This red velvet cupcake recipe is simple to make and so delicious! Moist red velvet cupcakes flavored with buttermilk and cocoa powder, swirled with sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting!
Ingredients for Red Velvet Cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes
- All-purpose flour – Fluff the flour before measuring and level the measuring cups.
- Granulated sugar – For sweetness.
- Baking soda – Leavening agent to help the cupcakes rise.
- Cocoa powder – For these cupcakes, go with regular cocoa powder as opposed to dark cocoa powder to create the most vibrant red color. One tablespoon of cocoa powder gives the cupcakes a very subtle chocolate flavor.
- Salt – Enhances flavor and balances the sweetness.
- Vegetable oil – You can also use canola oil or any other neutral baking oil.
- Egg – Large egg, room temperature.
- Buttermilk – Buttermilk is a key ingredient to create the classic taste of red velvet cupcakes. No buttermilk? No problem! Scroll down to “Tips” to see how to make an easy buttermilk substitute.
- Vanilla extract – Pure vanilla extract adds great flavor to these cupcakes.
- White vinegar – Yes this seems strange, but no, you won’t taste it. White vinegar is another ingredient that is traditional to red velvet cupcakes. It helps activate the baking soda and contributes to the classic taste!
- Red gel food coloring – Red food coloring gives these cupcakes their signature, vibrant red color. My favorite brands of gel food coloring are Americolor and Chefmaster.
Cream cheese frosting
- Unsalted butter – Room temperature for easy creaming.
- Cream cheese – Also room temperature to incorporate well with the butter.
- Powdered sugar – Also known as confectioners’ sugar or icing sugar. You do not need to sift the powdered sugar unless it is lumpy.
- Salt – A bit of salt adds some contrast to the sweetness of the frosting and enhances the flavors.
- Vanilla extract – Vanilla extract adds amazing vanilla flavor to the frosting.
How to Make Red Velvet Cupcakes
Whisk together the dry ingredients (all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt). Next, add the wet ingredients (vegetable oil, egg, buttermilk, vanilla extract, white vinegar, and red gel food coloring). Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together until the batter is well combined and smooth.
Portion the cupcake batter into a cupcake pan with cupcake liners and bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 20 minutes. The cupcakes are done baking when a toothpick comes out clean or the cupcakes bounce back when gently touched.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream together room temperature butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar and mix on low speed until the sugar is combined with the butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla extract and salt. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally to ensure the ingredients are well incorporated.
Turn the mixer to medium-high speed and whip for 2 – 3 minutes until the cream cheese frosting is light, fluffy, and smooth.
Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe Tips
Bake perfect cupcakes
Check out my baking tips blog post on 10 Tips for Baking Perfect Cupcakes for simple ideas to make your red velvet cupcakes absolutely perfect! Here I highlight 10 tricks to make your cupcakes look like they came from a bakery such as using a cupcake scoop and appropriately filling your cupcake liners.
If you do not have buttermilk on hand or access to buttermilk, don’t worry! You can easily make a buttermilk substitute! Add 2 teaspoons of white vinegar or lemon juice to a liquid measuring cup. Then add milk to the 1/2 cup line. Allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes. The milk will start to curdle – this is normal and perfectly fine. Use in place of buttermilk! Check out this blog post to learn more about it!
Red gel food coloring
To achieve a vibrant red color that has no impact on the texture or flavor of the cupcakes, be sure to use a gel food coloring as opposed to a liquid food coloring. Gel food coloring is highly pigmented so a little goes a long way! My two favorite gel food coloring brands are Americolor and Chefmaster.
Frosting the cupcakes
To achieve the same cream cheese frosting swirl, use a piping bag fitted with an Ateco 826 piping tip. You can use any type of piping tip you prefer. Start in the center of the cupcake and create a flat swirl moving to the edges of the cupcake. When you reach the edge, pull the piping tip up and continue to swirl to create an “ice cream cone” swirl appearance. Check out this quick video to see how it is done!
Storing and serving
Red velvet cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to five days! Remove the cupcakes from the refrigerator about one hour before serving as they are best enjoyed at room temperature.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or electric hand mixer
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ¾ tsp baking soda
- 1 tbsp cocoa powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅔ cup vegetable oil
- `1 egg room temperature
- ½ cup buttermilk or buttermilk substitute room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp red gel food coloring
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 4 oz cream cheese room temperature
- 3 ½ cups powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp salt
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a cupcake pan with 12 cupcake liners.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt.
- Add in vegetable oil, egg, buttermilk, vanilla extract, white vinegar and red gel food coloring to the dry ingredients. Whisk the wet and dry ingredients together until they are fully incorporated. Do not overmix the batter.
- Portion the cupcake batter into the cupcake liners with a large cookie scoop (3 tbsp batter) until about ⅔ full.
- Bake the cupcakes for approximately 20 minutes or until the cupcakes bounce back when gently touched or an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Remove the cupcakes from the oven and cool in the pan for a few minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- In a mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip room temperature butter and cream cheese until light and creamy.
- Add in powdered sugar and mix on the lowest speed until fully combined.
- Add in salt and vanilla extract and continue to mix on low speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure everything is well incorporated.
- Turn the mixer on medium-high speed and whip for approximately 2 – 3 minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy.
- Use a piping bag and piping tip (Ateco 826) to create a swirl of cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake.