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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. 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!!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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

  6. Sally how much gel coloring would you use to get the red color in the picture?
    I love your recipes!

    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.

  7. 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?

  8. OMG, these are AMAZING. My kids made these exactly as directed, no substitutions. The best red velvet I’ve ever had. Thanks so much for sharing, I will definitely make these again.

  9. I’m planning on making the 3 layer 6 inch cake out of this recipe which recommends your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe. The larger red velvet cake recipe says to use heavy cream or milk in the frosting but the fav frosting recipe doesn’t include it. Should I use cream for the smaller cake’s frosting? If so how much?(BTW, I’ve made your 6 inch birthday cake recipe several times and it’s amazing!)

    1. Hi Amy, The frosting for the larger cake is a bit thinner. You can use my Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting as written and if you wish it to be a bit thinner on the cake just add milk or cream a TBS at a time until you get your desired consistency.

  10. Hi Sally! I loved this cupcake recipe. I saw above that it can be used for a 3-layer 6 inch cake. I’m thinking about making a 3-layer 8 inch cake. Could this recipe be adjusted for that? Thanks!

  11. These cupcakes were delicious. Definitely will be using this recipe again! The only thing I changed was that I added sour cream into the cream cheese icing because I like the extra tanginess it gives, and I feel like it keeps the frosting from being overly sweet. Thank you for the recipe!

  12. Thank you so much.. love all your recipe.. ❤️❤️❤️

  13. The cupcakes turned out so soft! It was subtly sweet so it suited my family’s tastes, and the cream cheese frosting added just the right flavour to the overall cupcake.

  14. These cupcakes are incredible. I’m very particular about red velvet cake and this recipe was spot on. Thank you!

  15. Hi Sallly, I really want to give a five star review because I love how detailed you are in your recipe. Unfortunately, our cupcakes didn’t turn out the way we hoped and the recipe called for. Ours are unfortunately sitting in the trash because the tops are crunchy and the cakes are dry and dense, not soft and airy. I tried to do everything to a T in the recipe, I enjoyed all of your details. Another thing, we made your cream cheese frosting and all though it tastes divine, it is crunchy! I’m baffled by todays experiences. Maybe you have some insight… Would over mixing cause this?

    1. Hi Whitney, If the cupcakes were dry and crunchy it sounds like they were over baked. An easy fix for next time is to check them earlier. I recommend using an oven thermometer to test if your oven runs hot – you can see the one I recommend and read other troubleshooting tips in my post 10 Tips for Baking the BEST Cupcakes.
      For the frosting make sure your butter and cream cheese are at room temperature and well creamed together before adding the powdered sugar. Sifting the sugar can help if it’s grainy and usually adding a bit more milk/cream and mixing frosting for longer will help.

  16. This recipe was delicious! I thought it could do with a touch more cocoa though.
    I wondering if this recipe could be used for a cake as well?

    1. Hi Sally, could you confirm that if I wanted to make this into a 3 layer 6 inch cake then do I double this recipe or make the same amount and just divide into 3 tins?? So excited to try this recipe

  17. This cupcake recipe was AWESOME! Alk the other ones I tried cooked unevenly, and even though this recipe takes more time, it is totally worth it!

  18. It’s my first time to bake cupcakes from scratch and followed this recipe! They turned out really good for a first time!!! However, my cupcakes have risen not evenly. I wonder why. Nevertheless, will totally be doing this again! My siblings loved it.

  19. Could I use this recipe for cake pops or would you suggest using half of your cake recipe? Thanks! I loved your original cake pop recipe!

  20. Hi Sally! I love your blog!! I have used your fluffy vanilla cake and now I’ve tried this recipe and I love them both. Your instructions are so easy to follow and you even explain a lot of things and baking tips!! Thank you so much and now I have a go to place for baking recipes !

