You need this classic Red Velvet Cupcakes recipe in your life! Moist, fluffy, and flavorful, this beautiful dessert is topped with a light whipped cream cheese frosting that will leave you wanting more!
These really are the best red velvet cupcakes ever.
And that is not an overstatement. Seriously. I get requests to make these cupcakes, they’re that good.
That said, if you can find a guy who’s willing to throw away bachelorhood for your mad skills in the kitchen? Put that guy in your back pocket and keep on baking.
Today I’m going to show you how to make these delicious red velvet cupcakes! It’s such an easy recipe and your family will be asking you to make them again and again!
I first published this red velvet cupcake recipe back in 2015, in celebration of my first year blogging. If I knew then what I know now about being a food blogger, and how starting this website on a whim would change my life…
I’d do it all over again.
The job itself is full of ups and downs and can be seriously thankless and unrewarding at times, which is why I’ve sort of put blogging to the side in favor of my photography business. But I’ve missed being creative for myself, so I’m starting to ease back into it.
This is my go-to, no-fail fluffy red velvet cupcake recipe.
Paula Deen actually taught me how to make classic red velvet cupcakes.
Not in person, obviously. But I found that her recipe produced cupcakes that were terribly oily, to the point where the cupcake liners were practically see through. And the chocolate accents just didn’t come through.
So, after editing her recipe quite a bit and tweaking it over the years, I’ve ended up here.
So I guess maybe sweet Paula taught me how not to make them, but I still credit her Southern kitchen know-how for inspiring me to make dessert that doesn’t come from a box.
Red Velvet Cupcake Ingredients
Gathering what you need for this tasty red velvet cupcake recipe is as easy as opening your pantry!
- All-purpose flour – make these gluten free by using a gluten free flour
- Granulated sugar – even if you like brown sugar more, stick with granulated here! The molasses in brown sugar will affect the flavor.
- Baking soda
- Unsweetened cocoa powder – this recipe calls for a little bit more cocoa powder than most – trust me on this one!
- Vegetable oil – prefer butter? Substitute the oil for equal amounts of melted unsalted butter.
- Buttermilk – all red velvet recipes call for buttermilk, as it is a critical part of the chemical reaction that creates the maroon color of the cake. There are plenty of substitutes for buttermilk if you’re all out, though! Check the chart below.
- Large eggs
- White vinegar or apple cider vinegar – I promise, you can’t taste it! Vinegar helps activate the baking soda, making the red velvet cupcakes rise. It also makes the red color more vibrant, so you don’t really have to use as much food coloring as you might think. Don’t have white distilled vinegar? Apple cider vinegar or lemon will also work in its place.
- Vanilla extract
- Red food coloring – if you find you don’t have any food coloring, or you’d prefer not to use it, you can totally leave it out. The color will be affected a bit, but the flavor won’t be!
Out of Buttermilk?
Go ahead and add 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar, or 2 1/2 teaspoons of cream of tartar to the milk in this recipe. Stir it up and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before proceeding with mixing the batter. The acid will curdle the milk and act as a buttermilk substitute! It works like a charm, even though it looks a little gross when you add it to the batter.
Other buttermilk substitutes include:
- Buttermilk powder & milk (or water)
- A 3:1 ratio of sour cream & milk (or water)
- A 3:1 ratio of plain yogurt & milk (or water)
- Plant milks + acid of your choice
- Lactose-free milk + acid of your choice
Of course, you can always make these red velvet cupcake without buttermilk as well – but you’re missing out!
How to make the best Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 standard-sized muffin tins with cupcake liners and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, combine the wet ingredients. Gently beat together the buttermilk, oil, eggs, white vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring until well combined.
- Add the dry ingredients and buttermilk in alternating batches, beginning with the dry – flour, milk, flour, milk, flour. Mix on medium speed until smooth and thoroughly combined, scraping the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. The batter will be a little thin and that’s okay!
