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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

Description

Fluffy and moist, these buttery red velvet cupcakes are my favorite. The tangy cream cheese frosting puts them over the top!


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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

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 (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. Hi!
    I’m baking these cupcakes for my kids Christmas party, can I double the recipe? Or do I need to make 2 separate batches?
    Do I double the frosting recipe as well?

    1. Hi Shanza! For best results, we recommend making two separate batches. Enjoy!

      1. Hi Angeline! This batter would work well in three 6 inch cake pans – you can read more about making 6 inch cakes (including bake times) in this post.

  2. HI does this recipe pair well with the vanilla cake recipe? (also on your site)

    1. Yes, you can use this batter in mini Bundt pans. We are unsure of the bake time they would need.

  3. These cupcakes taste amazing but mine always come out brown once baked, not the vivid red shown in your pics or in my batter 🙁

    1. Hi Jo! Did you use a gel food coloring or a liquid? Gel colors are much more vibrant and you can get brighter colors with them.

  4. These are delicious! I am wondering if it’s possible to use Dutch processed cocoa or will that not work as well?

  5. Hi Sally, I have tried these cupcakes and the layer cake and both were amazing.

    I am making a tiered wedding cake for a friend and trying to make the top tier a 6in layer cake.

    Am i best to use 2-3 6in cake pans or could I use 1 deeper 6 inch pan and cut the cake in half to create the layer?

    1. Hi Lou! It would be best to use 3 6 inch cake pans – you can read more about baking 6 inch cakes from our cupcake recipes in this post. Happy baking!

    2. Hi Sally,
      You’ve never let me down with your wonderful recipes and great instructions! I just promised a red velvet birthday cake for my ladies birthday dinner club. I baked a 9×13 for ease for 16 friends. I was wondering if you like using a simple syrup for your cakes? I really want to impress! I remember from my early baking days this was used in cake preparation. Thanks so much!

      1. Hi Robin! Simple syrup can be a great way to keep cakes extra moist, but we typically don’t use them in our cake recipes.

  6. Hi Sally! First of all, I’m a big fan of your recipes. Our family is, actually. I have a homescreen shortcut to your website. That’s how obsessed I am. I hope you release an app some day.

    So what I wanted to ask was can I use cornflour in place of corn starch? Or are they both same? We don’t have anything by the name of “corn starch” here. Just corn flour.
    Thank you so much .

    1. Hi Shilpa, Thank you for using and trusting our recipes! Corn starch and corn flour are one in the same! Enjoy.

  7. I’m looking for red velvet cake,to make in a heart shaped pan,9”. Thanks

  8. I’ve made these so many times and they’re delicious. I’d like to make a green velvet version for St. Patrick’s day adding in some Guinness. Any ideas on how to add some and what to take out?

    1. Hi Becky! We haven’t tested a green version of these cupcakes, but feat the green color would look muddy when combined with the brown cocoa powder. Let us know what you try. You may also love these Guinness cupcakes!

    2. Green velvet cupcakes usually don’t have cocoa. It is a vanilla based cupcake that uses buttermilk instead of regular milk for the velvety texture and green food coloring.

  9. Hi Sally,

    This is my first time to try this recipe, however, my cupcakes overflowed and sunk. I am not sure what the problem is. Please help.

    1. Hi Keithleen, it sounds like your cupcakes simply had too much batter in them. Did you fill the liners 1/2 – 2/3 full? Any more will lead to overflowing cupcakes that sink.

      1. Hi Sally,

        I tried this recipe about 5 times now and ran out of red colouring but my cupcakes keep on sinking and crusty on top. i don’t know what to do anymore. I did fill the liners 1/2 full, I followed the instructions very carefully, I am unsure what the problem is. I tested my bicarbonate soda and still good to use, temperature on spot, I tried not to overmix it, but I still end up with sunken cupcakes 🙁

      2. Hi Keithleen, Thank you for trying this recipe. There are a few reasons this could be happening. First, be sure you are using conventional settings on your oven and not convection. Sometimes when you over whip the egg whites the cupcakes can puff up in the oven and then sink back down as the egg whites deflate. If you try them again, be sure you are measuring the ingredients correctly and whip your egg whites for a minute or two less.

      3. I have only filled the liners 1/2 full. I did follow your recipe about 5 times but still the cupcakes are sinking. They do tend to bubble and rise after 5mins being in the oven. Not sure if this is normal. I have checked if my baking soda is still good and they are, I tried not to overmix it, and also I even tried higher/lower temp of the oven thinking maybe my oven is not on the right temperature but then regardless, it still a failure. I do want to make this but I don’t seem to get it right and not sure where I go wrong. I have read your tips for best cupcakes, just not sure what to do now.

  10. Is it possible to use cake flour instead of all purpose flour? Every time I bake with all purpose flour I find my cakes are too dense.

    1. Hi Tania, we 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.

  11. Excited to try this recipe! When do you incorporate the buttermilk? I don’t believe you wrote it down.

    1. Hi Julia! See step 5: “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.” Hope you love these cupcakes!

  12. Hello ! May i know how much cupcakes i will get with this recipe please

    1. Hi Maëva, This recipe yields 14 cupcakes.

  13. Hi,the cup cakes were delicious soft but i did not get the red colour the colour was brown..i used one tbsp of red colour.
    What could have gone wrong?

    1. Hi Anita, Did you use a gel food coloring or a liquid? Gel colors are much more vibrant and you can get brighter colors with them.

  14. Please help. I’m looking for a red velvet cake recipe for an 8 inch fat daddio’s hemsiphere cake pan. Will this recipe do? Thank you for any help you can provide.

