Red Velvet Cupcakes

I’m always making some kind of red velvet dessert but I’ve never made red velvet cupcakes. That seems not right. 

Red velvet cheesecake cake, red velvet cheesecake brownies, red velvet cookies….but no red velvet cupcakes.

So I felt like it was about time I made them.

The red velvet cupcakes in a cream coloured cupcake tin.

Video Tutorial

Ingredients for the red velvet cupcakes

Most of the ingredients for the cupcakes are your typical ingredients, but there are a few I wanted to talk about:

The oil

Cakes and cupcakes typically have some kind of fat in them, this is usually either butter or oil. Butter adds great flavour to cakes, whereas oil adds a lot of moisture.

For these cupcakes I used both so that they had good flavour and also moistness.

Any flavourless oil works. I always use vegetable oil, rapeseed oil to be more specific. But any flavourless one does work.

The buttermilk

You can’t be making red velvet cake without using buttermilk, that’s not right.

I feel like buttermilk is one of the main ingredient that differentiates red velvet from other cakes. It’s the ingredient that give it that velvety texture because one, the acidity in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda, giving you a softer, fluffier cake. And two, just like the oil, it adds a lot of moisture.

It best to use actual buttermilk, but if you don’t have it, you could make a buttermilk substitute. All you have to do is:

  • Mix 140ml whole milk with 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar
  • Leave this aside for 10 minutes
  • Now it’s ready to use.

With that being said though, I do think actual buttermilk gives you a much better cake!

The vinegar

Vinegar is another ingredient that is important in red velvet cakes.

Just like the buttermilk, the acidity of the vinegar reacts with the baking soda. This creates bubbles which gives you a much fluffier cake.

I always use white vinegar, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice works well too!

The top of 12 of the red velvet cupcakes after they had been decorated.

What food colouring to use

When it comes to red velvet cake, the food colouring you use makes a big difference.

You want to use a gel or paste food colouring.

Liquid or powder food colouring is just not concentrated enough to give your cake a good red colour.

The specific one I use is called ‘Red Extra’ from Sugarflair. I just get it from Amazon. But any gel or paste food colouring should be good!

How many cupcakes does this recipe make?

I wanted to mention this, this recipe makes around 15 cupcakes.

I know that this is a very awkward number, most cupcakes recipes usually make 12 or 24.

I’ve tried adjusting the recipe so that it it only makes 12. But it just didn’t work out the way I wanted it too.

So I am taking this moment to apologise….I’m sorry, this recipe is giving you a random number of cupcakes. But also extra cupcakes is never a bad thing I guess

The inside of one of the red velvet cupcakes.

Common questions

Here are some common question that I get, I feel like they might be helpful with this recipe:

Why is my red velvet cake not bright red?

2 reasons for this, you either used the wrong food colouring; again gel or paste is best to use. Or the 2nd reason, you just didn’t add enough. 

For red velvet cake, you do need to use quite a lot of food colouring to achieve a bright red colour.

You can probably tell by the pictures in this blog post, but my cupcakes are not the reddest. I see a lot of very bright red velvet cakes and cupcakes.

The reason why I don’t make mine super bright is just because the more food colouring you use, the more chances there are of your mouth also turning red when you eat them. So I prefer to use a little less food colouring.

But you can use as much as you want, make the cupcakes as bright as you want!

Can I leave the food colouring out?

Yes, they might look more like chocolate cupcakes. But they will still taste exactly the same.

Why are my cupcakes not flat?

I feel like the main reason why cupcakes can end up not flat is just because the cupcake cases were filled too much.

You want to fill them until they’re 3/4 of the way full. If you fill them more than this, you can end up with cupcakes that have domes.

Either way though, it honestly doesn’t matter. Even if you slightly overfill your cases and end up with cupcakes with domes, they still taste the same and they’re getting covered with a cream cheese icing anyway. So don’t worry about this too much!

12 of the red velvet cupcakes before they were baked.
12 of the red velvet cupcakes after being baked.

Ingredients for the cream cheese frosting

The cream cheese frosting is pretty easy to make. You only need 4 ingredients. Here’s what you will need:

Softened unsalted butter

Make sure that this is softened. It will be a lot harder to mix if it’s not.

You don’t even need to wait for it to come to room temperature. I just heat it in the microwave for 10 second intervals until the butter feels soft.

Icing sugar

Also known as powdered sugar.

