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. 

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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

357 Comments

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  1. I’m baking these for a party 4 days in advance will they stay fresh in a Tupperware container? 

  2.  “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!

  3. 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! ☺

  4. 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. 

  5. 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!

  6. Hello Sally,
    thank u so much for this recipe, im dying to try it. Wr have Philadelphia cheese, but not brick style, can I use this?

  7. Hi Sally! I just need to clarify something about the amount of cocoa needed. It says 4 teaspoons (6g)…isnt 4 teaspoons equivalent to 20g? I usually weigh my ingridients as opposed to using measuring spoons and cups. Which should i follow? Hoping for a response. Thank you!

    Ps: your website is my go to for any new recipes i want to try. Never failed to impress me each time.:)

    1. Ciara– 1 Tbsp of cocoa is about 5g. I usually get around 6-7g with 4 tsp. Follow the tsp measure here. What brand of cocoa are you using?

      1. 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?) 

  8. 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.

  9. 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? 

      1. Thanks for the reply!
        Unfortunately, I found out that I needed to make the cupcakes a week in advance. I froze an experimental batch (very moist when they were fresh) and then thawed them out 2 weeks later at room temperature. They were still delicious, but the tops were hard. I was hoping they’d thaw to become moist and less dry inside. Do you have any tips?

  10. Just tried these out, taste was awesome. But I found there wasn’t much substance to the cupcake and it just fell apart when trying to get the wrapper off…where did I go wrong?

  11. 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!

  12. 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. 

  13. 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?

  14. 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 🙂

  15. 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?

  16. 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? 

  17. Hi Sally, 
    Thank you for the wonderfull recipe…the cup cakes came out really awesome.
    I have been having issues with the cream cheese frosting , mine comes out really runny, even after adding the sugar it stays the same or turns out to be more runny, cannot make out the reason why. The frosting turns to be sweet enough but cannot get the consistency..
    Pls reply.

    Thanks

  18. Hi Sally, 
    I tried making these cupcakes with my sister a few weeks ago because red velvet is our favorite. We followed the recipe to a T but at the end, the cupcakes had a strong vinegar taste and smell to them. Should we reduce the amount of vinegar or simply omit it from the recipe? Would that change the recipe/taste at all?

  19. 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 🙂

  20. 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.

      1. I’ll give that a shot and definitely keep a closer eye on them while they bake. I read through some of the other comments and someone else thought she may have over baked them. Thank you! I’m really excited about these!

  21. 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?

  22. 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!

  23. My cupcakes hav become really soggy due to the oil.. There’s a little too much oil in it.. What can I do??

  24. Hey! I was just wondering if I could use milk instead of buttermilk or if there was any other easier substitute? 🙂 thanks!

    1. Hi – i live somewhere where its near impossible to find buttermilk, what i found out is you can add a few squeezes of lemon juice or a teaspoon of white vinegar per cup of regular milk, let it sit for 10 or so minutes and it will create buttermilk. hope this helps

      1. In a 1 cup measuring cup add 4 1/2 traspoons of lemon juice or white vingegar.
        Then pour milk on top of that until you fill the cup. 
        Let it sit to curdle for 15minutes

  25. I tried using your recipe and it turned out really good. I am looking forward for more recipes from you. Have a nice day! 🙂

  26. 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?

  27. 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.

      1. I’m in the UK but lived in Montana for a couple years and, yes, American cream cheese is much better for frosting.  Back home, the closest ‘fix’ I can find is beating the butter and powdered sugar first (as you would a normal buttercream)  then adding in cold cream cheese (straight from the fridge).  I’d miss out the extra milk/cream altogether.  Hope that helps if anyone else asks. 🙂

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