Red Velvet Cupcakes

Tested & Perfected Recipes

These cupcakes have a subtle chocolate flavor, deep mahogany color & lavish swirl of tangy cream cheese frosting on top.

cupcakes

The best quote about the allure of red velvet cake comes from Southern food writer Angie Mosier, who said, “It’s the Dolly Parton of cakes — a little bit tacky, but you love her.”  It’s true: the cake is sometimes appallingly red, but I don’t know anyone who can resist it. This version, modestly adapted from DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style by David Guas and Rachel Pelzel, is my all-time favorite. The cupcakes have a subtle chocolate flavor, deep mahogany color and lavish swirl of tangy cream cheese frosting on top. Kitschy? Yes, but they sure do look pretty in their simple pink liners!

ingredients

You should know right off the bat that these cupcakes are made with a lot of food coloring. Not ideal, I know, but the color is the main idea. (There are many theories as to why the cake is red, but no one knows for sure; to read about it, check out this wonderful New York Times article.) If you can’t bear the thought of it, you can try to find an all natural substitute (though I know of none that give the same intensity) or just replace the cake portion of the recipe with a chocolate cupcake. I like to use a concentrated gel paste icing color, like the “No-taste Red” by Wilton shown below. It’s better than ordinary liquid food coloring, which can taste bitter when used in large quantities. You can find it in the cake decorating section at craft stores, like Michael’s or A.C. Moore, or order it online.

red-color

Begin by combining the flour, cocoa power, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

dry-ingredients

Whisk until well combined, then set aside.

mixed-dry-ingredients

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter, light brown sugar, vanilla and food coloring (for the gel paste, dissolve it with 3 tablespoons of water).

ready-to-mix

Mix on low speed until combined (go easy — you don’t want to splatter red food coloring all over your kitchen!) and then increase the speed and beat until light and aerated, about 2 minutes.

creaming-butter-and-sugar

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

adding-eggs

Then mix in one third of the flour mixture.

adding-dry-ingredients

Follow that with half of the buttermilk, and then another third of the flour. Repeat with the remaining buttermilk and flour.

adding-buttermilk

When the batter is well-mixed, spoon it into the cupcake pans, filling the liners almost to the top.

ready-to-bake

Bake for 22-25 minutes, until the tops are set and a cake tester comes out clean.

baked-cupcakes

Let the cupcakes cool.

Meanwhile, make the frosting by combining the butter, cream cheese, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes.

frosting-1

Stop the mixer and add 2 cups of confectioners’ sugar; mix on low to combine.

frosting-2

Mix in the remaining sugar in two additions, keeping the speed on low. Once all of the sugar is added, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.

frosting-3

When the cupcakes are completely cool, use a butter knife or small offset spatula to swirl the frosting over top. The cupcakes are best enjoyed fresh on the same day.

Red-Velvet-Cupcakes-1

This recipe is adapted from DamGoodSweet: Desserts to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth, New Orleans Style by David Guas and Rachel Pelzel. My changes were to reduce the cocoa powder slightly (so that the cupcakes looked more red), increase the flour, reduce the baking soda and replace the standard red food coloring with red (no-taste) concentrated icing color. I also reduced the quantity of frosting, as the original recipe made a ton. Depending on how much frosting you like, you may actually still have some leftover. Note: If you want to make these cupcakes as one big cake, the recipe makes enough to fill two 9-inch cake pans, but you will need to increase the icing by about 20%. You can see the original recipe and read the rave reviews here.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

These cupcakes have a subtle chocolate flavor, deep mahogany color & lavish swirl of tangy cream cheese frosting on top.

Servings: 24 cupcakes
Prep Time: 25 Minutes
Cook Time: 25 Minutes
Total Time: 50 Minutes

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes

  • 3 cups plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off with a knife
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder (see note)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 1 (1-lb.) box light brown sugar (about 2-1/4 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons Wilton Concentrated Red (No-taste) Gel Icing Color dissolved in 3 tablespoons of water, or 3 tablespoons normal liquid red food coloring (see note)
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1-3/4 cups buttermilk

For the Frosting

  • 1 lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (1/2 lb.) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 6 cups confectioners' sugar

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cupcake pans with paper liners. Lightly grease the tops of the pans with butter or nonstick cooking spray (it's okay if the nonstick spray gets inside of the paper liners).
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk until well combined and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl if using a hand mixer), mix the butter, brown sugar, food coloring and vanilla on low speed until combined (take care to mix slowly -- you don't want the red food coloring to splatter all over your kitchen). Once blended, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and pale, about 2 minutes. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and add one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk. Add another third of the flour followed by the remaining buttermilk. Finish with the final third of the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then spoon the batter evenly into the prepared cupcake pans, filling almost to the top of the liners. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the cupcakes are set and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack for about 15 minutes, then remove the cupcakes from the pans and set on a wire rack to cool completely.

