These red velvet cupcakes are a gorgeous red color, moist and fluffy, have the most amazing flavor, and are topped with a luscious cream cheese frosting. An easy recipe that is great year-round!

Close up photo of red velvet cupcake topped with cream cheese frosting and cake crumbles.

I found long ago that getting a really, really good red velvet cupcake could be totally elusive. Some are dry, some are TOO red. It propelled me to make a great version at home.

I did some reading, I looked at a lot of recipes, and in the end I decided to try this one, which originated at the Hummingbird Bakery. And I’m so glad I did, because I don’t think a better one could exist.

If you are looking for a super moist red velvet cupcake recipe, this is IT! They are everything you could hope for – moist, fluffy, a tiny bit chocolatey, and a perfect vehicle for a heaping pile of cream cheese frosting!

Don’t save these just for Valentine’s Day; they are great at Christmas, birthdays, or as an everyday treat!

Key Ingredient Notes

Ingredients for red velvet cupcakes prepped and labeled.

While we use some pantry staples like flour, sugar, and vanilla extract, below are notes on the essential ingredients for our red velvet cake recipe:

  • Cocoa Powder – Use unsweetened, natural cocoa powder here. We want to avoid Dutched since it has already been alkalized.
  • Vinegar – The reaction of the vinegar with the buttermilk helps to pull out the red hue in the cocoa powder. For this recipe, we use white vinegar, but you could also substitute apple cider vinegar.
  • Buttermilk – Using soured milk is a key component to red velvet cakebatter, as the acidic liquid is needed to combine with the baking soda and cocoa powder to get the rise and texture right.
  • Baking Soda – This works magic with the cocoa powder and buttermilk to get a beautiful rise and tender crumb.
  • Red Food Coloring – We want to boost that beautiful red color! You can use either 2 tablespoons of liquid food coloring or 5 to 6 drops of gel food coloring.

How to Make Red Velvet Cupcakes

Step #1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.

Step #2: Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the egg and beat until well incorporated.

Side by side photos of butter and sugar being creamed, with the addition of an egg.

Step #3: In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and red food coloring, which will make a thick paste. Add it to the batter and mix until combined.

Cocoa powder, red food coloring, and vanilla mixed into a thick paste.

Step #4: On low speed, alternate adding the buttermilk and flour, then beat on high until smooth.

Step #5: On low speed again, add the salt, baking soda, and vinegar. Beat on high until the mixture is completely combined and smooth. 

Red velvet cake batter being mixed together in a glass bowl using a hand mixer.

Step #6: Divide the cupcake batter evenly between the liners and bake for about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely before adding the frosting.

Side by side photos of red velvet cupcake batter in a muffin tin before and after baking.

Decorating the Cupcakes

I love to pair red velvet with my favorite cream cheese frosting; it’s so thick and luscious, plus the slight tang is a great contrast to the sweetness of the cupcake. However, you could also use a seven-minute frostingvanilla frosting, or even a chocolate frosting!

Some decorating options:

  • Use an offset spatula to spread the frosting on the cupcakes. 
  • Place frosting in a piping bag and use piping tips to pile the frosting high! My favorite tip for those pretty swirls on the top of cupcakes is a Wilton 1M or Ateco #826 open star tip.
  • The most traditional garnishment for red velvet cupcakes is to crumble one cupcake and use the cupcake crumbs to decorate the other cupcakes.
  • Or use your favorite sprinkles, popular options are heart sprinkles or red, white, and pink jimmies!
Red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting and red and pink heart sprinkles.

Recipe Notes & Tips

  • Buttermilk Substitute: If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, use this at-home substitution – Pour 1 teaspoon of lemon juice or white vinegar into a measuring cup. Add enough milk (I recommend 2% or whole) to measure 1 cup total. Stir together and let it sit for 5 minutes, then use it as directed in the recipe below.
  • Adjusting to Make a Whole Cake: This recipe can be doubled to yield two 9-inch cake layers (bake time 25 to 30 minutes), or a 9×13-inch cake (bake time about 30 minutes).
  • Mixer: This recipe can be successfully made using either a stand mixer or a hand mixer; either one will work!

Storage & Freezing Instructions

  • Unfrosted Cupcakes – Unfrosted cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days. They can also be frozen for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container or bag; thaw at room temperature (should take 30 minutes to 1 hour).
  • Cream Cheese Frosting – The frosting itself can be made and stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 1 week. It can also be frozen in a freezer-safe container or bag for up to 3 months; thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Frosted Cupcakes – Frosted red velvet cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 1 week. I do not recommend freezing the frosted cupcakes.
Red velvet cupcake with liner pulled away and a bite taken out.

More Red Velvet Recipes to Try:

Watch the Recipe Video:

If you make these red velvet cupcakes and love them, remember to stop back and give them a 5-star rating – it helps others find the recipe! ❤️️

Red Velvet Cupcakes

The BEST red velvet cupcakes – a gorgeous red color, moist and fluffy, and topped with luscious cream cheese frosting.

For the Cupcakes:

  • 4 tablespoons (57 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (149 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • tablespoons (13 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (120 ml) buttermilk
  • 1 cup (125 g) + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • teaspoons distilled white vinegar

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • ½ cup (113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups (227 g) powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces (227 g) cream cheese, chilled and cut into 8 pieces
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin/cupcake pan with liners.

  • On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

  • In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.

  • Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.

  • Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.

  • Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cupcakes from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

  • Make the Frosting: Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt on low speed until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl as needed.

  • Increase the speed to medium-low and add the cream cheese one piece at a time and mix until smooth, then mix for an additional 2 minutes.

  • This recipe can be doubled to make an 8 or 9-inch layer cake.

Nutritional values are based on one cup cake

Calories: 334kcal, Carbohydrates: 47g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 55mg, Sodium: 257mg, Potassium: 58mg, Sugar: 37g, Vitamin A: 515IU, Calcium: 29mg, Iron: 0.7mg

This recipe was originally published on November 8, 2010.

Photography by Dee Frances.



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