    1. Hi Jackie, it depends how much batter you need. I would make this batter as written and use only what you need and then use the rest for making a few cupcakes on the side. I assume there would be more than enough batter following this recipe.

  15. Love this recipe! For some reason the comments/reviews are disabled for the red velvet cake recipe but I wanted to ask if there was a way to make this more chocolatey by adding more cocoa powder and if you would have to adjust the rest of the ingredients to make it work. Thank you!

    1. Hi Gabby! Let us double check the rating/comment box feature on that post. In the meantime, you can absolutely adjust the dry ingredients. Try adding another Tbsp of cocoa powder and removing a Tbsp of flour. If you’re looking for a very chocolatey cupcake, try these chocolate cupcakes.

  16. I love this recipe so so so much I want to bake all the time now.
    And I never knew that there was something called green velvet cup cakes cool

  17. Hi! I want to clarify something in regards to the flour. If I am using cake flour, do I still need to sift it? Thanks! I love all of your recipes that I’ve made so far!

    1. Hi Shandie, if you’re using boxed cake flour, no need to sift it. Enjoy the cupcakes!

  18. Hi there,

    Could I use sour cream instead of buttermilk? I have a lot of it and would rather use it up.

    If so, at what step would I add it? Thanks!

    1. Hi Nav, you can replace the buttermilk with the same amount of sour cream for a denser texture. Add it in the same place you would add the buttermilk.

  19. Hi there!

    I’m planning on making these for Memorial Day. My question is do you recommend I use cake flour or can I get away with the same taste/texture by using all purpose flour +cornstarch?

    I have cake flour but would rather save it for other recipes if there is no difference for this recipe. But I’m happy to use cake flour if its better.

    I know that this is an older recipe and you guys were using cake flour less back then. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Navi, we use a combination of sifted flour + cornstarch to produce cake flour here which works well for this recipe!

  20. I don’t really like red velvet cupcakes, and I actually really enjoyed these! My daughter wanted red velvet for her 12th birthday, so this was my go-to recipe…..and will continue to be my go-to recipe! Super easy directions, and has turned out amazing the 7 times we’ve baked them already! P.S. We use the cream cheese frosting recipe linked in her red velvet cupcake recipe, and that frosting is to die for as well! (I may…or may not have (lol)….eaten the frosting by the spoon full!)

  21. I only had coconut oil at home, no canola or vegetable. Still turned out great! Really enjoyed the texture.

  22. Another fabulous recipe! Must try for red velvet lovers. Extremely moist and buttery goodness. I followed the recipe exactly and the only changes I made were using super fine sugar and using 50 more grams of it since I like slightly sweeter cake.

    Thank you!

    1. I just wanted to add that these red velvet cupcakes turned out better than a popular California cupcake chain. For years, those were my favorite so its awesome to be able to make better ones at home for a fraction of the price! Thanks again!

  23. This was my first time making Red Velvet from scratch. I’m wondering if there is supposed to be more of a chocolate taste to these or if they’re meant to be just a soft wonderful spongy cake for the cream cheese frosting to shine. I made two separate batches as suggested and followed instructions for both and just didn’t seem to get as much as a chocolate taste as I correlate with Red Velvet.
    Sandy’s is always my go-to for recipes but this one was a little bit of a let down in flavor, but as always magnificent in the texture! The cream cheese frosting though was the real star of mine!

    1. They aren’t meant to have a strong chocolate flavor. if you had to choose, red velvet is considered more of a vanilla cake than a chocolate cake.

  24. I only have gel coloring. Do you know how much of this I might need in lieu of the liquid coloring?

    1. Hi Laura, when making these with gel, use about 1-1.5 teaspoons.

  25. I just made this too and also had the issue of the cupcakes sinking. I wanted to make these for my niece’s graduation so I tested them today. I don’t have much time left to test again so I guess I wilI find a different recipe. I’m so bummed they didn’t work.

    1. Hi Laura! Thank you for trying this recipe. There are a few reasons this could be happening. First, be sure you are using conventional settings on your oven and not convection. Sometimes when you over whip the egg whites the cupcakes can puff up in the oven and then sink back down as the egg whites deflate. If you try them again, be sure you are measuring the ingredients correctly and whip your egg whites for a minute or two less.

  26. I just made these and they are amazing! I used the while container/tube of the liquid food dye, it was only about 1 table spoon and a little but it made them nice and red! I just have one question what is the best way to store these once frosted? In a fridge or room temp? I just wonder because of the cream cheese frosting?

    1. Hi Samantha! After decorating anything with buttercream or cream cheese frosting, it’s fine for 1 day at room temperature. After that, we would refrigerate it. But, use your best judgment and whatever you are comfortable with- we’ve never had any problems leaving frosted desserts at room temperature for a day.

  27. Hi Sally I love all of your recipes! One question I have is what is the brand of food coloring you use? I have tried all different kinds of things and have perfected the flavor and texture of the cupcakes but I am just not satisfied with the shade of red I have been getting.

    1. Hi Mayuca! We always recommend using gel food coloring for the most vivid colors – we love Americolor and Wilton brands gel food coloring.

  28. I’ve made many red velvet recipes over the years. I made these today for the first time. DELICIOUS! Im ashamed to confess how many I’ve eaten.

  29. Hi Sally, I love your recipes and have made so many! However, my son was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, I’m wondering if I can make these for a birthday with less sugar? Would cutting the sugar back by 25-50% mess up the mechanics of the batter? Thank you!

    1. Hi Ellen, Sugar is used for moisture and texture in baked goods as well as taste. You can certainly try reducing the sugar, but the resulting texture will be different than intended.