Red Velvet Cupcakes are made from scratch. The recipe produces a super moist and velvety cupcake with a gorgeous red color, topped with a luscious cream cheese frosting. However, don’t be fooled. Both the cupcakes and the frosting are easy to make.
Traditional Red Velvet Cake – The History
The history of red velvet cake can be traced to the 1800’s when unsweetened cocoa was used for so-called luxury cakes. These cakes were called “velvet” because of their smooth, soft texture.
Cocoa, which is acidic would help break down the coarse flour. The result was a flour that was softer producing a cake with a velvety texture.
Initially, it was thought that a chemical reaction with cocoa produced the red color of the cake. Later, beet juice was used to produce there red color.
Today, commercially produced red food color available in the grocery store is used to produce the red color.
Ingredients: Here’s What You’ll Need for the Cupcakes
- The Wet Ingredients: I used unsalted butter for the fats in this recipe along with granulated sugar (not sure if this is a wet or dry ingredient!), buttermilk, eggs, and white vinegar.
- The Dry Ingredients: For the dry ingredients, I used cake flour, kosher salt, and baking soda.
- The Flavorings: To add flavor to the cupcakes, I included unsweetened cocoa which is typical of red velvet cakes and cupcakes along with vanilla extract.
- The Red Color: To achieve the vibrant red color, I used two one-ounce bottles of red food color.
Steps in Making the Red Velvet Cupcakes
- I started by adding butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl, and beating them together on high until they reached a creamy consistency. This took about 2 minutes.
- Then, I added the eggs, one at a time, and beat the mixture until light and fluffy.
- Next, I added both bottles of food color, unsweetened cocoa, vinegar, vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda. I beat everything together until the ingredients were well incorporated.
- After that, I alternated the addition of the cake flour and buttermilk, starting and stopping with the cake flour.
Specifically, I added about a third of the cake flour and half of the buttermilk. I beat everything together until these ingredients were incorporated. Next, I added half of the remaining cake flour and all of the remaining buttermilk and beat everything together. Finally, I beat in the rest of the cake flour.
I ended up with a gorgeous red batter.
- I lined a regular-sized muffin pan with cupcake liners. Then, using a ¼-cup ice cream scoop, I added the batter to each of the lined cups.
I baked the cupcakes in a preheated 350°F oven for about 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, the cupcakes were perfectly done. I removed the pan from the oven and let the cupcakes cool to room temperature. I repeated this with the remaining cupcake batter.
Here’s How I Made the Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cream cheese frosting, I used cream cheese, unsalted butter, vanilla extract, fine sea salt, and confectioners’ sugar.
- I started by beating together the cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and salt until light and fluffy.
- Then, I beat in the confectioners’ sugar in stages until I had reached the proper piping consistency. Overall, it took six cups of confectioners’ sugar.
Piping the Cream Cheese Frosting
Before piping the cream cheese frosting, I placed the individual red velvet cupcakes in a plastic cupcake holder. This is a trick that Susan taught me. When the cupcakes are already in the holder, it’s much, much easier to pipe the frosting. Otherwise, it’s very difficult not to mess up the frosting when moving a frosted cupcake to the holder.
I started by filling a pastry bag fitted with a 1M large star tip with the cream cheese frosting. Another trick that Susan taught me is to use a large ice cream scoop to fill the pastry bag.
Anyway, I piped the frosting onto each of the cupcakes in a swirling circular motion.
I ended up with 24 amazingly delicious Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. The cupcakes were velvety moist with just a hint of chocolate taste. Yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
The cupcake batter contains baking soda which is an alkali. The baking soda needs an acid to react with to form carbon dioxide to help the cupcakes rise. Vinegar is an acid added to react with the baking soda.
Cake flour results in a lighter, softer cake with the classic velvety texture that is a trademark of red velvet cake. If you don’t have cake flour, you can use all-purpose flour with some cornstarch added. Specifically, for each cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
You can use either regular unsweetened cocoa or Dutch-process cocoa in this recipe.
Buttermilk is tangy and creamy, and makes red velvet cupcakes extremely moist. Therefore, buttermilk is an important ingredient in red velvet cupcakes. In addition, buttermilk which is acidic helps to activate the alkali baking soda to help the cupcakes rise.
If you’re a fan of red velvet, you should check out my Red Velvet Madeleines!
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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
- Regular-size muffin pan
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- 1 cup (8ounces, 2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups (14 ounces) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 2 ounces (2 1-ounce bottles) liquid red food color
- 2 Tablespoons (.375 ounces) unsweetened cocoa (See Tip 1)
- 1 Tablespoon (0.5 ounce) white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 cups (10 ounces) cake flour (See Tips 2 and 3)
- 1 cup buttermilk (See Tip 4)
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature (See Tip 5)
- ¼ cup (2 ounces, ½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 6 cups (24 ounces) confectioners' sugar
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 350°. Place cupcake liners in the wells of the muffin pan. Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add red food color, unsweetened cocoa, vinegar, vanilla extract, salt, and baking soda. Beat on high speed until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary.
- Add ⅓ of the flour and half of the buttermilk. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Add half of the remaining flour and the remaining buttermilk. Beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Add remaining flour; beat on medium speed until well incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula and incorporate any residual flour.
- Add batter to pan filling about ¾ of the way full. Bake for 18 to 21 minutes in preheated 350°F oven. Remove from oven. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Beat cream cheese, butter, vanilla extract, and salt on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners' sugar, several cups at a time, beating well after each addition. (See Tip 6)
- I used regular unsweetened cocoa, but you could also use Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa.
- To ensure the proper consistency of the cupcake batter, it’s important to weigh your ingredients
- Cake flour produces a softer, more tender cupcake. If you don’t have cake flour, you can make your own as follows: For each cup of all-purpose flour, remove 2 tablespoons of flour and replace the 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch.
- It doesn’t matter whether you use full-fat or low-fat buttermilk in this recipe. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make your own by adding 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces) of white vinegar or fresh lemon to a measuring cup, and then adding 7.5 ounces of milk to equal 1 cup of liquid. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
- I used full-fat cream cheese in the frosting, but you can also use low-fat cream cheese.
- If necessary, add additional confectioners’ sugar or whipping cream to achieve the proper piping consistency of the frosting.