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Red Velvet Cupcakes

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These gorgeous red velvet cupcakes have hints of both chocolate and vanilla with rich red color, making them an exquisite treat. A smooth, tangy cream cheese frosting ties the flavors together.

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese on a wire rack with a green napkin underneath

What better way to celebrate a special occasion than with red velvet cupcakes. The texture is light and fluffy. And the flavor is unlike any other.

I've made many different versions of red velvet desserts over the years including this red velvet cheesecake. But, these cupcakes are my very favorite.

The recipe uses both butter and oil so the cupcakes are buttery rich, extra moist, and incredibly fluffy. These single-serve cupcakes taste exactly like a classic red velvet cake.

A lush cream cheese frosting adorns the top. But, you can change up the frosting if you're not a fan of cream cheese. My simple Swiss meringue buttercream would be an excellent substitute.

Why this recipe works:

  • The perfect balance of chocolate and vanilla is used along with a subtle tang that is well known in red velvet.
  • Butter and oil are used to keep the cupcakes soft and fluffy without compromising the rich flavor.
  • Tangy cream cheese frosting ties all the cupcake flavors together leaving you with a sensational dessert experience.
red velvet cupcake with a bite taken out so the fluffy inside is visible

How to make red velvet cupcakes

Red velvet is a mix between chocolate and vanilla flavors with a touch of tanginess that lingers at the end. There's chocolate, vanilla, vinegar, and buttermilk in the cupcakes. Each one plays an important part in how the cupcakes taste.

The ingredients

  • Butter and oil: The combination of butter and oil ensures the cupcakes have the best texture and taste. Use vegetable or canola oil with a high-quality butter.
  • Sugar: Regular granulated sugar is all you need here.
  • Eggs: You need 3 large eggs that are at room temperature. Set them out 30-45 minutes before you start making the recipe.
  • Vanilla extract: Use pure vanilla extract of the highest quality. Or you can use homemade vanilla extract.
  • Flour: I find that cake flour is best. It's lower in protein content and produces a soft, lighter crumb. My favorite is Bob's Red Mill.
  • Cocoa powder: You only need a couple of tablespoons of unsweet cocoa powder to add a hint of chocolate flavor.
  • Leavening: Baking powder and baking soda are added to give the cupcakes rise. The baking soda will react with the cocoa powder, buttermilk, and vinegar to produce a perfect red velvet cupcake.
  • Buttermilk: Use full-fat buttermilk for the best results and make sure it's at room temperature just like the eggs.
  • Vinegar: You only need 1 tablespoon of white vinegar.
  • Red food coloring: I used an entire 1-ounce bottle of liquid red food coloring. You can use gel food coloring if you wish.
red velvet cake batter in a glass bowl and baked red velvet cupcakes in a muffin pan

The instructions

Red velvet cupcakes use the creaming method for mixing. This results in a sturdy yet soft cupcake texture.

Step 1: Mix the wet ingredients

First, cream the oil, butter, and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well after each addition. Then, mix in the vanilla extract.

Step 2: Mix the dry ingredients

Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to a separate bowl. Use a whisk to stir it all together until everything is well combined.

Step 3: Combine the wet and dry ingredients

Add half the flour mixture to the butter/oil mixture. Mix until almost fully combined.

Add the buttermilk followed by the remaining flour mixture and mix until just combined. Mix in the vinegar and food coloring until fully combined.

Step 4: Bake the cupcakes

Line 24 muffin cups with paper liners and fill each one ⅔ full with batter. Take care and don't overfill the cups. The batter rises quite a bit during baking and cups that are too full may overflow.

I like to use a 3-tablespoon cookie scoop to portion out my batter.

Bake the cupcakes at 350°F for 15-18 minutes. Or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Step 5: Frost the cupcakes

Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost them with my silky cream cheese frosting. I use a Wilton 1M piping tip to pipe a rose on top of each cupcake.

If you're not a fan of cream cheese frosting, try using my Swiss meringue buttercream instead.

rich red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Make ahead and storage tips

  • The cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance. Keep covered and store at room temperature.
  • The frosting can also be made 1 day in advance. Keep covered and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  • Frosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
  • Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and frost before serving.

Tips for making red velvet cupcakes

  • Make sure to properly measure the flour. Don't just scoop the flour out of the container with the measuring cup. Instead, lightly spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off with the back of a knife. Or measure by weight for more accurate results.
  • Sift the flour and cocoa powder to remove any clumps. Do this after they have been measured.
  • The amount of food coloring is up to you! I used 1-once liquid food coloring. Feel free to use less or more.
  • Buttermilk is required. It's needed in order to react with the cocoa powder and baking soda. Full-fat buttermilk will work best but low-fat will be okay if that's all you can access.

