Name a better combination than rich, buttery red velvet cupcakes and tangy cream cheese frosting. I'll wait. That's right, there is none. Red velvet always has and always will be my all time favorite cake. It's just SO good.
These red velvet cupcakes are a beautiful treat for Valentine's Day, a birthday party, or just because!
What is Red Velvet?
So what makes red velvet so special? Apparently some people don't get the hype around red velvet cake because "it's just regular cake with red food coloring, right?" wrong. Red velvet cake contains both vinegar and buttermilk which react with the cocoa powder to create a deep maroon color which is how red velvet got its name. These days extra red food coloring is added to give us a much brighter red color (which actually began as a marketing ploy in the 1920's). The vinegar and buttermilk also lend more flavor to the cake that regular chocolate cake doesn't have. Also, the cream cheese frosting. Duh.
You just need a few simple ingredients to make these red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting!
- Cake flour - I always use cake flour in my cupcakes because it makes them super soft and tender, but all purpose flour also works great!
- Cocoa powder - My absolute favorite cocoa powder to use in my baking is the King Arthur Flour Triple Cocoa Blend! It's a blend of natural, Dutch, and black cocoa and is perfect for any baking. But you can also use just regular natural cocoa powder!
- Buttermilk - If you don't have buttermilk you can use either regular whole milk or sour cream! You can also make your own buttermilk by using ½ cup milk and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice or white vinegar!
- White vinegar - You can leave out the vinegar if you prefer, but it adds a little extra tang to the cupcakes and reacts with the cocoa powder!
- Red food coloring - You can add as much or as little red food coloring as you prefer!
The complete list of ingredients and amounts is located in the recipe card below.
Step by Step Instructions
Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 12 cup cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk until fully incorporated. Then add in the red food coloring.
In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Mix half of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then add in the buttermilk and vinegar. Once incorporated, add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Fill cupcake liners ⅔ of the way full (about ¼ cup of batter). Don't overfill as the cupcakes will rise quite a bit.
Bake for 18-22 minutes at 350°F or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
Tips for the Best Baked Goods
Use room temperature ingredients! Always make sure ingredients like butter, eggs, milk, yogurt, etc. are at room temperature before baking (unless the recipe indicates otherwise)! This ensures they'll incorporate into the batter more easily and leads to overall better texture. Remove all ingredients from the fridge 30 minutes to an hour before baking for best results.
Measure your flour correctly! It's most accurate to use a kitchen scale, but if you're measuring by volume you want to spoon and level! Fluff up the flour a bit with a spoon, and then spoon flour into the measuring cup. Once it's overflowing, use the back of a knife to level it off. Don't ever pack flour into the measuring cup or you'll end up with way too much! Improperly measured flour can lead to dry, dense baked goods. [Measure cocoa powder the same way!]
Use an oven thermometer! Just because your oven says it's 350, doesn't mean it is! If you oven hasn't been calibrated recently, it can be as much as 30 degrees off, which will negatively affect all baked goods from cakes to macarons! An oven thermometer is the easiest/cheapest way to ensure your oven is always at the proper temperature.
Make sure you baking powder is fresh! Baking powder is important for helping baked goods rise properly, but it has a relatively short shelf life once opened, so it's one of the few items I never buy in bulk! To test if your baking powder is still fresh, add a small amount to boiling water. If it bubbles it's still good to use, but if not it's time to toss it!
Cupcake Decorating Tips & Tricks
- To decorate all of my cakes and cupcakes, I use this Wilton Decorating Kit and I love it! It’s super easy to use and has a ton of tips in different sizes. For these red velvet cupcakes, I used the 4B tip.
- Always let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting!! If you don't, you'll get cream cheese puddles on top which is no fun.
Red velvet has a very mild chocolate flavor that is usually complimented by tangy cream cheese frosting!
These cupcakes will last in the fridge for up to 3 days. However, they taste best when served at room temperature! I like to let them sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving.
Tips for Success!
For best results I always recommend using weight measurements (especially when baking) because it's the most accurate. Kitchen scales are super affordable and also reduce the number of dishes you have to do! However, all my recipes also include US customary measurements for convince. Use this chart to convert measurements for common ingredients!
Substitutions: In all my recipes, I've included substitutions that I know will work, but I cannot guarantee results if you substitute ingredients that I have not recommended. [For example, granulated sugar and honey are indeed both sweeteners but they have very different properties so they can not always be swapped 1:1. Using honey in a cookie recipe that calls for granulated sugar will yield a giant mess.] In the recipe card you'll find links to the specific ingredients/brands that I use.
A note on salt: I almost exclusively use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt because it's the best all-purpose salt for cooking and baking. If you're not using kosher salt, consult this handy guide for a conversion chart! When in doubt, if you're using table salt just reduce the amount by half for baked goods. When cooking, I prefer to under-salt because you can always add more! If you've over-salted, adding a little bit of acid (like lemon juice) can help.
More Recipes You Might Like
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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 teaspoons red food coloring, adjust as desired
- 1 ½ cups cake flour, substitute all purpose flour
- 1 ½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup buttermilk, substitute whole milk + ½ tablespoon vinegar
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
Cream Cheese Frosting
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 teaspoons heavy cream, as needed for desired consistency
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line a 12 cup cupcake pan with cupcake liners.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugar until smooth. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract and whisk until fully incorporated. Then add in the red food coloring.
- In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Mix half of the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then add in the buttermilk and vinegar. Once incorporated, add in the remaining dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Fill cupcake liners ⅔ of the way full (about ¼ cup of batter). Don't overfill as the cupcakes will rise quite a bit.
- Bake for 18-22 minutes at 350°F or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Make sure both your butter and cream cheese are fully at room temperature or else it won't combine smoothly and you'll end up with cream cheese lumps.
- Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth.
- Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat on low speed until fully combined. Then increase the speed to high and whip for 2-3 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add in 1-2 teaspoons of heavy cream as desired to reach your desired consistency.
- Frost cooled cupcakes.
The nutritional information on this website is only an estimate and is provided for convenience and as a courtesy only. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
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