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

266 Comments

  1. Hi Sally I am gonna try to make your red velvet cupcakes but I bought a red red paste color .how many spoon do I should use ? Thanks

  2. Beautiful! The cakes turn out soft and fluffy. the longer time taken (compared to other methods) due to beating of egg whites , was worth it. 

  3. I have to make 50 red velvet cupcakes for a party. Can I mix all the batter at once? And how would it change the baking time?

  4. Hi sally! May i know if i can double the recipe if i need 24 cupcakes? Or should i make one batch and then another? Also, can i use apple cidar vinegar if i dont have distilled white vinegar? Thank you!

    1. When I need a larger batch, I always make two separate batches. This way you are working with less batter and there is less risk to overmixing the batter (which can lend heavy, dense cupcakes). ACV is OK for the vinegar, yes.

  5. 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?

  6. 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 🙂

  7. Actually, I did do one thing differently, I didn’t have buttermilk, or regular milk, so I mixed half-and-half with about 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and let it sit for 30 minutes. I used that in place of the buttermilk and it still worked perfectly!

  8. 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!

  9. If I half this recipe, would all ingredients be halved? Or should I take into consideration some ingredients?

    1. I just made this recipe and decided to make only half also. I cut ALL ingredients in half and it was perfect! My mixer struggled at first with the minimal ingredients (I have a stand mixer, not a handheld), but it got there and had no issues.  Highly recommend 🙂

  10. Red Velvet Cupcakes are my all-time favourite but I was very disappointed with the outcome of this recipe. The cupcakes are moist and fluffy but they don’t have the distinct buttery flavour I was looking for. And they are way too sweet, although I already cut down on the sugar. 

    I really like your recipes Sally but this one doesn’t do it for me. 

  11. I want to try these since they look so yummy but I have a quick (I hope) question.  I like to weigh my ingredients instead of measure.  I keep cake flour as a staple in my pantry. What would the weight in grams be for the amount of required cake flour??  Thanks Sally. Love your site!

  12. 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!

  13. Thank you so much for the recipe. I made mini cupcakes with this and they came out super cute ! This was my first time making cupcakes ever and your recipe was super easy to follow.
    🙂

  14. Dear Sally,

    I wanted to make the cheese frosting but sadly I weren’t able to find brick cream cheese. Is it okay if I use the tub one?

    thanks.

  15. I noticed this recipe says it makes 14 cupcakes… Is there anyway to scale it to an even dozen? I’m not really too keen on baking two cupcakes in a separate batch…

  16. Honestly have tried about 10 different recipes and had given up. Came across this recipe and thought I’d have 1 more shot. AMAZING!!! So glad I found this recipe. 

  17.  “the moist maker” Comes from “Friends” Monica made an after Thanksgiving Turkey Sandwich that included a thin layer of gravy soked bread that soon became know as the  “the moist maker”. Ross then became obsessed with it. its sad that I know that but what ever!

  18. Hi Sally! I wanna try this recipe of yours. But I just want to ask if I can use vegetable shortening instead of butter? I heard they’re just the same. But just for sure. Haha. Thanks! ☺

  19. Cupcakes came out really nice and fluffy was pleased and had a good rise but they were brown in colour not red and I added exactly 4 teaspoons of cocoa powder.. Ended up putting a chocolate frosting on them instead. Maybe next time 🙂 
    Also.. In the recipe can you remind bakers to retain both yolks and whites. Thank you. 

  20. 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!

  21. Hi Sally,

    I absolutely love your recipe, you were right about the flour! I’ve tried so many different recipes previously and the texture turned out really strange but yours was perfect! I’ve added chocolate ganache into the cupcakes because I’m a huge fan of chocolates (http://tableforting.com/2015/09/12/red-velvet-cupcakes/). Thank you so much for sharing! 

  22. 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.

  23. Hi Sally! Thanks so much for your recipe! They look delicious so I’m planning on making these for a baby shower. I am going to make these a day in advance. How do you cover the cupcakes for storage? Do you store each cupcake with cling wrap or just store them in air tight Tupperware? 

  24. Thank you for your prompt response, Sally. I am living in Japan, so my choices are very limites as they arent very big in baking here. I use Morinaga Pure Cocoa. When I tried this recipe, it turned out to be brown rather than red. So I thought I might have put too much cocoa (i used 4 teaspoons). I want to try making it into blue velvet as my son likes red velevt but wants it blue (is it possible with this recipe?) 

  25. Just made these. I was pretty adverse to red velvet before this, but I’m actually in heaven. This cream cheese is also pretty damn great. I think I’ll make a second batch. Thank you, Sally!

  26. Omg the best most moist fluffy red velvet cupcakes ever!! Turned out great!! Although I’m a little against the grain w flavoring so I didn’t level the cocoa powder and free handed the vanilla. Otherwise followed the recipe an turned out wonderful!  PS Even my picky ass husband couldn’t resist..ate 2. Recipe made 18 regular size cupcakes. 

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