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This easy red velvet cupcake recipe is one that you can whip up to perfection in no time. Top with my favorite cream cheese frosting, for the most perfect cupcake ever.
I adore red velvet. Adoration might not even be a strong enough word. This is absolutely pure love-a forever and ever I do kind of love. Like walk me down the aisle, friend. Me and red velvet will never part ways.
Whether it’s a Easy Red Velvet Layer Cake Recipe, Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies, red velvet donut recipe, red velvet whoopie pies or a white chocolate red velvet cake I just can’t seem to get enough.
I’ve made these red velvet cupcakes now for over 5 years. They are so good I turned them into mason jar cupcakes even. They are seriously that good, but better yet, they are seriously easy. Like, they are made in just one bowl. And with only a whisk. How awesome is that? I love when I don’t have to bust out a whole bunch of mixing bowls, a sifter, and my stand mixer.
Are Red Velvet Cupcakes just chocolate?
If you are somehow unfamiliar with red velvet let me drop some quick knowledge on you. It is a buttermilk based cupcake with a hint of cocoa, and of course red food coloring added in.
Here is a fun fact for you from Cheesecake.com according to history, during World War II, because foods were being rationed bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes and also to help retain moisture.
It wasn’t until the 1920s, that a man was trying to sell more vanilla extract and food dye that the supposed original Red Velvet Cake was born. Huh, who knew? And I know some people shy away from the food coloring and still prefer to use the beet method. No beets for me please. I’ll save the beets for my salad.
Do I Have To Use Red Food Coloring?
I completely understand if you don’t want to use red food coloring. So I wanted to give you some options if you still want to make the cake but can’t or don’t want to use red food coloring. I found these five alternatives to red food coloring from The Kitchn:
- Red Beet Juice
- Beetroot powder might also be an option- I haven’t tried this but I would add the powder to my dry ingredients and sift as normal
- Cranberries boiled in water
- Pomegranate juice
- Hibiscus flowers steeped in a bit of hot water until cooled
Just keep in mind they might impart some flavor or have some effect on the texture of the overall cake!
And you can also now buy all natural food coloring! How awesome is that? You might like India Tree Nature’s Colors from Craftsy. Or Amazon has a few varieties of natural food colorings that I think are worth checking out.
Ingredients for these red velvet cupcakes
- Cake flour – I love using cake flour because it has a lower protein content than regular AP flour which means you get a light and fluffy cupcake in the end. If you don’t have any you can use AP flour, or make your own cake flour (just know this will affect your results in the end).
- Sugar – Granulated sugar is used to sweetened these cupcakes. You will mix it with your dry ingredients.
- Baking soda– This reacts with the buttermilk and vinegar to help to make your cupcakes rise. Make sure your baking soda isn’t old and still works! Try adding some to a small bowl of lemon juice or vinegar to see if it bubbles before you start. And don’t mix it up with your baking powder! It’s not the same! You can read more here about the Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda.
- Cocoa powder – Red velvet has a hint of cocoa powder added to the mixture. You want to use unsweetened cocoa powder, and not dutch process. You can read more here about natural cocoa vs dutch process cocoa.
- Salt – You always want a little salt to help balance out the sweetness and it brings out the chocolate notes. I like to use kosher salt because it has a more pure salt taste than table salt. You can read more about the the role of salt in baking.
- Eggs – You always want to bake with room temperature eggs so they incorporate into the mixture easily. I place mine into a bowl of warm water for 10 minutes before using.
- Vegetable oil – You can use another neutral-tasting oil but this is an oil-based cake recipe, which means it comes together easily and results in moist cupcakes!
- Buttermilk – A true red velvet cake is made with buttermilk to give it that tangy flavor, adds moisture, and reacts with the baking soda. If you don’t have any you can make your own buttermilk.
- Vanilla extract – I love rounding out the flavor with a little pure vanilla extract.
- Vinegar – This will react with the baking soda and help the cupcakes to rise.
How to make red velvet cupcakes from scratch:
Have your pans ready before you start. Hopefully this is a no brainer, but it’s worth mentioning. Be sure to line your pans with your cupcake liners (these are my favorite go to cupcake liners) and get your oven pre-heated before you start. Your leavening agents go to work immediately so you do not want to lose precious lift while you are getting your pans ready once your batter is made.
To make this red velvet batter, start with mixing your dry ingredients. Be sure to measure your flour accurately, by spooning and leveling off your flour into your cup. Once all your dry ingredients are measured and in the bowl, just give them a whisk to combine.
In the same bowl with your dry ingredients let the wet ingredients join the party. I used to make these red velvet cupcakes in two separate bowls and combine them after. But after getting this cookbook, I got brave one day and decided just to go for it. Skipping the second bowl. And you know what? I saw no difference whatsoever. The heavens opened up, birds sang, wildlife came out to play. It was a great day.
So let the liquid ingredients join the red velvet pool party. Again, all you need to do is simply whisk these together. As easy as it is to make these it’s very important to not over mix so you end up with light and fluffy cupcakes in the end.
This is a very liquid cupcake batter, so to scoop I recommend placing your batter in a liquid measuring cup to pour them evenly and with little mess. You want to fill these no more than 3/4 of the way full so they don’t spill over the edges of your pan and create a mess when baking.
Bonus: The cupcake pans I own and love come in a two pack on Amazon for less than $20!
Tips For Making Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Measure correctly. Be sure to measure your flour correctly. Over measuring your flour could result in a tough dense cupcake. Use the spoon and level method.
