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 (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 (195g) 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 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

215 Comments

  1. I have never made red velvet cupcakes before & my husband ask me to make some because everything else breads, vanilla cupcakes ex… I make from scratch… I took 2 days looking and I came a cross  this 1….. love it I had no problems very moist… I even put vanilla pudding in the middle of them…. for now on this is the 1 I’ll be making… & now my husband wants me to make them for his birthday…. thank you Sally love this recipe 

  2. I made these for my first-ever attempt at red velvet cupcakes and they were DELICIOUS! No one could stop eating them and we were all devasted when they were gone. I’ve tried red velvet cakes from stores and some made by other people but they don’t even compare to this recipe! They were absolutely perfect and I would eat them every day if I could 🙂

  3. Hello Sally! I just want to thank you for this recipe! My mom, uncle and churchmates loves it so much and they ask me if I can bake them again 🙂 Thanks a lot 🙂 

  4. My daughter and I made this for my birthday as a six inch round layer cake and it was perfect!

  5. Hello – is there any way I can frost these cupcakes (& the chocolate ones I just commented on!) and refrigerate overnight for a birthday party the next morning, rather than do them the day of, as suggested?! Thank you!

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

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

  8. Edward Gouveia says:

    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.

  9. Olivia VanderKlippe says:

    My cupcakes turned out amazing!! Thanks so much for the recipe!!!

  10. 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.

  11. Planning to make these soon. I recently used your strawberry cake recipe to make cupcakes and they were great. I know that recipe called for cake flour or a mixture of all purpose flour and cornstarch as a sub. This recipe calls for all purpose flour and cornstarch- do you recommend that mixture instead of the cake flour for this cupcake.

    1. Hi Shameka, I 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.

  12. hi sally,
    is this recipe enough for a 3 layer 6″ cake?

    thanks!

    1. Sure is! See my 6 inch cakes for baking details.

    2. I was thinking of making these mouth-watering cupcakes but I don’t have a paddle attachment for my stand mixer, would a whisk attachment be ok; or should I order one

      1. Bel van Adams says:

        Sally, your respond to this query will be really helpful since I also share a similar concern.
        Best

      2. A whisk attachment works, yes.

  13. Noelle Perry-Earle says:

    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

  14. 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!!

  15. Catherine Hunter says:

    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.

  16. HI Sally, I think I may have asked this last time I tried to make these Red Velvet cupcakes. Both batches came out with a sunken middle of each cake and most of them were stuck to the cupcake liners making them a mess to eat. Although delicious but messy. I live at high altitude and many at the Super bowl party thought that was the problem. I think you told me that I needed to bake longer but not sure? Any suggestions?

    1. For higher altitudes, you generally need to reduce your sugar (not much, by about 1 tablespoon per cup), reduce your baking powder(although with this small amount I’d say dont worry about it) and increase your liquid(by about 2 Tablespoons) and baking temperature (by about 10-20°). Hope that helps

    2. Bel van Adams says:

      thanks Sally for this tip, really helpful

  17. Hi Sally! Thanks for the recipe! The cupcakes tasted wonderful but there was a lot of excess oil on the liners which leaked on to the moulds. I followed your recipe to the T. Any idea why that would have happened?

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. Samantha Briggs says:

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

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

    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.

  22. Anusha Charan Raj says:

    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?

  23. 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.

  24. Hi Sally! Was just confused about your measuring units.,,you mentioned 1 and 1/3 cups of all purpose flour and next to it it says (160g) but isn’t 1 cup almost 230g so 1 and 1/3 would be almost 310g….so do I follow the cup measurements or the grams!!

    1. Hi Megan, One cup of all purpose flour is 125g. You can see a list of common weights in my post How to Properly Measure Baking Ingredients.

  25. 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.

  26. 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!

    1. Hi Emily, if using 3 8-inch pans, the cake layers will be incredibly thin. I recommend using my classic red velvet cake recipe instead!

  27. 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!

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

  29. Will I be able to bake all in a batch using a 6” pan?

    1. Hi Kat, This recipe fits perfectly into three 6-inch pans. You can follow the directions on my post 6 Inch Cakes.

      1. Hi sally! I only have one thick 6” pan. Can I bake whole batch and slice into layers later on? Will it affect the texture? Or will it be better to divide into 2 batches. Bake the 1st batch while the 2nd batch batter leave it at room temperature? Then bake later on using the same pan…

  30. 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.

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