Red Velvet Cupcakes

Not long ago, Ben asked me what my favorite type of cake was.  Such a funny question.  You see, I make birthday treats all throughout the year for coworkers, friends, and families, always asking if they have a favorite flavor or what new type they want to try.  It is so much fun, and I enjoy nearly all of the flavor combinations that people pick.  Then when my birthday rolls around I tend to bake my own cake for the joy of trying some new, über decadent treat.  As a result, I just don’t tend to think about what my own true favorite is.  When Ben asked me, I really had to think hard about it for a while (okay, a few days).

It came down to a close decision, but red velvet with cream cheese frosting won out in the end.  I have made these cupcakes countless times this year, including as a three-tiered wedding cake plus 140 wedding cupcakes, and I’m still not sick of it.  That must mean something.  Some may think of red velvet as a Valentine’s treat, but for me this is a year-round type of love.  If you’ve never tried red velvet cake, you need to.  The flavor can’t really be adequately described, you just need to taste it to know.  I’ve made many versions but this is my favorite for sure, both for flavor and the perfect red coloring.  (And yes, I use the artificial coloring and I have no qualms about it.)  One thing I learned during the wedding cake and cupcake adventure is that using clear vanilla extract in the frosting makes for a prettier color and a better texture.  Normally I’m all about the natural stuff, but in this case I go for the clear kind.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Printer-Friendly Version
about 24 cupcakes

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:*
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  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 bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

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 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.)

*If you are big on frosting as I am, you may want to increase the quantities by 50%.  That is what I typically do for a batch of 24 cupcakes.  I usually end up with some left over, but I would rather have too much frosting than not enough!

Source: originally from Apple a Day adapted from Saveur, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles, frosting adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

110 Responses

  1. I always make more icing than in the recipe:-) Are these more light and fluffy or a denser red velvet? I am guessing light based on the recipe but am curious.

  2. These sound and look yummy. I’m going to test these out tomorrow for a house warming I’m going to.

    I’ve not found THE red velvet recipe but this sounds good, no shortening to be seen 🙂 (Shortening in the UK is not the same…)

  3. Yum! I love red velvet. These cupcakes look amazing.

  4. So, funny I was just searching around for a delish red velvet cake recipe and decided to check your blog as I do daily and surprise!!! will try!

  5. Those look so delicious! Red velvet is my brother’s favorite and he just got engaged….I’ll have to make some for his engagement party! 🙂

  6. Those are beautiful. I’m going to have to try this recipe very soon.

  7. I’m going to have to give these a try Annie. The last red velvet cake I made was a dismal failure. I blame myself and my (then) lack of experience. I love this recipe, the lack of shortening makes me happy 🙂

  8. Sounds soooo yummy! Is this full fat buttermilk or can fat free be used? I’ve only been able to find fat free?

  9. I was searching around all morning yesterday to find a great red velvet cake to make. I ended up using a recipe out of “Confetti Cakes” that I have here at my house. Then this morning, your post pops up in my google reader and I see “Red Velvet Cupcakes”. So weird. I guess I’ll have to make another batch. 😉

  10. Yum, yum, yum! 🙂 Red Velvet is my favorite.

  11. I made red velvet cupcakes last night! But I haven’t frosted them yet! I love how you did yours and I even have that same heart sprinkle…may just have to copy you! Thanks!

  12. These sound and look really great. Did you make the little hearts that are on top or purchase them? It adds the finishing touch.

  13. I have been wanting to make red velvet cupcakes for some time now, so I am so happy to see this post! I once had them with mini chocolate chips in the cake, and they were fabulous. Your photos are beautiful!

  14. The frosting is, in my opinion, the best part of a red velvet cake. Your cupcakes look delicious.

  15. This is my favorite red velvet recipe ever!! So moist. I have only made them as cupcakes, so I’m interested to try it as a cake. This is my birthday cupcake of choice until my kids figure out that they can request their favorite flavor;)

  16. How funny; I actually made these two days ago and brought them into work yesterday. It was the most compliments I’ve gotten on any treat I’ve brought to work.