- Check your leavening agents! Make sure your leavening agents are fresh. The key to cupcakes rising perfectly is make sure your baking powder and baking soda haven’t expired. If you are not sure you can test to see if they bubble. Add a a teaspoon of baking soda to a a few tablespoons of vinegar. Add a teaspoon of baking powder to a few tablespoons of warm water. If they bubble, they are good to use! If not, then throw them out and start over.
- Do not overfill. Make sure to not overfill your cupcake wells. Overfilled cupcakes will create a mess when they rise, stick to the pans, and also deflate after they cool. It’s one of the reasons your cupcakes sink in the middle.
- Cool properly. Once baked, it’s essential to take them out of the pan and let them cool on a cooling rack. If you leave them in the pan, they will continue to bake from “carryover heat”, which means your cupcakes could come out perfect and then end up being being dry if left in the pan.
- Frost when cool. Frost your cupcakes after they have cooled completely. If you are new to decorating cupcakes, check out my Ultimate Guide To Decorating Cupcakes! I also just used one cupcake and crumbled it to use as a decoration. It’s one easy way to decorate your cupcakes. Check out my 9 Cupcake Decorating Ideas for more inspiration!
- Use two non-stick cupcake pans. Be sure to use a non-stick cupcake pan when baking cupcakes. And I always recommend having two on hand, so you put both in your oven if they fit (or quickly swap one out of the oven and put your second pan in without having to wait for the first one to cool).
- Rotate your pans. For cupcakes that all come out perfectly, I like to set my timer for half the time the recipe calls for in order to remember to rotate my pans halfway through baking. Most ovens have what are called “hot spots” where it’s hotter in certain areas. So cupcakes that are in the “hot spots” can bake faster than others, so by rotating your pans halfway through you can ensure they evenly bake.
What frosting do I put on Red Velvet Cupcakes?
I made these cupcakes with cream cheese frosting which is very common.
However, traditionally red velvet cupcakes and cake were served with ermine frosting(also known as flour or boiled milk) icing.
Can I make these cupcakes ahead of time?
You can make the red velvet cupcakes up to 2 days in advance, unfrosted. Just wrap in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. You can also make the cupcakes and freeze for up to 2 months. Learn how to freeze your cupcakes here.
The frosting can be made up to a week in advance. Just store in your refrigerator for up to a week. You may need to place them back in your mixer and rewhip back to the same consistency.
If the cupcakes are frosted, it can stay fresh at room temperature for 1 to 2 days, according to Spruce Eats.
Can You Substitute Dutch Process For Regular Cocoa?
No unfortunately you can’t. You can read the differences between natural cocoa and dutch process cocoa.
So when it comes to swapping out these cocoa powder you will be upsetting that chemical balance that was originally achieved when the recipe was written. So save yourself the headache and use the cocoa powder called for.
More Cupcake Recipes To Try:
- My easy Vanilla Cupcake Recipe
- Peanut Butter Banana Cupcakes
- Easy Pumpkin Cupcakes (Small Batch)
- Easy Chocolate Cupcakes
To Make These Red Velvet Cupcakes You Will Need:
- Cupcake Pans (you want two!)- my go to cupcake pans are these ones
- Cooling Racks
- Piping/Pastry Bags
- Whisk- This is my all time favorite whisk, has a bowl scraper attached!)
- My favorite cupcake liners
If you love baking cupcakes as much as I do, then be sure to snag my buttercream cheatsheet to learn how to easily customize your vanilla buttercream!
This recipe and video is a sneak peak to my Ultimate Baking Bootcamp class. Enroll here!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
For the cupcakes
- 2½ cups (300 grams) cake flour
- 1½ cups (297 grams) granulated white sugar
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 1 1/2 cup (360 mL) vegetable oil
- 1 cup (240 mL) buttermilk
- 2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
For the frosting:
- 8 oz. (227 grams) cream cheese room temperature
- 8 tbsp. (113 g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- pinch of salt
- 2½ cups (313 grams) confectioners’ (powdered, icing) sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350° F/180oC. Line cupcake pans with paper liners.
- In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.
- In the same bowl add and whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar. Whisk until well blended.
- Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and pinch of salt until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. (I used a large, unlabeled star tip to frost these cupcakes.)
- Tools: Cupcake Pans | Cooling Racks | Piping/Pastry Bags | Whisk | Ateco Tip #847 | Cupcake Liners
- Make Ahead and storage: You can make the red velvet cupcakes up to 2 days in advance, unfrosted. Just wrap in plastic wrap and keep at room temperature. You can also make the cupcakes and freeze for up to 2 months. The frosting can be made up to a week in advance. Just store in your refrigerator for up to a week. You may need to place them back in your mixer and rewhip back to the same consistency. If the cupcakes are frosted, it can stay fresh at room temperature for 1 to 2 days.
- Cake flour: If you don't have cake flour, you can use AP flour but your cupcakes won't be as light and fluffy. Or you can make your own cake flour by measuring out the 2 1/2 cups AP flour, remove 2 1/2 Tbsp. Replace with 2 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch and then sift. Results won't be quite the same but will come close!
- Buttermilk: If you don't have buttermilk on hand, then you can replace with 1 cup milk, and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice (or vinegar) mixed together. Let it sit for 10 minutes to thicken/react.
- Red food coloring: You can reduce or omit the food coloring, or use an all-natural alternative. I haven't tested with an all-natural coloring.
- Layer cake: Here is my layer cake recipe.
- Check out my cupcake baking tips!