This homemade Red Velvet Cupcake recipe makes a tender and moist cupcake that is bright red without any artificial food dye! Its tangy buttermilk flavor is paired perfectly with a smooth and irresistible cream cheese frosting. No matter what the occasion, these cupcakes will delight and impress!
I love making homemade desserts for the various birthdays we have in our family, and everyone has their favorite. For my husband, it's this easy 1930's chocolate cake. My mother-in-law requests a peach cobbler each year... and my father-in-law always loves a red velvet cake!
Time was a little short this year, so for his New Year's Eve birthday, I opted for cupcakes instead, and everyone agreed, this is the best red velvet cupcake recipe ever!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
If you're new to red velvet, or just used to having red velvet cake (instead of cupcakes) you might be a little hesitant to try this recipe. But let me assure you, it is a delicious treat that the whole family will love!
Here are some things I love about this recipe:
- Ready in a Hurry - These cupcakes can be iced and out the door within 15-30 minutes of baking. So there is no need to wait, chill, crumb coat, and ice a 2 layer cake!
- All Natural Coloring - With just the use of a vegetable powder blend, these cupcakes have a delightful bright red color, without the use of red food dye! Plus, it gives you almost an entire beet per serving, with no strange taste!
- Easy to Customize - Whether you are making these for Valentine's Day, a wedding, or just for a birthday, you can dress them up or down with festive cupcake liners, sprinkles, and more!
Alright, so what exactly IS red velvet cake? I mean, what's the flavor?
For a long time, I thought it was just a chocolate cake with a lot of red food dye. And while there is cacao powder in this recipe, it's actually not a chocolate cake.
Instead, this is a delightfully tangy buttermilk cake with a hint of chocolate that is so moist and tender you will crave it long after your plate is empty.
So, what are the ingredients? Let's break them down next.
For The Cupcakes -
- Flour - We use all-purpose einkorn flour, however, any all-purpose flour will work well in this recipe. If using whole wheat or freshly ground flour, use the same amount by weight, and then adjust the liquid by adding it slowly until the right texture is reached.
- Butter - Salted or unsalted works just as well in this recipe, I prefer salted, but you can use unsalted without any changes to the other salt measurement.
- Sugar - For this recipe, we use organic unrefined cane sugar. You can use whatever sugar you would like. If using liquid sweetener, I recommend adding extra flour until the texture of the batter is thick enough. Otherwise, the cake may sink in the middle, or just not bake fully.
- Eggs - Whole eggs are used, they can be room temperature or straight out of the fridge.
- Cacao - We use this organic fermented cacao, however, any cocoa you have on hand will work just as well! Note: Using a dark cocoa will change the taste. That may be perfect for you, but just be aware.
- Buttermilk - We don't typically have buttermilk on hand, so we use this buttermilk substitute instead. That comes out to 1 cup of buttermilk and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in place of the buttermilk.
- Lemon Juice - You can also use white vinegar, but I like the lemon juice best. This is in addition to any lemon juice you may add to create a buttermilk substitute.
- Red Food Coloring - While traditional red food dye will work here, we prefer this all-natural red food coloring which consists of powdered beets and turmeric powder. If using traditional liquid food dye, use 1-2 tablespoons or enough to reach the color of red you prefer.
- Vanilla - Any vanilla extract will work here, this is to enhance and deepen the overall flavor of the cake.
- Salt - Another flavor enhancer, don't skip!
- Baking Soda - In addition to the eggs, the baking soda helps the cake rise to its full fluffiness.
For The Frosting -
- Cream Cheese - Store-bought or homemade cream cheese would be perfect for this recipe. Either way, the tangy zip of the frosting will pair perfectly with the cake!
- Butter - Again, either salted or unsalted will work here. We prefer salted. Make sure it's room temperature before using, and if you're making this during the "cold butter" season, just know that you might see a few butter flakes in the finished icing.