I recommend sieving this before using it. I am normally against sieving things, I think it’s a scam designed to waste our time.

BUT when it comes to icing sugar, sieving it makes a huge difference. You will have a much smoother frosting if you sieve it!

Vanilla extract

For flavour of course.

Cream cheese

It’s important to use full fat cream cheese. If you use low fat, you will end up with a very thin frosting.

Can I make these cupcakes by hand?

For the cupcake batter, you need to beat the butter, oil, sugar and vanilla together for 5 minutes.

For the frosting, you need to beat the butter and icing sugar together for 5 minutes.

So I use an electric mixer.

These cupcakes can still be made by hand though, just be prepared for a workout.

The 5 minutes is more of a suggestion though. If you are making these by hand, just beat for as long as you can.

But also do it for at least 2 minutes!

Not feeling red velvet cupcakes? Here are a few other cupcake recipes you might like:

Red Velvet Cupcakes

4.8 from 4 votes

Makes: 15 Cupcakes

  • For the cupcakes:
  • 125g unsalted butter, softened

  • 100ml any flavourless oil (I use vegetable oil)

  • 250g granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  • 4 eggs

  • 140g buttermilk

  • 230g plain flour

  • 20g cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar

  • Plus some red gel food colouring

  • For the cream cheese frosting:
  • 250g unsalted butter, softened

  • 250g icing sugar, sieved

  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

  • 500g cream cheese


  • Making the cupcakes:
  • Start by pre-heating your oven to 180c/350f. Also add your cupcake cases into your cupcake tins.
  • In a large bowl, add the butter, oil, sugar and vanilla. Using an electric mixer, beat these together on high speed for 5 minutes. This can also be done by hand, just whisk aggressively for as long as you can.
  • Add 2 of the eggs, whisk these in. Then whisk in the remaining 2 eggs. Now whisk in the buttermilk and red food colouring.
  • Add the flour and cocoa powder into this and whisk just until you get a smooth batter.
  • In a separate small bowl, add the baking soda and then pour the vinegar over it. This will start bubbling, give it a quick mix, then immediately pour it into your cake batter and mix until incorporated.
  • Fill you cupcakes cases with this batter until they're 3/4 of the way full, then bake them for around 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Once baked, leave these aside to cool.
  • Making the cream cheese frosting:
  • In a large bowl, add the softened butter and beat this for 1 minute.
  • Add half of the icing sugar to this and mix. Now add the rest of the icing sugar along with the vanilla. Mix until combined and then beat this on high speed for 5 minutes.
  • Add in the cream cheese and mix until you get a smooth, thick mixture.
  • Decorating the cupcakes:
  • Once your cupcakes have cooled, you can decorate them.
  • You can decorate them however you want, I just added the cream cheese frosting into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip. I piped swirls on top of the cupcakes, then I got one plain cupcake, broke this apart, and sprinkled these cake crumbs over the rest of the cupcakes.
  • Once decorated, enjoy!


  1. Fairy
    February 10, 2023 / 10:24 am

    Tried this recipe today for my cooking class and absolutely LOVED it! I also noticed that these taste even better the next day! I do however wish that the recipe had a imperial conversion because I live in North America and it is difficult to convert it myself. Other than that minor set back I would rate this recipe 4.5 out of 5 stars ⭐

  2. Bex
    February 11, 2023 / 11:49 am

    Hi Ash!
    Think it’d be okay to half this recipe?

    • Ash Baber
      February 11, 2023 / 2:15 pm

      Yesss I’ve halved it before and it worked out great!

  3. Isabel
    February 16, 2023 / 10:44 pm

    Can I use Philadelphia cream cheese for this recipe?

    • Ash Baber
      February 17, 2023 / 8:20 am

      you can!

  4. Tiago
    April 21, 2023 / 8:21 pm

    What kind of cream cheese do you use? In the UK I can’t find brick cream cheese…

    • Ash Baber
      April 22, 2023 / 7:02 am

      i use the sainsbury’s brand full fat soft cheese!

  5. Saba
    June 2, 2023 / 9:29 pm

    Hey! W ould it be possible to substitute the buttermilk for something else? If not/not recommended, which brand buttercream do you use?
    Thank you 🙂

    • Ash Baber
      June 3, 2023 / 10:43 am

      Hey, you can either use plain natural yoghurt. Or you can mix 140ml of whole milk with 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar, leave this aside for 10 minutes. Then you can use this!