  17. How do these compare to the recipe you posted a couple years ago? That’s been my go-to recipe and I’ve made it repeatedly, it’s hard to think there’s better. What’s your pick of the two?

    • I think I addressed that in the post: “I’ve made many versions but this is my favorite for sure, both for flavor and the perfect red coloring. “.

  18. Looks amazing…I guess I don’t really “get” red velvet cake, though, because I’ve never tried it…isn’t it pretty much chocolate cake with food coloring??

    • Not at all. You just need to try it. If you notice, it only has a tablespoon of cocoa powder so any chocolate flavor is very mild.

  19. The cupcakes look delicious. I just cant get over how amazing your photography is! It really looks professional quality!

  20. I love red velvet, but have only made twice! The first was with a co-worker, I fell in love with the cake, but then didn’t have the recipe and I lost touch with the co-worker! Then I made your red velvet whoopie pies. They didn’t work for me for some reason. So now I have a new version that I definitely have to try at the next family gathering.

    Question: I have never heard of clear vanilla extract. I assume the usual manufacturers make a version that will be in the baking section of the grocer?

  21. I love red velvet cupcakes. As a little girl my grandmother would make red velvet for the holidays and I would always ask her to make them into mini cakes for me, which of course was a cupcake. They will always be my favorite.
    These are beautiful Annie!

  22. Hi Annie,
    I love red velvet…and I’m always trying by best to find a recipe that will taste just as good as what I might find at Sprinkles. Personally, I use a recipe that’s almost identical to yours (with the exception that has a tad more cocoa)…but I sometimes find the cupcake to be on the oily side. But the end result is always incredibly moist. I’ve tried recipes with butter as well, but I find the cake to be on the drier side…but it has that great flavor only butter can provide.

    I know there’s no real question here 😛 I was just wondering if you’ve ever felt the same or if you’ve ever tried a recipe that uses both to get the best of both worlds. Either way, I do love this recipe…and I find your work to be truly impeccable and you really inspire me!

    • These aren’t oily at all, in my opinion. The blog where I got the recipe did a very thorough comparison of five red velvet cakes, so this is a real winner for sure.

  23. I’m SO happy to see you finally posted a red velvet cupcake recipe!!! I tried one recently and was not happy with how it came out. I’ll have to try your recipe! 🙂

  24. If I had to pick a favorite dessert, it would be the Red Velvet from the Flying Cupcake. A required stop when we visit Indianapolis. Have you had one?
    Really, really amazing…with chocolate chunks in the red velvet cake.

    Thanks for your blog — my 13 year old daughter has made your Cherry Limeade cupcake recipe, a couple batches of the Oreo cupcakes, and drooled over so many more. Hope I can convince her to try these next…

  25. What’s the flavor of the cake? (It seems like it’s a light chocolate cake with red food coloring.) Have you ever made it the “original” way, with beets? I’m interested to see how that tastes. 🙂

  26. We must be on the same baking wave-length. I made red velvet cupcakes last night for a friend’s birthday today. Unfortunately I wasn’t impressed; I love cream cheese frosting, but I’d much prefer a carrot cake to the red velvet. Perhaps yours are tastier, I found mine to be a bland chocolate that left me wanting something a little more bold. Oh well, I hope the birthday dude likes them.

  27. I love making my co-workers and friends cupcakes and birthday treats too, but I always have a problem with how to carry them to work to keep them looking pristine….how do you package them?!

    • I used to use bakery boxes, but in the interest of being more green, I now just put all my cupcakes on a cookie sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Or I use my cupcake carrier, but usually I frost them too tall for that.

  28. I love the idea of red velvet, but feel like I can always taste the dye used to make the cake red. When I see 2T of red food coloring it scares me…but every recipe of yours I have made has been divine, so I’m going to try it. What if I leave out the dye? Is there any down side besides not being red?

