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- Can I add choc chips to the cake batter. I love red velvet cake with choc chips. If yes, then do you think that would change the baking time or anything?

  2. BEST RED VELVET RECIPE. EVER. I got a random hankering for red velvet cake the other night and found this recipe. I happened to have everything but the buttermilk and food coloring. I didn’t use buttermilk or the DIY version (don’t hurt me!) but I swear they still came out perfect. They definitely weren’t red without the food coloring but that’s all eye appeal, so who cares! My husband and I couldn’t stop shoveling these in. We finished them off days ago and keep talking about making more. I swear I’m making more tomorrow. I love how not overly sweet these are. They definitely curb a sweet tooth without giving that god-awful tooth pain sweetness. I officially swear by this recipe. And they were completed start to finish (including clean up) in just under an hour! One happy girl here 🙂

  3. Hi Sally! I’m so excited to try this recipe, I love red velvet and I’ve tried so many of your recipes already, and they’ve all been amazing. I was wondering how would I measure cake flour in this recipe if I have it on hand? Would it be the all purpose flour + cornstarch amount?

  4. Hi Sally,  iItried your Red Velvet Cake recipe and it was fabulous! I want to bake these cupcakes next and I have an issue.  My oven is really tiny.  Can only fit a 6 cup  tray in it.  Can imix the batter and bake in two batches or will the next batch stay flat? 

  5. I consider myself a bit of a red velvet connoisseur, and having tried a variety of recipes over the years, this is by far the best!  Moist, soft, and just the right amount of sweetness.  I happened to have cake flour on-hand, so I used that.  I also upped the cocoa to 2tbsp because I do like a bit more chocolate flavour.  And, lastly, I found the icing to be way too thin, even for a round piping tip, so I upped the icing sugar to about 2 3/4 cups, but I might use more next time!  I noticed the comment that said that UK block cream cheese has a different consistency than American…I wonder if the case might be similar for Canada?  Because even with the additional icing sugar, it still wasn’t as opaque and firm looking as yours.  But no matter, everything turned out so delicious.  Thank you for your incredible recipe 🙂

  6. 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.

  7. Hey Sally I happen to be a rookie at baking. My dad grew sick of cookies because it’s practically the only ones I have perfected and attempted to bake. I’m gonna try cupcakes next, I read in some blog to use caster sugar instead of granulated sugar. I already bought it, would it be ok to substitute caster sugar for your cupcake and cake recipes?

  8. Omg you are amazing…. they were absolutely delicious!!! Will be pinning this down as my go to red velvet recipe! Made them into mini cupcakes and everyone had to have more than 3 hahaha Thank you for sharing :3 will stalk your other recipes!

  9. Hi Sally,

    I tried your red velvet cupcake recipe for the first time as a Christmas Eve treat for my colleagues, and reviews were positive. Still, I wonder if something went wrong when I was creaming the butter and sugar (which ended up looking like the butter was merely coating the sugar granules, instead of the typical fluffy-looking batter), and beating in the vegetable oil (which then looked like sugar granules suspended in oil). Can you share with us a visual of how the creamed butter-sugar-vegetable oil combination should looked like?

  10. Hey Sally, i’m a fellow fan from germany 🙂 i love all your recipes – but this is the second time a cream cheese frosting from your site / cookbook got so runny that i couldnt even apply it properly. i dont know what i did wrong, your recipes ALWAYS come out perfect – but it was the same with the cream cheese / blueberry cupcakes. i added a tad more powdered sugar. butter was room temperature, and fluffy with the creamcheese and all. i even bought white vinegar in the UK to make your red velvet cupcakes properly- but they looked like they had pimples, but were very tasty. :/ i dont know why, though. i’m a huge baking nerd and as a german i love to follow recipes / rules very religiously. but i dont know how i could mess this up the second time 🙁  

    1. Ana, to my understanding– cream cheese is MUCH thicker over here in the US. A lot of my readers from other countries have trouble with runny cream cheese frosting.

  11. Great red velvet cupcakes. I tried this recipe of my own certainly fluffy and moist. I used a buttercream frosting

  12. Hi Sally,

    i wanted to try red velvet cupcakes for a while now but i didn’t find a good recipe.
    Then i saw yours and i’m trying to bake them now. The only think that kind of went wrong was the color. There not nearly was red as yours. I’m from Germany and i used a really cheap liquid color. Is that may the problem. Can you recommend any brands ?
    Best regards
    Larissa

  13. Sally,

    These cupcakes are very delicious, but there was 1 problem I always came up with no matter what I did. I have already made 3 batches of your recipe and the tops always end up flat and wrinkly, they look so unappealing 🙁 I have already tried mixing the batter just enough so that the ingredients are just mixed right and not too much. I have tried replacing APFlour with Cake Flour. I have also tried filling cupcake liners by 1/2 and by 2/3 and yet I can’t seem to solve this problem, please help me, thank you!

  14. Bakers Beware: i hadn’t realized until it was too late that i had run out of red coloring so i thought id make them blue. id seen pics of “blue velvet” cupcakes before so thought why not. Hadn’t thought about the cocoa powder/flour mix being brown, Let me tell you brown + blue makes for a horrible slimy looking green thing. DO NOT deviate from the coloring instructions given by sally or you will have seriously ugly cake. still good though 

  15. OMG. The best ever red velvet cupcakes. Perfect!!!!!!  Even better than Georgetown cupcakes.  Wow!!!!!!
    Also, I like the all purpose flour and cornstarch combination which I always use instead of cake flour. I hate the latter which to me has a metallic after taste. My formula for 1 cup cake flour which works all the time is 3/4 cup all purpose flour plus 2 tbsp cornstarch. 

  16. 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.

  17. 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!

  18. Hi Sally! Quick question- if I’m doubling the recipe do you have any tips? I don’t want to sacrifice the taste or texture if I’m adding more in the batter/oven. Thanks! 

    1. Emily, I always make two batches of these cupcakes instead of doubling. These days, I just find that there is less risk overmixing the batter when you work with less at a time.

  19. Hi 
    I am a fan of your blog and have tried a few of your baking recipes my favorite is the vanilla cupcakes.  I have just finished baking these awesome red velvet cupcakes and they came out fantastic, I am sharing them for pre Valentine at work.  I use the corn starch to the all purpose flour and it work out well, you can get corn starch at section where condiments for Asian cooking are sold in grocery or at the Asian store. I double the recipe and mixed in the beaten egg whites by hand ensuring it is incorporating this avoided the batter from being over beaten.

    Thanks again for recipes that can be always counted on for excellent results.

  20. hello sally! i’ve spent a lot of days searching the net for THAT red velvet cupcake that i knew would satisfy my palate. i have come across with a few and wrote them down. but i still was not satisfied with them until i came across your site. 
    tried it today and did not alter anything as this is my first time to bake a cupcake. lo and behold it was super yummy! the frosting is to die for!
    thank you so much for this recipe. i will surely try the others.
    cheers!
    from the philippines!

  21. 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!!

  22. This was my second attempt at red velvet! For my first attempt i followed a different recipe and it didn’t turn out quite well. However, I followed the above recipe religiously and I must say that my cupcakes turned out PERFECT!!! I am so glad to have came across this blog and thank you for sharing such an amazing recipe!!
    The problem i had was with the frosting which was a little runny, even though i only added 1 tbsp of milk 🙁 Does anyone know how this can be fixed? 
    Also, i had noticed that the egg whites that i whisked at the start had became liquid again by the time i was done with the batter and i had to give it a whisk again. is this normal?

  23. 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 

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