I love mini dessert recipes and was so thrilled to be invited to share with you the best red velvet cupcake recipe that has ever come out of my kitchen.
In the interest of full disclosure, and to give you the backstory on how these amazing red velvet cupcakes came to be, I should tell you I’m a bit of a baking nerd. I love understanding how different foods react to each other and the chemistry of baking so that I can then use that information to get the results that I want out of my baking.
Naturally, when I wanted to develop the best red velvet cupcake recipe that I could, I wanted to know more about red velvet cupcakes – how they came to have such a unique name and how the original bakers were able to get a red-colored cake without the use of red food dye.
As it turns out, the red color came from a natural reaction when natural cocoa powder mixes with buttermilk. However, most people now use “dutch process” cocoa powder in their baking, which has been chemically altered and will not have that same reaction. In order to produce a red color, most modern recipes actually reduce the amount of cocoa to allow the added red dye to come through.
I still use a bit of red food dye in my best red velvet cupcake recipe, but you can leave it completely out and your cake will have a red hue. (The color just won’t be as obvious as what you see in my pictures.)
The second part of the red velvet cupcake is getting that fluffy, luxurious texture so deserving of the “velvet” description. For this, you need to sift your dry ingredients and be careful not to over mix your cake.
The best red velvet cupcakes should have an airy, light texture with a light but distinct chocolate flavor mixed with the tangy richness of a not-too-sweet cream cheese frosting.
After a bit of experimentation, I am so excited to share this recipe with you — please let me know if you also find it to be the best red velvet cupcake recipe you’ve ever made, or if you have any tweaks I should make!
(NOTE: I made these into cupcakes because I adore mini dessert recipes, but if you would prefer to make a red velvet cake, reduce the baking temperature to 350F.)
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 cups yellow or light brown sugar
- 3 eggs
- ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cups cake flour
- ⅓ cup natural cocoa powder (NOT "dutch process" or "special dark")
- 1½ teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1½ cups buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 1 8oz brick cream cheese
- 1 stick butter
- 3-4 cups icing sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Preheat the oven to 375F.
- Cream the butter and sugar for 2 minutes until light and fluffy. While still beating, add in the eggs one at a time.
- Sift all of the dry ingredients into a separate bowl and stir to incorporate.
- In yet another small bowl, add the vanilla and buttermilk.
- Slowly add half of the dry ingredients into the wet mixture while beating, and then the buttermilk-vanilla mixture, and once fully incorporated, the final half of the dry ingredients.
- Portion out into a lined cupcake pan and bake 15-20 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
- Cool completely on a cooling rack before frosting.
- Cream cheese frosting:
- Wait until all ingredients are at room temperature before attempting to make the frosting.
- Whip the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until completely smooth and then add in the icing sugar 1 cup at a time. I give a range because the frosting will work with either amount, so please adjust the icing sugar to your preference of sweetness.
- For these cupcakes, I did a simple icing job with an offset spatula and topped with some pure chocolate jimmies, but the frosting is stiff enough that you could pipe it on.
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