    • I don’t know why it should scare you. I’m not aware of a downside to omitting it, though I suppose the food coloring may actually have something to do with the flavor of the cake itself. I’ve never made it without, so I’m not sure.

  29. Beautiful pics of your cupcakes! Red Velvet always photographs so well! I couldn’t agree more with the description of red velvet.. you just have to taste it to know and it sure does taste good!!

  30. Ah! Delicious looking! Really want to try these! That cake looks so moist! yum yum!

  31. One other question, I’m assuming you used a piping bag and tip to frost, but what tip? They look beautiful!

  32. Annie, I’m so glad you liked the recipe. Red velvet is my favorite, too! Too bad you don’t live closer, or I’d have you make my wedding cake and cupcakes!

  33. These look beautiful (and delicious)! I was so glad to see you posted this today since my friend is pregnant (expecting next week) and these are her absolute favorite!

  34. I made these today for a cookout/shower where we are using a red and white color scheme! How appropriate! I made these in the mini muffin pans for easy eating. Thanks so much for your great ideas and beautiful pictures! Now to make your scallops provencal for dinner again.

  35. These look gorgeous…fantastic photos. I agree about the flavor of red velvet, it’s just something that you have to try. I don’t know what it is about it, perhaps the red dye lends the flavor, but it’s wonderful nonetheless.

    Oh and Jaune..I use a 1M tip when frosting cupcakes, looks like that’s similar to what Annie used. There’s also a 1B? I think that’s a pretty big star tip.

  36. These look delicious! I’m interested to hear how you increased the quantities of this recipe to turn it into a wedding cake. Did you just double or triple the recipe or did you make it separately 3 times to get the needed layers? I have never attempted turning a regular layer cake into a larger wedding or tiered cake but have heard it can be tricky. I have some large gatherings I’m cooking/baking for coming up so I’d love to know how you did it!

    • I honestly don’t even remember what I did now, I didn’t write it down. Tiering a cake is really not that difficult, I’ve done it many times.

  37. I didn’t even know they made clear vanilla extract!

  38. I could eat countless number of these. One of my favourite dessert 🙂

    • I have these in the oven right now. I’m making them to take to a restaurant tonight for a friend’s 30th birthday. Should I hold off on frosting them or will the hold up until this evening? They will be in a covered cupcake holder.

  39. I love red velvet cake. I have a bottle of clear vanilla in my cupboard that’s been staring at me for a while. I’ve never thought to use it in this cake – what a great idea!

  40. So cute!!! I love red velvet, it was the first southern cake I tried when I moved to MS.

  41. Fabulous pictures! The icing is perfect!

  42. So cute! I love the hearts on the tip-tops of the frosting 🙂

  43. Those look like the perfect red velvet cupcakes. Love the little heart on top!

  44. Hi Annie,

    Do you find that frosting recipe holds its shape well when frosted?

    Cupcake stores always seem to have creamcheese frosting that it quite solid and set. And sometimes tasteless! My creamcheese frosting is usually very soft and creamy.

    • Yes, it holds up very well as I think you can see in the picture. Also, as I mentioned in the post, I think using the clear/imitation vanilla instead of pure vanilla extract makes a big difference in the consistency. When I use that, it is much softer and doesn’t hold its shape as well.

  45. That should say “shape when piped?”

  46. YUM!

    I have never found a red velvet recipe that is my IT recipe, you know? I need to try this one to see if this is going to be THE recipe. For some reason red velvet recipes seem to vary greatly.

  47. Just wanted to let you know I did make these and loved them though I made a bit of an error with the frosting making a conversion. I made a loaf and 12 cupcakes and some how the loaf was nicer.

    Thanks for sharing!

