These Homemade Red Velvet Cupcakes are soft and moist with a light and buttery, chocolate taste. Each bite of this classic cupcake recipe paired with cream cheese frosting gives you a delicious tasting combo. Make them for Valentine's Day or any time of the year!
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Where Did Red Velvet Cake Come From?
Some people think that red velvet cake originated from the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York, while others believe it originated with the Adams Extract Company by being one of the first companies to sell red food coloring.
During World War II, certain foods were being rationed like butter and sugar, so bakers would use beet juice or boiled beets to enhance the color of the cake. The beet juice acted as a way to keep the cakes moist.
These days you don't see too many red velvet recipes listing beets as an ingredient. Instead they call for red food coloring to give it that nice vibrant red color.
What's In Red Velvet Cupcakes?
You've probably seen the more traditional red velvet cupcakes with buttermilk and white vinegar—my recipe is a slightly different version of this classic that uses sour cream. Here's the breakdown of what ingredients are needed.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- All-purpose flour
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Baking soda
- Unsalted butter
- Granulated sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Sour cream
- Red food coloring
Cream Cheese Frosting
- Unsalted Butter
- Cream Cheese
- Clear Imitation Vanilla Extract
- Sifted Powdered Sugar
If you're looking for a red velvet cake recipe with buttermilk, check out my Single Layer Red Velvet Cake recipe!
Milk. For the milk you can use any dairy milk. I've made these using 1%, fat free, and a lactose free 1% milk. I did not test this recipe using any non-dairy milk.
Sour Cream. You can sub in the same amount of plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream.
Vanilla Extract. For the cream cheese frosting you can choose to use pure vanilla extract instead of the clear imitation extract. The reason I used this in the frosting recipe was to help keep the frosting whiter.
I did not test this recipe using any alternative flours, cocoa powders, sugars, or egg substitutes.
Let's Make the Recipe!
Here is a quick overview on how to make these red velvet cupcakes.
Whisk the dry ingredients together. This includes the all-purpose flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, and baking soda.
Mix the wet ingredients together. Start with the unsalted butter and granulated sugar, then add in the eggs, vanilla extract, and sour cream.
Bring it all together. Alternate between adding the whisked dry ingredients with the milk until it's all used. Mix it together until just combined.
Bust out the red food coloring. The more red food coloring you use, the more vibrant your red velvet cupcakes will be. I highly recommend wearing rubber gloves when you add the food coloring too. Nothing sucks more than having your fingers dyed red for days.
If you mix the red food coloring in using your mixer, do so on low speed. Alternatively you can stir the food coloring in with a spatula. Either way, be cautious not to over mix the batter.
Making the Perfect Cream Cheese Frosting
This cream cheese frosting has a nice whipped consistency and does well when piped into cupcakes!
To make this cream cheese frosting, you'll start by beating the unsalted butter and the cream cheese together. Then you'll add in the vanilla extract.
Stop your mixer to add in the powdered sugar, then mix on low speed until it all comes together. Then up your mixer speed to medium-high and mix it for about 3-4 minutes to give it a nice whipped consistency.
Decorating Your Cupcakes
When it comes time to decorate your homemade red velvet cupcakes you can apply the frosting 2 ways:
Offset spatula. This is the easiest way to decorate the cupcakes. You may find that when using this method you have some leftover frosting.
Decorating tip. While this can be slightly intimidating to some, this is a relatively easy method for applying the frosting.
I suggest using a large decorating tip, like the Wilton 1A decorating tip with a large piping bag like I did with this recipe. The Wilton 1A tip is also known as the open tip or open circle tip. A smaller alternative you can try is the 2A decorating tip.
How to Make Cream Cheese Frosting Look Whiter
Cream cheese frosting can sometimes give off a yellowish tint which isn't always the look we're going for. To get your cream cheese frosting whiter, here are a few suggestions that have worked well for me.
Start with the Butter. This really applies more to when you have a larger amount of butter in your recipe, but I still felt it was important to mention. The longer you beat the butter, before adding anything else, the less it will have that yellowish tint to it. Because we're working with such a small amount (2 tablespoons) in this recipe you won't need to worry about this.
Swap Out the Vanilla Extract. When you use pure vanilla extract, the brownish color can tint the cream cheese frosting which doesn't really help with making it whiter. You can instead use a clear imitation vanilla extract.
Use a White Icing Color. For those really want a bright white frosting, I recommend trying Wilton's White White Icing Color. It works well and I know some professional cake artists that like to use it.
