Soft, buttery, and moist, these red velvet cupcakes aren’t just for Valentine’s Day! They’re so easy to make and are topped with a homemade cream cheese frosting.
If you only make red velvet desserts around Valentine’s Day, you’re missing out! Although the gorgeous color of red velvet desserts is great for both Valentine’s Day and Christmas, there are no seasonal ingredients needed to make red velvet anything.
If you’ve been toying with the idea of making a red velvet dessert lately, consider this the push you needed to follow through.
These homemade red velvet cupcakes are one of my go-to desserts for feeding a crowd. They’re quick and easy to make, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who doesn’t love the unique flavor of red velvet!
Ingredients in This Recipe
You’ll need a few special ingredients to make this recipe, but you likely have them on hand already. Let’s go over a few ingredients you’ll need to make red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting:
- Cake flour: Cake flour has a lower protein content than all-purpose flour, which helps create a lighter and softer cake. I do find that actual cake flour works best to create a soft cupcake, my favorite brand is Pillsbury Softasilk.
- Cocoa Powder: You’ll only be using 2 tablespoons of unsweetened natural cocoa powder in this recipe. It provides a little chocolate flavor, but it’s not too overpowering.
- Vinegar: A little vinegar helps the cupcakes rise and enhances the color of the red cupcakes. I used distilled white vinegar, but apple cider vinegar or something similar will work fine too.
- Butter & Oil: I found that the cupcakes made with just butter were too dry and the cupcakes made with just oil were a little bland. The solution? I used a combination of butter and oil to give the cupcakes a buttery taste and keep them moist.
- Food Coloring: There’s one tablespoon of red liquid food coloring to give these cupcakes their classic red color. I prefer to use McCormick’s food coloring in this recipe.
- Cream Cheese: Make sure to use a block or brick of cream cheese for this frosting. Cream cheese that’s in a tub typically has ingredients added to thin it out and make it spreadable, which will usually give you a runny frosting.
How to Make Red Velvet Cupcakes
Before making the cupcake batter, you’ll want to preheat your oven and line two standard 12-count muffin tins with 16 cupcake liners. One that’s done, you can make the batter:
- Whisk together the dry ingredients: I like to sift the cake flour and cocoa powder to remove any lumps, then whisk in the baking soda and salt.
- Cream together the butter and sugar: Do this in a separate bowl. I prefer using my stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, but you can use a handheld electric mixer too. It’s important to cream the butter and sugar together for 4 to 5 minutes. This will incorporate more air into your cake batter and create a lighter cupcake.
- Add the remaining wet ingredients: To the butter mixture, add the egg. Once incorporated, beat in the oil, vanilla, food coloring, and vinegar. Stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl, as needed.
- Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk: You’ll need to do this in three stages. Start and end with the dry ingredients, and be careful not to overmix the batter.
- Divide the batter among the cupcake liners: Make sure you don’t overfill the cupcake liners, otherwise the cupcakes will overflow. I only fill my liners about halfway full, it won’t seem like much but the batter rises quite a bit in the oven.
- Bake the cupcakes: Bake just until the tops spring back to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Let the cupcakes cool completely on a wire rack before frosting them.
I used my homemade cream cheese frosting for this recipe because it pairs perfectly with red velvet. If you’re looking for a different kind of frosting, my homemade vanilla buttercream or even chocolate buttercream would be delicious on these cupcakes too.
Once you’ve made the frosting, you can decorated the cooled cupcakes and enjoy!
Tip: I’ve written a full tutorial for how to frost cupcakes here. It’s super easy!
Do the Cupcakes Need to Be Refrigerated?
Yes, because this red velvet cupcake recipe features cream cheese frosting you will need to store the cupcakes in the fridge. I recommend storing them in an airtight container to prevent them from drying out.
Can Gel Coloring Be Used?
Yes, that would be fine! I would start with about 1 teaspoon, then add more if needed.
Can This Recipe Be Used to Make a Cake?
Yes, you can bake the batter in one 9-inch round cake pan for 30 minutes instead of making cupcakes with it. For a double layer red velvet cake, you’ll want to reference my classic red velvet cake recipe.
- When measuring your cake flour, avoid scooping it from the container with your measuring cup. Instead, stir the flour around, spoon it into your measuring cup, and level it off with the back of a knife.
- I highly recommend using cake flour in this recipe, as it will produce the softest and fluffiest cupcake. However, if you don’t keep cake flour on hand you can always make your own.
- You can freeze both the cupcakes and the cream cheese frosting in separate containers. Be sure to store both in airtight, freezer-safe containers to prevent freezer burn.
More Red Velvet Recipes to Try!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
For the red velvet cupcakes:
- 1 ⅓ cups cake flour spooned & leveled (145 grams)
- 2 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder (10 grams)
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature (60 grams)
- 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
- 1 large egg room temperature
- ¼ cup oil canola or vegetable work well (60 ml)
- 1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring (15 ml)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- ⅔ cup buttermilk room temperature (160 ml)
For the cream cheese frosting:
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened (115 grams)
- 1 (8-ounce) package brick-style cream cheese softened (226 grams)
- 2 cups powdered sugar (240 grams)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- To make the red velvet cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line two standard 12-count muffin pans with 16 cupcake liners and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the cake flour and cocoa powder together, then whisk in the baking soda and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed for 4 to 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and mix until fully combined, then mix in the oil, red food coloring, vanilla extract, and vinegar, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Mix in the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients. Make sure to mix in each addition until just combined and be careful not to over mix the batter.
- Evenly distribute the batter between all 16 cupcake liners in the prepared muffin pans, only filling each one about halfway full.
- Bake for 15 to 18 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the cream cheese frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl using a handheld mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter and mix for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until well combined and smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar and vanilla extract and continue mixing until fully combined, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, pipe the frosting on top.