These classic red velvet cupcakes have a smooth velvety texture with buttery soft crumbs. Paired with tangy cream cheese frosting, these homemade cupcakes are simply irresistible!
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love pretty much anything red. However, the color of this cake is not the only reason I love it so much.
And no, red velvet cake is not just a chocolate cake tinted with red color!! It’s so much more!
When done right, red velvet cake has a smooth velvet-y texture with soft buttery crumbs. It has just a hint of cocoa without overpowering chocolate flavor. And what really completes these cupcakes is, of course, sweet and tangy cream cheese frosting.
And I’m about to show you how to make absolutely perfect red velvet cupcakes from scratch.
WHY RED VELVET CUPCAKES ARE RED?
Traditionally, red velvet cakes didn’t call for any artificial food coloring to get that bright red color. It was actually a natural result of combining vinegar with cocoa powder.
Cocoa powder (and other fruits and vegetables, like purple cabbage, plums, blueberries, raspberries) naturally contain anthocyanins, a pigment that changes the color due to pH level. So back in the day, when natural cocoa powder was mixed with acidic ingredients like vinegar and buttercream, common ingredients of classic red velvet cake, the cake batter naturally turned red.
Nowadays, cocoa powders are processed with acid-neutralizing agent and it doesn’t react to acidic ingredients as it used to. That’s why we have to add food coloring to get that red color.
WHAT RED VELVET CUPCAKES ARE MADE OF?
To makes these soft and velvet-y cupcakes, you’ll need a few simple ingredients: flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, egg, vegetable oil, buttermilk, vanilla extract, baking soda and white vinegar.
Plus, you’ll need red food coloring to give your cupcakes a burst of red! Either liquid or gel food coloring will work for this recipe.
To achieve the level of brightness of my cupcakes, you’ll need:
- about 1 tablespoon of liquid food coloring
- or about 1 teaspoon of gel food coloring
When it comes to cocoa powder, I recommend using unsweetened natural cocoa powder. (<- affiliate link to my go-to cocoa powder!)
Dutch-processed cocoa powder has a darker color, which may result darker cupcakes. Here’s an excellent article on difference between natural and dutch processed cocoa powder.
If you’re wondering whether you can make these red velvet cupcakes without buttermilk, the answer is “no”. Well, technically, you can, of course!
But you won’t get that beautiful velvet-y texture, moist and soft crumbs and a slight tang. Basically, you’ll miss out on the signature taste and texture of these classic cupcakes.
HOW TO MAKE RED VELVET CUPCAKES
It’s really easy to make these stunning cupcakes. In a nutshell:
- Mix dry ingredients.
- Mix wet ingredients.
- Combine dry and wet ingredients.
- Stir in baking soda/vinegar mixture.
Here’s my ultimate cream cheese frosting tutorial with step by step photos and troubleshooting guide.
You can make both cupcakes and frosting in advance.
If making 1 day in advance, you can store the cooled cupcakes in an airtight container at room temperature, and refrigerate the frosting, covered, until ready to decorate the cupcakes.
I recommend frosting the cupcakes preferably right before serving, or a few hours prior.
HOW TO STORE CUPCAKES
- Store unfrosted cupcakes at room temperature, covered, for 1-2 days.
- You can also freeze unfrosted cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
- Store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator, covered, for up to 3 days. Cover the cupcakes with a plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.
Hope you enjoy this recipe and let me know what you think. 🙂
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- 1 ½ cups 190gr all-purpose flour
- 1 cups 200gr sugar
- 1 tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder Note 1
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- ½ cup 120ml vegetable oil
- ¾ cup 180ml buttermilk, at room temperature (Note 2)
- 1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring or 1 teaspoon gel food coloring (Note 3)
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon white distilled vinegar
For cream cheese frosting:
- 8 oz 225gr cream cheese, at room temperature
- ¼ cup 55gr unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 cups 250gr powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line muffin pans with paper cupcake liners.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa and salt. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl with paddle attachment, beat the egg, vegetable oil, buttermilk, red food coloring, and vanilla extract until well combined.
- Add prepared dry ingredients and mix until smooth, about a minute.
- In a small dish, mix together baking soda and vinegar. While the soda/vinegar mixture is bubbling, add it to the batter and mix it well.
- Using a large cookie scoop, fill the cups 2/3 of the way.
- Bake for about 18-20 minutes, or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes in the pan. Then transfer onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- To make the frosting, in a mixing bowl with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and butter on medium high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute.
- Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed for a minute. Then increase the speed to medium high and continue to beat until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Stir in vanilla extract and salt. Whip again until incorporated, 30 seconds.
- Transfer the frosting into a pastry bag, fitted with decorative tip (I used this __ tip).
- Frost the cooled cupcakes preferably right before serving, or a few hours prior.
This recipe was originally published on December 3, 2013 and updated on January 16, 2019.