Red Velvet Cupcakes

A fluffy, chocolate-infused cupcake topped with lemony cream cheese frosting. If you’re looking for THE red velvet cupcake recipe, look no further. 

I never quite understood the Red Velvet hype that dominated the cupcake world until I actually tried one. Food coloring seems daunting in a sense- overpoweringly bright and unnatural- because, well, it is. So whenever I made my way into a cupcakery, I went for the classic chocolate or vanilla as opposed to the daring red.

But when someone brings a box of cupcakes to your house, out of which half are Red Velvet cupcakes, it’s simply impossible to refuse the seductive smells of sugar mixed with butter and vanilla. I tried all the flavors that were present in that box- but the subtleness of chocolate paired with a slightly tart cream cheese icing was a taste that lingered in my mouth. It was Red Velvet.

red velvet cupcakes

I attempted to use no dye, to use a natural colour such as beetroot to compensate for food colouring. But any other colour besides a deep red with hints of chocolate seemed wrong- It just isn’t Red Velvet without the red component. So I made an exception, like you sometimes have to do.

The colour of this particular cupcake seems more natural than the artificial variation because it has a larger amount of cocoa powder, which not only adds a rich flavor, but also mollifies the brightness of the red just slightly. These cupcakes are incredibly moist, light, fluffy and give a very tender crumb. In other words, they melt in your mouth.

red velvet cupcakes

You’ll need to keep a couple key things in mind when trying out this recipe.

1. Food colouring

This makes or breaks Red Velvet. If you use the wrong kind, you’ll end up with a cupcake whose color that looks like rust or dried blood. Not exactly appetising. If you use one that has a low concentration, you’ll need to use A LOT before ending up with a vibrant red color. I suggest using a gel paste food coloring- you’ll need the entire bottle if using the Wilton brand, which is what I like to use. Let me know if there’s one that you use that works well.

2. Baking soda and vinegar

In this recipe, these two ingredients are added last, one after the other. This ensures a quicker reaction that will cause the cupcakes to rise. You need to ensure that the baking soda is not added when it is clumped, it needs to be a smooth powder. You can sift it to make sure of this. Another alternative is to mix the baking soda and the vinegar together, and then add those ingredients to the batter. Either works. 

3. Cream cheese icing

It’s simple to make, no doubt. It’s also a (insert curse word here). This is because unlike a buttercream, adding more confectioners’ sugar will not thicken the frosting- it will do the exact opposite. So unless you want to end up with a sticky, drippy mess of a cupcake, stick to adding one cup (or even less!) of sugar. The other alternative would be to add like, 10 cups of sugar to the 8 oz cream cheese ratio because at that stage it might, just might, thicken up. Take your pick. I also like to add a little bit of lemon because it brings out the tartness in the cream cheese- they work beautifully together. Do it. 


All you have to do to make this is place 1/4 cup granulated sugar into a ziplock bag along with 2-4 drops of blue food colouring. Seal the bag and shake it vigorously. That’s it! Ready to sprinkle atop the cupcakes. 

blue sugar for red velvet cupcakes

In the video tutorial, I collaborated with my very talented friend Rachel of the Youtube channel Kawaii Sweet World. She made awesome mason jar cupcakes using this recipe, watch her awesome videos here!

red velvet cupcakes

The Best Red Velvet Cupcakes


For the cupcakes:

  • 1/4 cup (55 g) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup 150 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp (10 g) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp gel paste food coloring (add more if necessary)
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) buttermilk (or 1/2 cup milk + 1 tsp vinegar mixed together and set aside for a bit)
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsp (150 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tbsp vinegar

For the frosting:

  • 8 oz (225g) cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1/4 (55 g) cup unsalted butter, soft at room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (115 g) confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon juice


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C and line a 12-cup cupcake tray with paper liners.
  2. In a bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and beat vigorously until pale yellow, light and fluffy.
  4. Add in the cocoa and salt, and mix well. The batter may resemble chocolate cake batter especially if you are using dark cocoa, but fear not because the food coloring will transform the batter into a deep shade of red.
  5. Stir in the food coloring, adding in more if you need to, until you get your desired shade of red.
  6. Now, pour in the buttermilk, alternating with the flour in three intervals, starting with the buttermilk and ending with the flour.
  7. Mix just until combined, as over mixing after the flour is added will result in a tough, dry cupcake.
  8. Finally, stir in the baking soda, making sure that it melts into the batter.
  9. Stir in the vinegar and watch the batter aerate slightly.
  10. Scoop the batter into the cupcake liners, about 2/3- 3/4 of the way full. You should end up with exactly 12 cupcakes.
  11. Bake for 20-25 min or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean and cool completely before frosting.
  12. To make the frosting, blend the cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth.
  13. Add the confectioner's sugar gradually until you get soft peaks- at that stage, STOP!
  14. Finally, squeeze in the lemon juice.
  15. Pour the mixture into a piping/ziplock bag, snip off the end and pipe dollops of the frosting atop the cooled cupcakes.
  16. You can also just smear the frosting using a butter knife.
  17. Serve topped with coloured sugar or crumbled up cupcake.
Cupcake recipe adapted from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook, icing adapted from Janni at Allrecipes.

red velvet cupcakes

red velvet cupcakes

This post was originally published on July 2, 2015, but has been updated on July 4, 2020 for your reading pleasure.