Red velvet cupcakes: Beautiful, bright, tender and fluffy. Subtle buttery-texture, and cocoa flavor topped with tangy cream cheese frosting make these red velvet cupcakes simply divine.
The secret to super soft and tender red velvet cupcakes
It’s cake flour! The difference between cake flour and all-purpose flour is the protein content. All cakes need protein to provide structure, but the lower protein content of cake flour (only 8%, quite a bit less than the 10-11% in all-purpose flour) lends just enough structure without making them tough. The result is tender and soft red velvet cupcakes.
Don’t have cake flour on hand? Joy the Baker explains an easy substitute using all-purpose flour and cornstarch. I’ve also included the substitution in my recipe below. I found that sifting the flour and the cornstarch together once (not five times) was sufficient.
Perfect subtle flavors in red velvet cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes aren’t vanilla or chocolate cupcakes. Instead they are full of subtle, wonderful, rich flavors. This recipe nails it with subtle butter and chocolate flavors. I found that a mix of butter and oil in the recipe really gave these a wonderful balance of buttery taste with the light fluffiness that oil brings to cake recipes.
Use buttermilk (or my easy homemade buttermilk) for extra moist red velvet cupcakes
Buttermilk is a key ingredient to these red velvet cupcakes. It adds moisture, creaminess, and a subtle tangy-ness that is perfect for this recipe. I don’t keep buttermilk around, so I make an easy homemade buttermilk using milk with a splash of white vinegar or lemon juice.
Fluffy cream cheese frosting – firm enough to pipe on to red velvet cupcakes
The sweet tangy flavor of cream cheese frosting really brings these red velvet cupcakes over the top. I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to make cream cheese frosting too runny, especially if you want to pipe it on your cupcakes. To solve this problem I suggest using full fat cream cheese and slowly adding the cream cheese in last so you can keep any eye on the thickness. I like my frosting as tangy as possible, so I keep adding the cream cheese until it almost seems too runny. If you prefer your cream cheese frosting on the sweeter side, just use less cream cheese and more butter.
Put the “red” in red velvet cupcakes
To make these cupcakes the brilliant red you see in these photos I used about 1 1/2 tablespoons of Wilton gel food coloring. This allowed me to get a brighter red, while using less dye. If you’d like to use liquid food coloring you’ll need about 3 tablespoons to get the same brightness. If you’re not worried about the color, you can skip the food coloring. You can also try some natural food coloring alternatives. I haven’t tried this myself, but would be interested to hear how it turns out if you do – let me know in the comments below!
Add that extra bakery style finish
These red velvet cupcakes are definitely striking on their own, but decorating them with a little of their own cupcake crumbs gives them that professional look. I crumbled up one cupcake, which was enough to decorate all the cupcakes and leave a little treat for me! Just sprinkle the crumbs on the frosted cupcakes and presto! Instant bakery worthy cupcake.
Looking for more delicious cupcakes? (I know I never get enough 🙂 )
- Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes
- Salted Caramel Chocolate Cupcakes
- Peppermint Chocolate Cupcakes
- Halloween Spider Cupcakes! (perfect for Halloween)
- Gingerbread Cupcakes with Orange-Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting
- Lemon Cupcakes with Vanilla Bean Frosting
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour or 1 1/4 cups flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch sifted together so that they are evening combined
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup 1 stick butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup oil I used canola
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
- red food coloring*
- 1/2 cup buttermilk or regular milk with a splash of white vinegar or lemon juice
- ¾ cup softened unsalted butter 1 ½ sticks
- 2 cups of powdered sugar sifted measure before sifting
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 ounces of cream cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degres. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.
- In a medium bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
- Cream butter and sugar together using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer in a large bowl on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add oil and beat for an addition 2 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add the vinegar and food coloring until desired color is reached.
- With the mixer on low add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Then add 1/2 of the buttermilk and mix until just incorporated. Repeat for next 1/3 of dry ingredients, then remaining buttermilk, then remaining dry ingredients. Be careful not to overmix.
- Spoon batter into lined muffin tin (each cupcake mold should be about 1/2 full) and bake 18-20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool completely on a wire rack, keeping cupcakes in the muffin tin for the first 5 minutes.
- While cupcakes are cooling, make cream cheese frosting (below). Frost cupcakes and enjoy!
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Once cupcakes are completely cool, beat butter for frosting with a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer on high until smooth, about 3 minute.
- Add powdered sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
- Add vanilla, then add cream cheese one ounce at a time until desired tanginess is reached.**
Recipe Notes*I used 1 - 1 1/2 tablespoons wilton gel, you can also use about 3 tablespoons liquid food coloring
**Too much cream cheese will cause frosting to be runny.