- Divide the batter evenly between the paper liners, filling each about ⅔ full.
- Bake for 5 minutes, then drop the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
What icing for red velvet cupcakes is best?
In my opinion, there is only one answer: whipped cream cheese frosting. It’s smooth and light, tangy, not overly sweet, and so insanely perfect on top of these cupcakes.
However, if you’re looking for red velvet cupcake variations, try one of these flavors:
- Whipped cream
- Whipped chocolate buttercream
- Vanilla buttercream (follow the chocolate recipe above but leave out the cocoa powder)
- Chocolate fudge frosting
- Raspberry buttercream
- Eggnog buttercream (for the holidays!)
Red velvet cupcakes have always been and will forever be my favorite, especially when paired with a really delicious cream cheese icing.
Personally, I don’t like my icing too sweet! I prefer to be able to pick out the richness of the butter and tang of the cream cheese, instead of just gagging on the overuse of confectioners sugar.
What is the flavor of a red velvet cupcake?
Red velvet is often described as a vanilla cake with a hint of chocolate, and that’s honestly pretty accurate. There is a lot of vanilla extract and much less cocoa powder in a red velvet recipe than in a chocolate recipe. That said, you are free to add or subtract as much as you’d like until you reach your ideal flavor.
The cream cheese frosting that is commonly found on red velvet desserts is truly what sets them apart from plain old vanilla and chocolate-flavored ones.
These vibrant and delicious red treats are perfect to make for Valentine’s Day, Independence Day, or Christmas!
Red Velvet Cupcake FAQ
How long do red velvet cupcakes last? That depends on the strength of your willpower. All kidding aside,
Do red velvet cupcakes need to be refrigerated?
Unfrosted cupcakes can sit out, covered, at room temperature, but any leftover cupcakes that have been decorated with butter- and/or cream cheese-based frostings should be refrigerated after two hours to retain the structural integrity of the frosting.
Why did my red velvet cupcakes turn brown?
They were red when you put them in the oven, right? And perfect after they were baked, but the next few days they began to lose that vibrant red, didn’t they? The less red food coloring you use, the higher change your cupcakes have of giving themselves to the dark (cocoa) side over time. Simply add a bit more food coloring, or use less cocoa powder, to prevent this from happening.
Why did my cupcakes sink in the middle?
It happens to the best of us (believe me) and could be due to one or more of a few reasons:
- Check your ingredients. I’m all for experimenting in the kitchen, but baking is a science and there are some components in recipes that just need to remain as written. Follow the recipe as written to avoid any failed final product, otherwise don’t be surprised if there’s a little sinkage.
- Check your leavening agent. In this case, your baking soda may be expired. Put a tablespoon of it in a small bowl and splash it with a little vinegar or lemon juice. If it fizzes, it’s still good.
- Check your oven temperature. This recipe bakes at 400 for only 5 minutes to help get an initial rise on the outside of the cupcakes, then is dropped so the middle bakes evenly as well. Be sure to drop the oven temperature after 5 minutes, don’t open the oven to check on the cupcakes, and perform a toothpick test before removing them to make sure they’re fully baked.
- Check yourself when mixing and filling. Overmixing cupcake batter can be lethal for a fluffy, light product since whipping too much air into baked goods develops gluten. Gluten is great for bread – not for cake. Divide the perfectly mixed batter evenly and fill the liners only 2/3 of the way so they don’t overflow and inevitably sink.
More Red Velvet Dessert Recipes
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Red Velvet Cupcakes
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs room temperature
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoons red food coloring depending on how red you’re going for
- 1 batch Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 standard 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.
- In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder, and whisk to combine. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, gently beat together oil, buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, vanilla, and food coloring with an electric mixer or whisk until well combined.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk in alternating batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until smooth and just combined. The batter will be a bit thin.
- Divide the batter evenly among liners, filling each ⅔ full. Bake for 5 minutes, then drop the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for about 15-2 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove to wire rack to cool completely before frosting.