party!

  15. I used this recipe but added one medium sized grated beetroot instead of the food colouring and it was delicious! Not quite as red but so yummy! 
    I made a cream cheese and honey frosting which I whizzed up in the food processor that I used to grate the beetroot and got a gorgeous pink frosting. 
    Thanks for the recipe Sally!

  16. Hi Sally,
    I made these red velvet cupcakes for a charity bake sale – which went very well!!! Thank you so much for the fab recipe!

    I did have one problem though, the cream cheese frosting was quite thin, like you said. I have managed to get a layer of cream cheese frosting on these cupcakes but they were not as ‘plump’ as yours and certainly did not have the right firmness to make a shape, so I just used a spoon instead of a piping bag.

    Can you shed some light why this might be?

    I used philly cream cheese in a block.
    I live in UK so I’m not sure if there are any difference in the same product from the same brand?!

    I’d love to try this recipe again but hopefully you can give me some advice on how rto get the icing to your consistency next time?

    Thanks so much!!

    1. Glad you love the cupcakes and that they were a hit at the bake sale! I’m not surprised there.

      There is definitely a texture difference in the block cream cheese here and in the UK. I’ve run into this problem with my 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.

  17. Hi Sally! I made these cupcakes and the flavor was really delicious, but the cake part came out a little dry. I used the batter to make mini cupcakes and baked them for the time indicated in the additional notes portion of the recipe. I am, admittedly, not typically a baker, so I was wondering if you’ve experienced dry cake with this recipe before and what kind of changes I could make. I’m not sure if it’s from over baking them, or possibly beating the batter too much, or maybe something entirely different.

    1. Overbaking could definitely be the culprit as these cupcakes should be super moist– I’ve made these cupcakes plenty of times too. Always moist! I’m worried about yours. I do think they could have been baked a little too long. How about also adding an extra egg yolk or even 1/4 cup of yogurt. That always helps.

  18. Hello…I’m just wondering if you have frozen just the cupcakes without the icing?  Does it change the texture and/or taste?

    thank you…from Canada

    1. You can freeze the frosted cupcakes and thaw them in the refrigerator (usually overnight is best). Obviously fresh is best, but they’re still fantastic thawed.

  19. Hi Sally!  I want to make double the amount of cupcakes. Would you recommend just doubling the recipe or making two separate batches? I have found in the past that some of my recipes do not double well!

    Thank you!

    1. I always recommend just making two separate batches. Less batter you work with = less risk of overmixing!

  20. Hi, I made these cupcakes this evening and I am interested in the science behind the egg white addition at the end of the recipe. Could you explain that aspect? I have researched multiple red velvet recipes and have not found any others that use this technique and I am curious. 
    Thanks Sally!!

    1. Fluffs up the cupcake batter by introducing more air. This creates a slightly lighter textured cupcake.

  21. I made this for my daughter birthday, everybody loves it. Thank you for shareing this recipe.

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

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

    2. Hi sally! I made your cupcakes several times and they delivered perfection. These are amazing cupcakes! Without hesitation a five star recipe! The best red velvet cupcakes in the world ! This was the BEST! Might be a little hard and time consuming but 100% worth it

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