Purple Food Coloring. Another suggestion that you can try with getting your cream cheese frosting whiter is to add a teeny tiny amount of purple food dye to the butter in the beginning of making the frosting.
And by teeny tiny I mean, taking a toothpick and adding just a dab of the color. Anymore and you could wind up with light lavender color icing, which is probably not what you're going for.
I haven't tried this with cream cheese frosting, but I have with buttercream frosting.
Red Velvet Cupcakes FAQs
I used a Wilton 1A decorating tip or open tip.
They are from my local grocery store, but you can find many different Valentine's Day themed sprinkles from Wilton, Sprinkle Pop Shop, and more.
I used Wilton's Color Right red.
I used 8-10 drops of the Wilton Color Right red. The number of drops will depend on the brand and if you're using regular or natural food coloring.
I used Wilton's wave cupcake liners in white. They don't hold as much cupcake batter as a standard size cupcake, but boy are they super cute! To see the wave liners in black, check out my Devil's Food Cupcakes recipe! For reference they come in a pack of 24.
Yes. Please note you will yield about 15 cupcakes with the standard size cupcake liners.
Enjoy These Other Cupcake Recipes!
- Devil's Food Cupcakes
- Simple & Delicious Black Bottom Cupcakes
- Small Batch Lemon Cupcakes
- Super Moist Carrot Cake Cupcakes
Homemade Red Velvet CupcakesAuthor:
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- 1 ¼ cup All-Purpose Flour
- ¼ cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- ½ cup Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
- 1 cup Granulated Sugar
- 2 Large Eggs (room temperature)
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- ½ cup Sour Cream
- ½ cup Milk (any dairy milk is acceptable including lactose-free milk)
- 8-10 drops Red Food Coloring (number of drops will vary based on brand used)
- Sprinkles ()
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Adjust the oven rack to 2nd level position (just above center) and preheat your oven to 350ºF. Line 2 cupcake tins with up to 18 cupcake liners. If using standard cupcake liners, you will yield closer to 15 cupcakes.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, unsweetened cocoa powder, and baking soda. Set aside.1 ¼ cup All-Purpose Flour, ¼ cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, ½ teaspoon Baking Soda
- Using your hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the unsalted butter and granulated sugar together on medium-high speed until light in color and fluffy in texture.½ cup Unsalted Butter, 1 cup Granulated Sugar
- Add in the eggs, vanilla extract, and sour cream, mixing until fully blended.2 Large Eggs, 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract, ½ cup Sour Cream
- Switching the mixer speed to low, alternatively add in whisked dry ingredients with the milk. Mix until just combined. The batter will be on the thicker side, but still very easy to scoop and place into the cupcake liners.½ cup Milk
- With your mixer on low speed, add in enough red food dye to get a nice bright red color. I used 8-10 drops using the Wilton Color Right red. The number of drops will vary based on what brand you use.8-10 drops Red Food Coloring
- With a 1 ½ tablespoon-size cookie scoop or 2 spoons, fill the cupcake liners ⅔ full.
- Place in the oven and bake for 20-22 minutes at 350ºF or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. The cupcakes should have a nice dome shape to them.
- When done, allow the cupcakes to cool for approx. 5-10 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack. Frost the cupcakes once they have completely cooled.
- Unfrosted cupcakes can be kept in an airtight container for up to 3 days at room temperature.
Cream Cheese Frosting
- With a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the unsalted butter and cream cheese on medium-high speed until well blended. Add in the vanilla extract.2 tablespoon Unsalted Butter, 4 oz Cream Cheese, 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- With your mixer turned off, add in the sifted powdered sugar. Turn the mixer speed to low and mix until it's well blended. Then set the mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 2-3 minutes until it's a nice whipped consistency.2 cups Sifted Powdered Sugar
Decorating the Cupcakes
- Frost the cupcakes using an offset spatula or a large piping bag fitted with a large decorating tip. I used the 1A Wilton decorating tip. Top with sprinkles and enjoy!Sprinkles
- Keep any leftover frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
- You'll yield about 18 cupcakes using the Wilton wave cupcake liners. With standard cupcake liners, you will yield closer to 15 cupcakes.
- When working with food coloring, I recommend using rubber gloves.
- The prep time for making the cream cheese frosting is approximately 10 minutes. Decoration time will vary based upon what method of decorating you go with and your level of experience.
- The cream cheese frosting recipe yields approximately 1 ½ cups or 367 grams.
- Every oven and kitchen set up is different. Please make sure your oven temperature is calibrated correctly.
This red velvet cupcakes recipe was originally published on 1/23/2019. It has been updated with refreshed images and new tips.