For the Frosting

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or large bowl if using a hand mixer), combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and salt. Mix on low speed until combined, then increase the speed to medium-high and beat until aerated and light, about 2 minutes. Stop the mixer and add 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar; mix on low to combine. Mix in the remaining sugar in two additions, keeping the speed on low. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, increase the speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute.
  2. When the cupcakes are cool, use a butter knife or small offset spatula to spread the frosting lavishly over top. The cupcakes are best enjoyed fresh on the day that they are baked.
  3. Note: Most large grocery stores carry Dutch processed cocoa powder. In baked goods, it has a richer, more "chocolate-y" flavor and darker color than natural unsweetened cocoa powder. It's worth getting for this recipe, but natural unsweetened cocoa powder may be substituted if necessary; just increase the cocoa powder to 1/2 cup and decrease the flour to 3 cups. Keep in mind that the chocolate taste won't be quite as pronounced and your cupcakes will be a brighter red.
  4. Note: Red (no-taste) concentrated gel icing color is made by Wilton and sold at craft stores (such as Michael's or AC Moore) in the cake decorating section. It is superior to ordinary liquid red food coloring, which can taste bitter when used in large quantities.
  5. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The cupcakes can be frozen without the frosting for up to 3 months. Let them cool completely, wrap them individually in plastic wrap, and then in foil. Thaw overnight on the countertop before serving. (Wait until the cupcakes are defrosted to ice them.)

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Serving size: 1 cupcake
  • Calories: 474
  • Fat: 23g
  • Saturated fat: 14g
  • Carbohydrates: 65g
  • Sugar: 51g
  • Fiber: 1g
  • Protein: 5g
  • Sodium: 227mg
  • Cholesterol: 85mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Hi Jenn! I’m not a fan of red velvet but made them for my daughter who certainly is. They turned out really amazing! I just made a few changes: I added mini chocolate chips and substituted mascarpone cheese for the cream cheese. My family and coworkers love those cupcakes. Thanks for share this and all your recipes

    • — Y. Marcano on April 14, 2019
    • Reply
  • It’s a really nice, rich batter. Used an ice cream scoop to place batter in the cupcake tins. I do recommend using the gel coloring as recommended by Jen. I was too lazy to go to Michael’s and used the McCormick in the grocery store. That off taste is very evident. Hopefully, the frosting will help cancel that out. Pretty!

    • — wendie morin on February 14, 2019
    • Reply
  • Fantastic Recipe!!! Absolutely perfect! Super moist and flavorful. Thank you!

    • — Carmen Reddy on February 13, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    I’m looking to make try this recipe and have a question about the buttermilk – I’m trying to make my own buttermilk since I can’t find it in the stores and was wondering whether vinegar or lemon would be better. I’m kinda worried about the citrus flavor if I use lemon.

    Thanks!

    • — Ibi on February 13, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Ibi, Either will work; I always use lemon and I promise you can’t taste the citrus. 🙂

      • — Jenn on February 13, 2019
      • Reply
      • Perfect! Thanks so much! 🙂

        • — Ibi on February 13, 2019
        • Reply
        • Made this as a double layer cake and Jenn’s got me feeling like a professional baker out here! Delicious, moist, just the right amount of sweet, and absolutely lovely!

          • — Ibi on February 14, 2019
          • Reply
  • Fabulous red velvet cupcake recipe – everyone is in love with the delicious taste!

    • — PAULINE L STEWART on February 11, 2019
    • Reply
  • Great recipe. Delicious cupcakes!

    • — Rita on February 10, 2019
    • Reply
  • These are awesome!! I especially appreciate the thorough instructions for making the frosting. 🙂 I’ve made these multiple times and my friends all love love love them.

    • — Grace on January 7, 2019
    • Reply
  • can i use half brown sugar half granulates sugar? please help thanks

    • — aya on October 7, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Aya, I’d recommend sticking with all brown sugar here for best results. 🙂

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2018
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,

    Attempting to make this for the first time and I wasn’t able to find the no-taste gel but I found the Wilton’s gel icing color in Christmas red. Would this produce the right color intensity with the same measurements as in the recipe?

    Thanks!

    P.S. your sour cream bundt cakes are a big hit with all my friends. 🙂

    • — Cherry on June 1, 2018
    • Reply
    • Hi Cherry, I’ve never used that one, so I don’t know from personal experience. I did look on Amazon and it doesn’t get great reviews for achieving a red color. You can check them out here. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on June 1, 2018
      • Reply
  • Honestly have loved every single dessert I’ve made from one of Jenn’s recipes, so when I was looking for a red velvet cake recipe for my boyfriend’s birthday, I knew I had to look here first! Instead of cupcakes I made two layers in 2 9 inch cake pans. The batter amount was perfect! Perfect crumb and great chocolate-y flavor – too die for with the cream cheese frosting. Only complaint is that the frosting is a little too sweet – in the future I would reduce the powdered sugar significantly. Otherwise the cake was such a hit!

    • — Sandy on March 20, 2018
    • Reply
  • Can I use half light, half dark brown sugar?

    • — Flo on October 25, 2017
    • Reply
    • Sure, Flo – that should be fine.