  48. I have wanted to make red velvet cake/cupcakes for ages but haven’t had a gathering big enough to do it yet! (I really don’t want the leftovers at my house! 🙂 I did make the cream cheese icing from your recipe, though, and found it was soft when I piped it. I also used the clear vanilla extract. Would you increase the icing sugar to firm it up a bit? On a side note – how do you transport your finished cupcakes? (Whatever kind they may be).

    • I opt for refrigerating it to firm it rather than adding more sugar whenever possible so you don’t affect the flavor too much. Sometimes I use bakery boxes but in the interest of being more eco-friendly, I usually use my cupcake carrier or just put them on a baking sheet and cover loosely with plastic wrap.

  49. Hi Annie,
    Love your blog. I can’t get enough of your recipes. How do you prefer to store your cupcakes? I have a cupcake carrier, but am not sure if I should leave it on the counter or put in the refrigerator. What’s your advice?

    Thanks again for sharing!

    • If they have a dairy frosting, like cream cheese, I refrigerate them.

      • How long can cupcakes with dairy frosting be left out before they should be refrigerated again? I am taking these to work and don’t know if I should leave them out for awhile and then put them back in the fridge after a certain amount of time.

      • I’m no food scientist so you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

  50. Annie,
    My family loves these cupcakes! These may be one of my favorites! I also always refrigerate dairy frostings.

  51. I have made various cupcakes and muffins from your site in the recent weeks and they all turn out amazing. I am just having problems with the frosting. I am frosting using the pastry bag and the frosting isn’t holding it’s shape as well as I would like. I think me holding the bag for so long is heating up the frosting. It takes me a long time because I have shakey hands. Is there any way to help with that?

  52. These look absolutely gorgeous. I have to try them out one day!

  53. Annie,

    My sister just made this cupcakes as a birthday gift for a cousin and they were DELISH! After several trial and error red velvet recipes these are for sure the ones. The red color is beautiful and the texture and flavor is just perfect 🙂

  54. Hi Annie,

    I’m planning to make a red velvet cake for my birthday and just wanted to know if I could use this recipe for a cake instead of cupcakes?

    The cupcakes you’ve made look delicious!

    Thanks very much and keep up the awesome work on your blog.


  55. First of all…great picture and the recipe looks great…can’t wait till valentines day.

  56. Hi Annie!

    Your recipe calls for 2tbsp. liquid Red Food Coloring. You are just referring to the regular food coloring you can get at the store and not the Wilton ones correct? They are really gel-like and I found that when I made my Red Velvet Cupcakes, I ended up having to use the whole container just to get them red! I guess the liquid coloring would be more practical for cupcakes rather than those tiny gel colorings.

    • Yes, liquid coloring is not the same as the Wilton gels. Those are actually meant to be icing color, not food coloring.

  57. Hello Annie,

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful, yummy cupcake recipes! I’ve tried some of them already and they’re best sellers!

    I just have one question about the red velvet as I’m a little confused. I’ve seen several red velvet recipes, some includes baking powder, and some don’t, just like yours. What difference would it make?

  58. I made these cupcakes this past weekend. I had never baked from scratch before making these, so I was a little nervous. However… your instructions were very easy to follow, and the cupcakes were a HUGE hit. I gave them to some “seasoned bakers” at the school where I work and they gave me their seal of approval. Thanks for posting yummy and easy-to-follow recipes, Annie!

  59. this is gorgeous! how do you make the swirl on the cupcake btw? 🙂

  60. oh i know, i use the wilton 1m open star. i usually do rosettes with the nozzle. but this looks way cuter and would definitely attract more people 🙂
    does this kind of swirl have a tutorial on youtube or something?

  61. hi annie,
    i tried these wonderful looking cupcakes today-my first red velvet and they turned out awesome, together with cream cheese frosting they are heaven, moist, delicate crumb yet firm. thanks alot. A little thing though, they didnt rise to the full height of my cupcake liners although my muffin pan is of same standard side, could it be baking soda or oven temperature? will be posting on my blog soon, please visit.

