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This decadent red velvet cupcakes recipe with cream cheese frosting features rich, moist, and flavorful cake with a tangy, fluffy frosting. This recipe whips up in less than an hour and is the perfect treat for Valentine’s Day, date night, or anytime!

easy red velvet cupcake recipe with swirled cream cheese frosting

Delicious cupcakes are good, but delicious cupcakes that support a good cause are even better. I made these cookies to support a very important cause: Good Cookies Food Bloggers’ Valentines Event organized by Julie!

This is now the fifth year that Julie organized this event to support Cookies for Kid’s Cancer.

Cancer is the leading cause of children’s disease-related death in the U.S. Right now, 40,000 children here are actively battling cancer. And less than 4% of the National Cancer Institute’s budget goes to childhood cancer. This is why Julie got involved. Because of her efforts with this project, this event has raised over $87,000!

The goal is to raise $3,000 in donations. The three event sponsors (Dixie Crystals, MediaVine, and OXO) have each agreed to match the donations up to $3,000. That means when we raise $1, it turns into $4! You can read more about this event on Julie’s blog or donate here.

I have so much respect for Julie for her incredible work supporting such a great cause. And thank you, Dear Readers, for reading and considering donating. Please do what you can, even if it’s just helping to spread the word about childhood cancer awareness. xoxo, Faith

moist red velvet cupcake recipe with creamy cream cheese frosting

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Confession time! I like red velvet cake well enough, but when left to my own devices I’m really a chocolate girl. The amount of chocolate in red velvet is minimal. But the thing is, I also like a great vanilla cake! I stopped thinking of red velvet as chocolate cake because it’s not. However, it’s delicious in its own right.

If you’re wondering what red velvet tastes like, it’s a moist, velvety cake with a tangy vanilla flavor and just a whisper of chocolate. And it pairs perfectly with the rich tanginess of cream cheese frosting.

Here’s what you’re going to love about this recipe:

  1. These cupcakes are so pretty and so delicious that they just feel special, like something you’d pick up at a bakery. Make them for someone you love and you’re sure to brighten their day.
  2. This recipe makes a small batch of 8 cupcakes! Even if you’re just whipping them up for you and your sweetie for Valentine’s Day, you won’t have a ton leftover. (And they freeze well.)

Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe Ingredients and Substitutions

Cupcake Ingredients

Ingredients Explained

In this section I explain the ingredients and give substitution ideas where applicable. For the full recipe (including the ingredient amounts), see the recipe card below.

red velvet cupcakes ingredients
  • Unsalted butter – This adds rich flavor to the cake.
  • Oil – You can use any mild or neutral-flavored oil here, such as vegetable oil, canola oil, or avocado oil. Using a combination of oil and butter (instead of using all butter) in cake recipes helps yield a fluffier cake.
  • Sugar – We use regular granulated white sugar as the main sweetener in this recipe.
  • Light brown sugar – Just a little bit of brown sugar adds rich notes of molasses and caramel.
  • Egg – We only need 1 egg for this small batch of cupcakes.
  • Buttermilk – Buttermilk is a traditional ingredient in classic red velvet cupcakes. It lends a slightly tangy flavor and helps create the perfect moist, tender crumb.
  • Vanilla extract – We add a splash of vanilla extract for depth of flavor.
  • Flour – We use regular all-purpose flour.
  • Unsweetened cocoa powder – Use regular (not Dutch-processed) cocoa powder here. Don’t be tempted to add more; red velvet just uses a tiny little bit of cocoa powder. The cocoa adds an undertone of chocolate.
  • Baking powder – This is the main leavening agent in these cupcakes.
  • Salt – Salt elevates the flavor.
  • Baking soda – We only need a little bit of baking soda; it’s our secondary leavening agent in this recipe.
  • Red gel food coloring – This is what puts the “red” in our red velvet cupcakes! If you don’t use food dyes, you can omit it if you don’t mind the cupcakes being a light shade of brown instead of red. (Or use beet root powder to naturally color them.)

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients

cream cheese frosting ingredients
  • Unsalted butter – Or you can use salted butter and omit the added salt.
  • Cream cheese – The tangy flavor and silky smooth texture of cream cheese make this frosting something special.
  • Vanilla extract – For flavor and aroma.
  • Salt – To pull out the flavors of everything else.
  • Powdered sugar – Like American buttercream frosting recipes, this cream cheese frosting has a base of powdered sugar.

How to Make Red Velvet Cupcakes From Scratch

Make the Cupcakes

how to make red velvet cupcakes
  1. Whisk together the butter, oil, sugars, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Once the wet ingredients are combined, add the dry ingredients and whisk to combine.
  2. The batter will be brown because of the cocoa powder before adding the red food coloring. After adding the red food coloring, this is how the batter will look. Note that you can omit the coloring if you prefer, but your cupcakes will be brown instead of red.
  3. Scoop the batter into 8 muffin wells lined with paper liners in a muffin tray.
  4. Bake until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean.

Whip Up the Frosting

close up top view of cream cheese frosting

While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting!