  21. Hi Sally,

    I’m making this cake tomorrow for a friend, i’m just wondering if i do use beet powder as food colour, do i have to dilute it in water? And if i do use the powder as is, will that change the consistency of the cake? And lastly how much should i use.

    Sorry for asking so many questions, just wanna make sure it’ll turn out okay. Thank you so much for sharing your recipe to us. And congratulations on the new baby.

    1. Hi April, No need to dilute the powder in water first. How much you use really depends on how much color you wish to add – just keep in mind it won’t be a bright red as using a gel food coloring. I hope your friend enjoys the cake!

  22. Excited to try this as a graduation cake.

    Sally, would the measurements be any different for a 1/2 sheet cake?

  23. Hi Sally!

    Thank you so much for all the great recipes!

    I want to make these as mini cupcakes- what bake time do you suggest?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Sally, I am a fan of your vanilla cake recipe which I have repeated several times and turned out very moist and soft even in a pot. I want to try this red velvet cake recipe tomorrow but couldn’t find vegetable oil in a hurry as we are having lockdown here in Srilanka. So please state me can I use butter instead?

  24. This recipe isn’t right and even when followed to a T doesn’t really turn out the way you’d expect or the way the photo shows. The cupcake batter doesn’t really hold – I got the smooth and texture for the batter but it doesn’t cook correctly and the cupcakes sort of deflated. The frosting is absolutely wrong. This is an icing, not a frosting and it’s not something that should be recommended to go with cupcakes. Cupcakes need a harder icing that allows for some height, which this icing does not. Flavours are oky but that’s the only thing I would say. Overall would not recommend.

    1. Hi FR, thank you so much for trying these cupcakes and thank you for the feedback. I wonder if the egg whites were over or under-whipped, which could result in the cake batter deflating as the cupcakes bake. Block cream cheese consistency greatly varies by region and we understand that outside of the US, it’s much thinner and results in a thin and liquid-y frosting. Mascarpone is usually a great replacement for cream cheese in frosting recipes if you ever decide to try it again. Again, thanks for the feedback!

  25. Hi Sally,
    What are the baking instructions if I want to use my jumbo muffin pan?
    I love all your recipes, by the way..:)

    1. Hi Vickie, I’m unsure of the bake time for jumbo size cupcakes as we haven’t tested them before. The bake time will be longer and use a toothpick to test for doneness.

  26. The recipe was so well written and they cupcakes turned out delicious! The cream cheese frosting recipe was also great. Might add just a touch more cocoa to the cupcakes next time.

    1. Hi Michelle and Sally! I have the same question. I use dry buttermilk (same brand, Saco) for pancakes and other recipes and have had good results. Do you know if that substitution here will work as well?

      1. Hi Michelle and Desiree, Yes you can use the powdered buttermilk! Just mix according to the directions on the package to make 1/2 cup liquid buttermilk. Enjoy!

  27. Made the cupcakes yesterday and they came out soo well !!! Soo moist and fluffy! Thank you soo much ! The kids enjoyed them .

    Note : I did not frost the cupcakes … even then they were soo good to eat

  28. Let me start by saying a huuuuge THANK YOU for this recipe! I made red velvet batter using a different recipe, but I could tell just by looking at it that the cupcakes were going to be too dense and not have the right combination of rich flavor with a fluffy consistency. I ended up tossing the batter and swapped to this recipe; it was 100% worth the trouble. These cupcakes turned out beautifully and they were a showstopper at my friend’s birthday. Awesome, awesome recipe.

  29. Hi Sally! I’ve made these cupcakes a few times already and they’ve turned out great! However, the past 2 times I’ve made them, the tops ended up being “dome-y” and not flat. What could I be doing wrong?

    1. Hi Mel, We are so happy you enjoy this recipe! There are a few things to watch out for. Make sure you are not over mixing the batter. Also don’t overfill the liners. Finally be sure your oven is set at the correct temperature. An oven thermometer is a great purchase if you don’t have one (see number seven in these Top 10 Baking Tips)

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