      • — Jenn on October 26, 2017
      • Reply
      • Thank you, Jenn! I ended up following the recipe exactly and the cupcakes were a hit for Halloween! I especially appreciated the lack of that bitter aftertaste that’s so commonly found in red velvet cakes. I’m a baking novice but thanks to your amazing site I can pretend I know what I’m doing. 😉 Thanks again!

        • — Flo on November 1, 2017
        • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    I use the recipe (reduced by 20%) for two 8 inch pans. When turning out the cakes to cool, the bottom centre part of the cakes stick to the pans. Appreciate it if you can advise the reason. For info I baked them on the second lower rack of the oven.

    Thank you.
    Sindy

    • — Sindy on September 7, 2017
    • Reply
    • Hi Sindy, It’s expected that they will stick – I’d spray the pans with a nonstick baking spray with flour (such as Baker’s Joy) and then line the bottoms of the pans with parchment circles. Then I’d spray the parchment as well. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on September 7, 2017
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen! If I wish to make a red velvet cake, would there be any changes made to this recipe?? And these quantities are good for what size of cake please? I want to have 2-3 layers if possible.
    Thanks in advance!
    Vanita

    • — Vanita Tondon on July 12, 2017
    • Reply
    • Hi Vanita, I would make two 9 inch cakes. Cook time would be around 30-35 minutes. Hope it turns out!

      • — Jenn on July 14, 2017
      • Reply
  • My 11 yr old son made these yesterday for his brother’s birthday. They turned out wonderfully. Thanks Jen.

  • Would the recipe need to be modified for a bundt cake and what size bundt pan would be needed?

    • Hi Karen, Yes, I think this could be turned into a bundt cake. You’d need a 10-inch bundt pan and the cooking time would be about an hour if not a little longer. (I’d start checking it at an hour.)

  • I know you have written this could also be two 9 inch cakes, may i ask, if I want just one 9 inch fat thick cake, would i just reduce the recipe by half? Thank you and thank you for sharing your immense experience.

    • Hi Nargess, yes, you could cut the batter in half to make just one 9 inch cake, but it won’t be particularly fat- it will be the thickness of a typical layer in a layer cake.

  • If I want to skip the food coloring (b/c of the chemicals) do you know if I could sub. beet juice and use the same amount?

    • Hi Julie, Sure but you definitely won’t get the same intensity of color — taste won’t be affected though 🙂

      • Hi Jenn, I’m interested in trying the beet juice substitute. Would you recommend 3 tbsp?

        • Hi Jenn, I’ve never tried this with beet juice, but that sounds about right. Keep in mind that you won’t get nearly as much color as with the food coloring.

  • Hi. Do you have a recipe for a soft red velvet crinkles with cream cheese filling? Thanks!

    • Hi Angela, Unfortunately, I don’t but I will add them to my list 🙂

  • I am in awe of your recipes, thanks for sharing. Please what if I want to make this as one big cake? What changes do I have to make?

    • Hi Jackie, Thank you! See my notes under the last photo to see modifications for a cake. Cook time will be about 40 minutes for two 9-inch cake layers, and you’ll need to increase the frosting.

  • I love a good, moist red velvet cupcake, and this recipe delivers!

  • I made these, exactly as the recipe is written. I used the Dutch cocoa & the no-taste Wilton red gel, exactly like what is in the picture. My cupcakes were more of a beautiful shade of dark brown, not red at all. You would never know by looking at them they were red velvet. Maybe with the regular cocoa? But they were very good. The icing is delicious, & I used a piping bag & decorative tip to frost them.

    • Hi Cheri, Yes, these are more of a mahogany color. You can increase the red by reducing the cocoa powder (replace with flour), but you’ll have less chocolate flavor. You could also use regular cocoa; they will be a much brighter red but the taste won’t be nearly as good.

  • I own a bed and breakfast and decided to make Valentine’s special for my bed and breakfast guests this year and serve mimosas in the morning for breakfast and red velvet cupcakes for one of my nightly desserts, so when this came into my email, I was thrilled as so many recipes I looked at had mixed ratings. This was an excellent recipe! Great tip for the food coloring. Found mine at Hobby Lobby.

  • Ahhhh, you’ve completely read my mind! I wanted to ask if you had a recipe for a red velvet cupcake. My son’s birthday is tomorrow and he’d like me to make some for his class. Birthday wish granted! Thanks for sharing Jenn 🙂

    • Aminah, would you mind hoping back to the site and letting us know how they turned out?? I am dying to give this recipe a try and it would be reassuring to hear from someone who has tried it whether they turned out great or if you had to make modifications. Thanks a million!!

      • HI Shereen. I actually did not have an opportunity to make the cupcakes 🙁 However, my son was generous enough to give me a pass w/ the Super Natural brownies, french vanilla ice-cream, drizzles of chocolate syrup and a variety of sprinkles. I do intend to try the cupcakes soon and will be sure to let you know how they turn out. I am fairly new to Jenn’s website, but I have to tell you, I’ve tried at least 14 recipes and they all came out to perfection! Not one has failed me yet. Each dish looks exactly like her photos and taste even better. I have no doubt this recipe is a winner as well 🙂

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