Add the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt to a large bowl, and beat them together with a handheld electric mixer. Then add the powdered sugar and beat until the frosting is smooth and creamy.

Frost the Cupcakes

piping cream cheese frosting swirls on cupcakes

Frost the cupcakes once they’re cool. You can pipe on the frosting, or go old school and spread it on with a butter knife.

Enjoy!

Storage

You can store frosted cupcakes covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Before serving, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes so the frosting can soften.

Tips

  • You can leave out the red food coloring if you prefer, or use beet root powder to naturally color the cupcakes.
  • This recipe is easy to double (or triple) if you need a big batch! They make the perfect Valentine’s Day dessert for a classroom party or birthday party.
  • You aren’t limited to cream cheese frosting here! You can use just about any type of frosting you like.
close up of red velvet cupcake

Red Velvet Cake Recipe FAQs

What Does Red Velvet Cake Taste Like?

Red velvet is a moist cake with a velvety texture that strikes a perfect balance between fluffy and dense.

It’s a red-colored cake with a hint of both chocolate and vanilla flavor, and a slight tang from buttermilk. Not only does buttermilk lend a slightly tangy flavor to this recipe, but it also helps keep this cake moist.

Can I Use Regular Milk Instead of Buttermilk Here?

Yes! If you want to use milk instead of buttermilk, use 1/4 cup of whole milk + 1/2 tablespoon distilled vinegar.

Can I Freeze Red Velvet Cupcakes?

Yes! You can easily freeze frosted cupcakes of any kind.

How to Freeze Cupcakes:

  1. Place the frosted cupcakes on a tray so they’re not touching, and place them (uncovered) in the freezer.
  2. Keep them in the freezer until they’re frozen solid, about 2 to 4 hours.
  3. Once they’re frozen, remove the cupcakes from the freezer, wrap each in plastic wrap, and place them in a zip-top plastic bag. When you close the bag, be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible.
  4. Label the bag with the date and contents and freeze for up to 3 months.
  5. When you want a cupcake, remove one from the freezer and let it thaw to room temperature.
top view of red velvet cupcake on crinkled wax paper

What Kind of Frosting Goes with Red Velvet Cake?

I personally love the tangy flavor and creamy, yet fluffy texture of cream cheese frosting with this cake. And it’s a total bonus that this type of frosting is so easy to make!

American-style vanilla buttercream is also a good choice. If you go this route, you can cut the buttercream recipe in half and you will still have plenty to frost this small batch of cupcakes.

I can’t remember where I heard it, but I heard that the classic frosting for Red Velvet Cake is Ermine Frosting, which is also known as Boiled Milk Frosting, Flour Buttercream, or Roux Buttercream. To make this type of buttercream, flour, sugar, and milk are first cooked together. They’re cooled, and then whipped with butter.

More Cupcake Recipes to Try

close up showing moist inside of homemade red velvet cupcake

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Easy Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe with Cream Cheese Frosting

Prep Time23 minutes
Cook Time22 minutes
Servings: 8 servings
This decadent red velvet cupcakes recipe with cream cheese frosting features rich, moist, and flavorful cake with a tangy, fluffy frosting. This recipe whips up in less than an hour and is the perfect treat for Valentine’s Day, date night, or anytime!

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Ingredients
 

Red Velvet Cupcakes:

Cream Cheese Frosting:

Instructions
 

For the Red Velvet Cupcakes:

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a muffin tray with 8 paper liners.
  • Whisk together the butter, oil, sugar, brown sugar, egg, buttermilk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whisk in the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add the food coloring and whisk until it’s fully incorporated.
  • Pour the batter evenly into the 8 lined muffin wells. Bake until a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the muffin tray, and then carefully transfer the cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • Beat together the butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl.
  • Add the powdered sugar and beat until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
  • Frost the cupcakes once they’re completely cool.

Notes

  • Red Gel Food Coloring: If desired, you can omit the red gel food coloring from this recipe. Or you can use beet root powder to naturally color them.
  • Storage: You can store frosted cupcakes covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Before serving, let them sit at room temperature for 15 minutes so the frosting can soften.

Nutrition

Serving: 1frosted cupcake | Calories: 393kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 18g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 59mg | Sodium: 191mg | Potassium: 116mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 46g | Vitamin A: 495IU | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutritional information is automatically calculated and should be used as an approximate.

Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Keyword: Red Velvet Cupcakes, Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe, Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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red velvet cupcakes recipe pin

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This post was first published on An Edible Mosaic on February 1, 2021 and updated on February 14, 2024.

Faith, author of An Edible Mosaic.
About Faith

I’m the writer, recipe developer, photographer, and food stylist behind this blog. I love finding the human connection through something we all do every day: eat! Food is a common ground that we can all relate to, and our tables tell a story. It’s my goal to inspire you to get in the kitchen, try something new, and find a favorite you didn’t know you had.

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One Comment

  1. Wendy Klik says:

    Thanks so much for this small batch recipe. They look lovely and I’m sure they are delicious.

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