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rich red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Yield: 24-28
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

These gorgeous red velvet cupcakes have hints of both chocolate and vanilla with rich red color, making them an exquisite treat. A smooth, tangy cream cheese frosting ties the flavors together.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes

  • ½ cup (120 ml) canola oil, vegetable oil can also be used
  • ¼ cup (57 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 ½ cups (300 g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 ¾ cups (330 g) cake flour, sifted - SEE NOTE 1
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder - sifted SEE NOTE 2
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (240 ml) buttermilk, room temperature - SEE NOTE 3
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1-ounce red food coloring, 1 bottle - SEE NOTE 4

For the frosting

  • 1 cup (227 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 16 ounces (453 g) cream cheese, softened, cut into pieces
  • 4 cups (480 g) confectioners sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt

Instructions

Make the cupcakes

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, beat together the oil, butter, and sugar for 10 minutes on medium speed, until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for about 20 seconds after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir with a whisk. Gradually add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternating with the buttermilk, begin and end with the flour mixture. Beat until well blended. Add the vinegar and food coloring. Beat until fully incorporated and no streaks remain in the batter.
  4. Fill the prepared muffin cups ⅔ full. (There may be enough batter leftover to make 4 extra cupcakes.) Bake for 15-18 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out with only a few dry crumbs.
  5. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost as desired.

Make the frosting

  1. In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese together until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add the sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat on low speed until just incorporated. Turn the mixer to high speed and beat until smooth.

Notes

  1. Make sure to properly measure the flour. Don’t just scoop the flour out of the container with the measuring cup. Instead, lightly spoon the flour into the measuring cup and level it off with the back of a knife. Or measure by weight for more accurate results.
  2. Sift the flour and cocoa powder to remove any clumps. Do this after they have been measured.
  3. Buttermilk is required. It’s needed in order to react with the cocoa powder and baking soda. Full-fat buttermilk will work best but low-fat will be okay if that’s all you can access.
  4. The amount of food coloring is up to you! I used 1-once liquid food coloring. Feel free to use less, more, or leave it out completely.

Make ahead tip

  1. The cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance. Keep covered and store at room temperature.
  2. The frosting can also be made 1 day in advance. Keep covered and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
  3. Frosted cupcakes can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
  4. Unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight and frost before serving.

Recommended Products

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 28 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 334Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 9gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 58mgSodium: 181mgCarbohydrates: 39gFiber: 0gSugar: 27gProtein: 3g

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Since different brands of ingredients have different nutritional information, the values shown are just an estimate.

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DanaSiew

Monday 7th of September 2020

Can you use all purpose flour instead of cake flour?

Jen Sobjack

Tuesday 8th of September 2020

I don't recommend it.

Karol

Sunday 30th of August 2020

Hello!!! I live in Mexico and we don't have buttermilk here! What could I use instead?

Alejandra Córdova

Friday 4th of September 2020

Hi! I’m from Mexico too! For this recipe I made my own buttermilk like this: 1 cup of milk (full fat) & then I added 1 tbsp of white vinegar, I mix them and it has to turn like cream, lightly think and worked very good! Saludos!!!

Jen Sobjack

Monday 31st of August 2020

You can make homemade buttermilk by adding 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice to 1 cup of whole milk and let it sit for 5 minutes.

Trenesha

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

I didn’t get the consistency I needed to pipe the cupcakes but it was delicious, what did I do wrong and how can I fix this problem if it happens again

Jen Sobjack

Tuesday 9th of June 2020

Cream cheese frosting can be tricky. The butter and cream cheese can't be too warm or the frosting will be softer than desired. I have an entire blog post on cream cheese frosting with helpful tips on getting the proper consistency. I'd start there in your journey for success.

Crystal J. Smith

Wednesday 3rd of July 2019

Can I substitute Vanilla Bourbon, for the vinegar?

Jen Sobjack

Wednesday 3rd of July 2019

You could but I can't guarantee the results. The vinegar is an acid and works with the baking soda to ensure the cupcakes rise properly.

Stephanie

Saturday 25th of May 2019

Hi,

So i just tried this recipe...and the taste is heaven. Thanks for all the recipes you post, I would love to try out each one of them, and i was able to make 15 cupcakes from the red velvet cupcake recipe???.

Kaitlyn

Sunday 7th of February 2021

So did this make 24 or 15??

Jen Sobjack

Tuesday 28th of May 2019

I'm so happy you enjoyed the cupcakes! Thanks for trying the recipe and leaving your feedback!

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