Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

Red Velvet Cupcake

Intimidated by baking, assembling, and decorating a homemade red velvet cake for Valentine’s Day?  Give cupcakes a try instead!

As you probably know, I have already written about my (now ex-) husband’s family recipe for a gorgeous Red Velvet Cake.  But when I noticed that lots of readers were asking questions about how to turn the cake recipe into a cupcake recipe, I decided it was time to give it a try myself!

At first I was going to try a version using less red food coloring than the cake recipe, but at the last minute I decided to stay true to the original.  These aren’t pink, they aren’t reddish-brown, they are a dramatic RED, perfect for Valentine’s Day!  And in addition to the beautiful color, these little cakes are light, tender, and downright delicious!

There are several different types of red velvet cake. Some are heavier on the chocolate flavor than others, some use less food coloring, and some use beets instead of artificial coloring.  This one does not taste like a chocolate cake, although there is a subtle hint of cocoa.  The flavor is unique and delicious, and I prefer it to the red velvet cakes that contain more cocoa powder.  And as I’ve already mentioned, this cake recipe does not shy away from the food coloring!

Although red velvet cake is definitely a Southern tradition, it’s popularity has never been limited to the South.  The recipe I’m going to share today is also called Waldorf-Astoria Cake, and is supposedly based on a red velvet cake that was popular at the New York hotel in the 1920’s. For more on the history of red velvet cake, check out this great New York Times article.

But regardless of where the cake originated, red velvet cakes and cupcakes have become an American tradition that is holding on strong.  Whether it’s Christmas, Valentine’s Day, a birthday, or even a wedding day, red velvet is a wonderful way to celebrate!

Red Velvet Cupcake Bite

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
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For the cake:

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour*

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 oz. red food coloring (two bottles)

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon white vinegar

1 teaspoon baking soda

For the cream cheese frosting:

16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened

1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

pinch of salt


Cake instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. Yes, it will fizz! Add vinegar mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake cups with cake batter (they should be 2/3 - 3/4 full). You may not fill all the cups, I ended up with 20 cupcakes. Place muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check early and don't overbake!

Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting. Frost cupcakes with cream cheese icing (recipe below) and decorate with red sprinkles if desired. The cupcakes above were decorated using the Wilton Cupcake Decorating Kit and Valentine's Sprinkles. They can usually be found at craft stores like Michaels or Joann.

Notes: *Sift cake flour once before measuring, then sift again with the other dry ingredients per recipe instructions. Wear an apron and be careful with the red food coloring-- no matter how hard I try, I always end up staining something! As you're mixing the cake batter, use a spatula to scrape down the bowl frequently throughout the entire process. Since the batter is fairly thick, I have found that an old-fashioned ice cream scoop works best for filling the cupcake wells (also great for muffin batter!). Since all ovens are different, make sure you check the cupcakes a little early. Mine were ready in just over 2o minutes, yours may be done sooner, or they may take a minute or two longer.

Frosting Instructions:

With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Turn mixer to low speed and blend in powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use. If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer unttil smooth).

Notes: If you prefer a sweeter and/or stiffer frosting, more powdered sugar can be added (up to four cups). But remember, the more sugar you add, the less you'll be able to taste the tangy cream cheese!

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  1. Full Sheets

    Hello there, simply become aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I’m gonna watch out for brussels. I will be grateful in the event you continue this in future. A lot of other people can be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

    3:48 pm  Apr 1st, 2012
  2. Resep Red Velvet Enak « pojok monicantik | my corner to be free

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  4. Paula

    Thank you for the wonderful recipe! I have used it for cakes and cupcakes many times. Everyone says they were the best red velvet they have ever had in their life. I just read all of these Posts and see nothing about how much to fill up the cupcake liners. Can u share, if not I will make them this weekend and will let you know so you can pass on. Thankful, Paula

    5:35 pm  May 16th, 2012
  5. Frances


    Just want to find out when u r beating the cream cheese topping, do u use the whisk or k beater?


    7:32 pm  May 16th, 2012
  6. Geraldine

    Hi Nicole. I am from Australia and a girlfriend of mine wants me to make some red velvet cupcakes. I looked up a few recipes and came across yours. Just a question. I can never figure out how much is half a cup of butter as we use the metric system here. So do I soften the butter to fill half a cup or would it be 125gms of butter since one cup is about 250gms? Sorry I know this sounds like a dumb question but there is nothing worse than getting your ingredients wrong. If I were to use a colour gel or paste, do you know how much is required to be equivalent to 2 bottles of liquid coloring? I assume cake flour means plain flour but sifted twice? Many thanks.

    8:09 pm  May 27th, 2012
  7. krisha

    hi, I made your cupcake recipe it was delicious but I found that the cupcakes were a little dry at the bottom. Is there a reason for this? What can I do to prevent this from happening?

    Please advise.

    7:02 pm  Jun 8th, 2012
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  9. AIsha

    ohh these look nice, and the recipe isn’t as unhealthy as the others

    9:09 pm  Jun 14th, 2012
  10. Cakeaholic

    My first red velvet I ever baked and it was perfeeectt!….I just used 2 cups powdered sugar instead of 2.5 cups for icing, besides that followed the recipe. I am proud to say that the cupcakes I baked were wayyy better than magnolia red velvet cupcakes!! Thanks for such a wonderful recipe!

    9:16 am  Jul 9th, 2012
  11. Hina

    If I add more cocoa, should I add more buttermilk to compensate for moisture?

    10:19 am  Jul 9th, 2012
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  15. SupergirlSR

    Your recipe rocks! Love your website. Do you by any chance have an angel food cake recipe? Been looking for one a long time now. I trust your recipes!

    9:13 am  Dec 19th, 2012
  16. Quinn

    OMG luv these cupcakes red velvet is so my fav keep adding cupcakes plz =)
    SO good

    9:46 am  Dec 27th, 2012
  17. Andrea

    Thank you so much, they turned out delicious!

    5:13 pm  Jan 27th, 2013
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  19. Kaitlin

    These are my go to red velvet cupcakes! They always turn out delicious and everyone loves them! I posted about them on my blog for Valentine’s Day. Stop by and check it out!
    Thanks for the recipe! (:

    2:47 pm  Feb 17th, 2013
  20. hannah

    hi, just made these but for some reason they seem to cling to the paper cups which causes them to crumble badly… any ideas?

    11:16 am  Feb 22nd, 2013
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  26. Bobbie

    Just made these delicious cupcakes with my great grandchild. She loves them and so do I. Quick and easy. Waiting to frost them when she finishes her homework. Quick tip: If you have one of those new toys (I call them), for baking cupcakes, it works great with this recipe.

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  32. Allison

    I made these into minis, and they turned out great. So moist, and so red! It yielded about 6 dozen mini cupcakes.

    9:37 am  Mar 8th, 2014
  33. radhaks

    Nicole – I tried this recipe in a half sheet pan before and while it tasted GREAT, the texture in the middle was overly moist. I want to make this again for a large birthday party, where I will make 50 individual mini layered cakes – but easiest for me would be to have the half sheet pan layers (sort of like sponge cake layers). Do you have a recommendation as to whether I should be able to use the recipe as is (but maybe adjust baking time or temp of oven) or otherwise, how I might need to adjust the cake? Thanks much!

    9:19 am  May 31st, 2014
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