What is it about red velvet that people love so much? The dessert has surged in popularity over the past few years and The Hummingbird Bakery sell around 440,000 Red Velvet Cupcakes every year! I've made Red Velvet Cupcakes a few times in the past, so I really wanted to share my recipe with you as it is absolutely delicious, and it's such a perfect dessert for Valentine's Day, or any day!
My two favourite things about red velvet are firstly the bright vibrant colour - it's so attractive and appealing. Secondly - cream. cheese. frosting! Need I say more?! Cream cheese frosting is absolutely heavenly! If you want to find the way to my heart, presenting me with some Red Velvet Cupcakes is a pretty good way to start! These Red Velvet Cupcakes are so light and fluffy, and the cream cheese frosting on top is an absolute dream! It's super thick and perfectly pipeable - which can be tricky using UK ingredients as we don't have the same kind of cream cheese as the USA do. But I've found method to make it work and I'm excited to share it with you!
Ingredient Tips & Equipment Information
- Make sure all your ingredients (particularly the butter, buttermilk and eggs) are at room temperature before you start baking.
- I used unsalted butter for the buttercream, for the cupcakes I used a baking spread.
- You will need to use a professional grade food colouring to get the same shade of red that you can see in my photos. Brands I recommend are Pro Gel and Sugarflair. I have also heard good things about Colour Mill and Americolor.
- I prefer to use Philadelphia full fat cream cheese for the buttercream as it gives me the best results.
- Although I provide cup measurements, I highly recommend weighing your ingredients out using digital kitchen scales*. It is the most accurate way to measure ingredients and will ensure the best results. Digital scales are very low cost and can be purchased for around £12 ($16.50) .
- For teaspoon (tsp) and tablespoon (tbsp) measurements, please use measuring spoons* and not the type of spoons you eat with. Again this will ensure accuracy and provide the best results.
For the full recipe with measurements, head to the recipe card at the end of this post.
How to make Red Velvet Cupcakes
To make the cupcakes, whisk together butter and sugar, then whisk in the eggs and vanilla extract.
Whisk in the buttermilk, red food colouring, bicarbonate of soda, cocoa powder and self raising flour until smooth. Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases. (I used white cases so the red of the sponge could be seen through the sides!) Bake for 20 minutes, then put them on a rack to cool fully.
To make the cream cheese frosting, mixed together softened butter and icing sugar, then add cream cheese and vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Pipe the frosting on top of the cupcakes, then add some cake crumbs to decorate.
What is the best food colouring to use?
To get a bright red shade that remains strong after the cupcakes are baked you need to use a professional grade gel food colouring. You can buy these easily from many online shops, including amazon. I used the brand Pro Gel for these cupcakes.
Can this recipe be made into a cake?
For a cake version of this recipe, check out my Red Velvet Cake!
What if you can't get hold of buttermilk?
If you can't hold of buttermilk, you can use the same amount of milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice added, leave it for a few minutes until it goes lumpy then it's ready to use!
Can the Red Velvet Cupcakes be frozen?
You can freeze the cupcakes either alone, or decorated. Once the cupcakes are fully cool, wrap them well with cling film or put them in an airtight container. You can freeze the cream cheese frosting on it’s own in a tub, or you can decorate the cupcakes and freeze them assembled.
Can you make this recipe with plain/all purpose flour?
Self raising flour, which is very commonly used in the UK where I am based, already contains a raising agent and a little salt too. Therefore if you want to swap it for plain or all purpose flour, you will need to add some additional baking powder and also a little salt if you like. Some people like to add salt to cake recipes and some don't, so I'll leave that up to you as it won't affect the bake. The general advice is to add 2 teaspoons baking powder (a measuring teaspoon, not the kind you stir your coffee with) per every 200g plain or all purpose flour. So for this recipe you'd need to add 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder. Please note, I have not tested this recipe using plain or all purpose flour.
Can this recipe be made gluten or dairy free?
Yes! For gluten free you can replace the self raising flour with a gluten free self raising flour blend. If you only have a gluten free plain flour blend, you will need to add additonal baking powder. The general advice is to add 2 tsp baking powder per 200g flour, so for this recipe you'd need to add 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder. You may also like to add ½ tsp Xantham Gum for better texture. For a dairy free version, use a dairy free baking spread for the cake and buttercream. You can make dairy free buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice (or cider vinegar) to dairy free milk. You will also need to use dairy free cream cheese for the buttercream.
More tips for making the Red Velvet Cupcakes:
- I used a Wilton 1M piping nozzle to pipe on the frosting.
- Make sure to store these cupcakes in the fridge once they've been frosted.
The photos were updated and the recipe slightly updated for this post in January 2020.
Recommended Equipment and Ingredients*
- Cupcake tin
- Mixing bowls
- Kitchen scales
- Electric hand mixer
- Cooling rack
- Piping bags
- Wilton 1M Piping nozzle
- Red food colouring
- White cupcake cases
*I earn a small amount of money if you buy the products after clicking on the links. You will not be charged anything extra for this. Thank you for supporting The Baking Explorer!
More Red Velvet recipes...
For the sponge
- 150 g Butter or baking spread
- 150 g Caster sugar
- 2 Eggs large
- 85 ml Buttermilk
- 165 g Self raising flour
- ½ tsp Bicarbonate of soda
- 1 ½ tbsp Cocoa powder
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 1 tsp Red food colouring I use Pro Gel
For the cream cheese buttercream
- 135 g Butter unsalted, softened
- 135 g Icing sugar
- 270 g Full fat cream cheese I use Philadelphia
- ½ tsp Vanilla
- Pre-heat your oven to 160C Fan/180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 and line a cupcake tin with cupcake cases
- Mix the butter and sugar together until fluffy, ideally with an electric mixer, or you can mix in a bowl with a wooden or silicone spoon
- Add the eggs and vanilla extract, and mix in well
- Add the cocoa powder, bicarbonate of soda, red food colouring, buttermilk and self raising flour, and whisk in gently until fully combined
- Divide the mixture between the cupcakes cases, and bake them for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cupcakes comes out clean. Put them on a rack to cool completely
- To make the cream cheese frosting, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until smooth. Then mix in the icing sugar until the mixture is smooth
- Next, add the cream cheese and the vanilla extract and mix in until the frosting is thick and smooth. Be careful not to over mix as this can make the frosting sloppy, and you won't be able to get it thick again
- If you want to decorate the cupcakes with cake crumbs, level off a couple of the cupcakes and crumble up the pieces
- Pipe or spread the frosting on top of the cupcakes, then add sprinkles of your choice, or cake crumbs
- Store in the fridge and eat within 3 days