- Powdered Sugar - Traditionally, powdered cane sugar is used. However, you can also use powdered maple syrup instead if you're avoiding cane sugar! It's easy to make and delicious!
- Vanilla - Again this is to enhance and deepen the overall flavor of the frosting.
- Salt - Another flavor enhancer, don't skip!
As delicious as this recipe is, the instructions are even easier! Take a second to familiarize yourself with the overview, and then get the detailed recipe card with ingredient amounts below!
- Prepare – Preheat oven to 350°F. Add liners to 18 cupcake cavities.
- Cream – With an electric mixer, cream together softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy (several minutes). Add eggs one at a time and cream for several minutes before adding the next egg. Beat in vanilla extract until blended.
- Add Dry Ingredients – In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the flour, cacao powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Combine – Next, add the buttermilk and lemon juice to the batter, and mix until smooth.
- Tint – Add powdered food coloring, or 1-2 tablespoons of red food dye and mix just until blended.
- Divide and Bake – Scoop batter evenly into 18 cupcake liners and bake at 350°F for 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool completely (about 20 minutes) before frosting.
- Icing - Cream the butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until smooth and firm. Add a dash of milk if needed for texture.
- Decorate - Finally, pipe your cream cheese icing on the top of your cupcakes and enjoy!
Red velvet cupcakes are distinct with a subtle cocoa flavor, a hint of buttermilk tanginess, and a vibrant red color. They often have a unique combination of ingredients like vinegar and baking soda that react to enhance the texture and flavor.
Absolutely! Natural food coloring is a great alternative for those avoiding artificial dyes. We prefer this powdered coloring made from beets and turmeric! Adjust the quantity based on your desired color intensity.
The combination of lemon juice and baking soda in red velvet cupcakes creates a chemical reaction that helps the cupcakes rise and become light and fluffy. The acid also enhances the red color and adds a subtle tanginess to the flavor.
While buttermilk contributes to the distinctive flavor and texture, not everyone has it on hand. Instead, you can make a substitute by adding 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to a cup of milk. Let it sit for a few minutes before using in the recipe. Easy!
If your cupcakes are turning out a little on the dry side, reduce the bake time for your oven by 2-3 minutes. This will help the moisture content, and get you eating cupcakes even faster!
Yes, you can freeze red velvet cupcakes without frosting or with unfrosted cupcakes individually wrapped. Adding the frosting after thawing is best to maintain the creamy texture, however, if you have a bunch of already iced cupcakes that you don't want to go to waste, pop them onto a wax paper-lined baking tray and press the icing flat to create a disc on the top of the cupcake. Once frozen, you can remove them from the tray and wrap them individually, or put them in a plastic bag. Then when you thaw them, the icing will be without chips and should have a lovely texture!
Even More Delicious Desserts
If you're looking to WOW your party guests or impress your family, these dessert recipes with help you knock their socks off!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
For the Cake:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 300g (we use einkorn flour)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup butter (room temperature)
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons cacao powder
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/4 cup all-natural red food coloring or 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid red food coloring
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
- 3/4 cup butter (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Pinch salt
- 1 ½ pounds powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Add liners to 18 cupcake cavities.
- With an electric mixer, cream together softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy (several minutes). Add eggs one at a time and cream for several minutes before adding the next egg. Beat in vanilla extract until blended.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the flour, cacao powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Next, add the buttermilk and lemon juice to the batter, and mix until smooth.
- Add powdered food coloring, or 1-2 tablespoons of red food dye and mix just until blended.
- Scoop batter evenly into 18 cupcake liners and bake at 350°F for 22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool completely (about 20 minutes) before frosting.
- Cream the butter and cream cheese in an electric mixer until smooth. Add powdered sugar, salt, and vanilla. Beat until smooth and firm. Add a dash of milk if needed for texture.
- Finally, pipe your cream cheese icing on the top of your cupcakes and enjoy!