    • The baking soda is the likely culprit, but it’s impossible to know for sure. Normally these rise a lot with beautiful domes so something was definitely off.

  62. I made these cupcakes last night. Loved the frosting, but for some reason, the cupcake had an odd taste. I can’t figure out what is causing the cupcake to taste so weird. I thought it was the red food coloring, but I’ve used coloring in other things before and never had that odd flavor. I followed the directions to the T and can’t figure out what might be causing that strange flavor 😦

  63. Hi Annie! I notice foodie bride has 1 cup sour cream but no butter in her cupcake recipe, and saveur has 1 stick butter but no sour cream. I don’t see anything in your recipe as a sub for either of those. Any reason why not? I hope it’s not a typing omission- I just made them and they look lovely!! and hopefully taste the same…

  64. they were delicious!!!
    I got that your recipe for cupcake was from elsewhere, just curious why you liked this recipe without butter/sour cream better than others on the web out there– ie consistency, moisture, what have you.

    • If you notice, the blog where I did get the recipe did a very careful comparison of several red velvet recipes. This was the winner.

  65. Hello,

    Thanks so much for posting a red velvet cupcake recipe (My new secret obsession) amongst many many many other fantastic recipes on your website! I always look forward to reading your blog to see what incredible things you are cooking/baking. Also the detail and photos you add in your blog posts are awesome!

    Thanks Annie! 😀

  66. I made these today for my son’s 2nd birthday, and they turned out wonderfully! He has an egg allergy, so I used Ener-G egg replacer, and it worked out really well. Thank you for posting this! Will definitely be making these again.

  67. Hi Annie!

    I have made these cupcakes on several occasions now, and each and every time they come out FABULOUS! This red velvet recipe has become my favorite. The first time I made them was for my two year wedding anniversary for my husband, and we nearly ate the whole batch! That was the first time I tasted red velvet and only the second time I have ever made cake from scratch. Thank you for all of the wonderful recipes for cupcakes, I have become addicted to baking cupcakes and love to try new things. Thanks for being so inspiring. I can only hope that at some point my cupcakes will look as pretty as yours!!!!!!!!

  68. I’ve never had Red Velvet anything before I made these so, I really had nothing to compare it to…Apparently, they’re pretty “magical”! 🙂 My friends that are Red Velvet fans were flipping out over them. Thanks Again! 🙂

  69. Hey Annie,
    Should the cocoa powder be unsweetened cocoa powder? Also, do you think its ok if I use all purpose flour? THANKS!

    • Yes, regular cocoa powder or the recipe would indicate otherwise. Cake flour is best so if you plan to use all-purpose, you should look up a substitution ratio.

  70. Hi Annie,

    I am making your cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday this weekend. How far in advance can I bake them. I will frost them the day of the party, but would like to do the baking sooner to get it off my list.


  71. I made these as mini cupcakes and they were incredible. It was the first time I ate red velvet cake and I am so glad that I did! Very moist. My frosting was very runny though, even though I kept it in the fridge for a long time. Finally I just plopped it on top with a spoon 🙂

  72. hi, did you make the cupcakes in the picture. I am dying to know how the frosting came out so perfect. What kind of tip and pastry bag was used?
    thanks so much

  73. I made these today and they are amazing! I had to make 2 dz for an order and luckily I made it into 25 cupcakes so that I could have 1….I can’t wait to make an entire batch for myself 😉 Thanks for this awesome recipe…I knew I could count on you~I had never made Red Velvet before!!

  74. I LOVE your blog! I stumbled upon it tonight while searching for red velvet cupcake recipes (I’m going to make them for work on Thursday), and I am hooked. I can’t wait to try this recipe – and your Guinness and Bailey’s Irish Cream Cupcakes are next on my list!

  75. do you know how to adapt this recipe to a 2-layer cake?

  76. I baked these tonight, and they taste yummy. They are a little hard on top. Any suggestions? Thanks for posting this recipe.

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