Red Velvet Cupcakes

published Dec 20, 2021

This quick and easy cupcake recipe will make a believer out of any red-velvet skeptic.


Prep20 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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red velvet cupcakes with white icing and red velvet crumbs
Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

Red velvet cake has gone by a variety of other names over the years, such as a $300 cake, red mystery cake, red carpet cake, Waldorf red cake, red regal cake, red feather cake, and red devil’s food cake. The signature red color is typically paired with a cream cheese frosting.

Red velvet cupcakes are traditionally made with a blend of cocoa powder, vinegar, and buttermilk, which creates a chemical reaction that helps give the cake a deep maroon color. However, today we typically enhance that hue with red food coloring to create vibrant cupcakes.

But it isn’t just the color that makes this classic cake so special: This blend of ingredients also softens the proteins in flour, resulting in a finer, smoother texture than other cakes. In order to distinguish these softer cakes, the term “velvet” cakes was adopted.

Are Red Velvet Cupcakes Just Chocolate?

The difference between a red velvet cake and a chocolate cake is the amount of chocolate used in the recipe. Red velvet recipes call for a hint of cocoa powder, while chocolate cakes are much more chocolatey. Additionally, chocolate cakes typically call for water or coffee, while red velvet relies on buttermilk and vinegar.

Credit: Photo: Eric Kleinberg; Food Stylist: Kristina Vanni

Do I Need to Use Cake Flour?

While cake flour does help create a beautiful soft crumb and “velvet” texture, all-purpose flour can also be used for these cupcakes. If you want to make your own cake flour substitute at home, it can be made with a combination of all-purpose flour and either cornstarch or arrowroot powder. Measure 1 cup all-purpose flour and remove 2 tablespoons of the flour. Replace it with 2 tablespoons of either cornstarch or arrowroot and sift to combine. This will create 1 cup of cake flour.

Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe

This quick and easy cupcake recipe will make a believer out of any red-velvet skeptic.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 20 minutes


Nutritional Info


For the cupcakes:

  • 8 tablespoons

    (1 stick) unsalted butter

  • 1 1/2 cups

    granulated sugar

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 1 ounce

    liquid red food coloring (2 tablespoons)

  • 1 tablespoon

    distilled white vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon

    vanilla extract

  • 2 1/2 cups

    cake flour (see Recipe Note)

  • 3 tablespoons

    unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1 cup


For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 2 sticks

    (8 ounces) unsalted butter

  • 8 ounces

    cream cheese

  • 2 teaspoons

    vanilla extract

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups

    powdered sugar


  1. Place 1 stick unsalted butter in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Let sit at room temperature until softened, about 1 hour.

  2. Arrange 2 racks to divide the oven into thirds and heat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 standard 12-well muffin pans with paper liners.

  3. Add 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar to the bowl of butter. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add 2 large eggs and beat until pale and smooth, about 30 seconds. Add 2 ounces red liquid food coloring, 1 tablespoon white vinegar, and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, and beat until combined, about 15 seconds.

  4. Place 2 1/2 cups cake flour, 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl. Whisk to combine, making sure there are no clumps of cocoa powder.

  5. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and beat on low speed until just combined. Add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk and beat until just combined. Beat in half of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining 1/2 cup buttermilk. Finish beating in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Divide the batter between the muffin wells, filling each well a little more than halfway full.

  6. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool on wire racks for 5 minutes. Transfer the cupcakes to the wire racks and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

Make the frosting:

  1. About 1 hour before you want to frost the cupcakes, place 2 sticks unsalted butter and 8 ounces cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer (or large bowl if using an electric hand mixer). Let sit at room temperature until softened.

  2. Add 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt. Beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth and airy, about 1 minute. With the mixer running, add 4 1/2 to 5 cups powdered sugar about 1 cup at a time, and beat until the desired fluffy consistency is reached.

  3. Spread or pipe onto the cupcakes. If desired, you can crumble of the cupcakes and sprinkle onto the frosted cupcakes.

Recipe Notes

Food coloring: As written, this recipe yields a deep red color. For a brighter, more vibrant red, you can up to double the amount of liquid red food coloring.

Cake flour: If you don't have cake flour, you can use a combination of all-purpose flour and cornstarch instead. Sift together 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour and 5 tablespoons cornstarch and proceed with recipe as instructed.

Storage: Cupcakes can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen (either frosted or unfrosted) for up to 3 months.