Learn how to make your favorite red velvet cupcakes the easy way! Moist, soft, and made of simple ingredients including homemade buttermilk. Frost with a simple cream cheese frosting, this becomes a special treat that both kids and adults will love.

slice of red velvet cupcake

What does red velvet cake taste like?

Red velvet cake tastes like more of a vanilla cake with a subtle chocolate flavor. The buttermilk gives it a touch of tang, but it is hardly noticeable.

But what really gives red velvet cupcakes flavor is the cream cheese frosting. Smooth, sweet with a hint of tanginess. It basically compliments the overall flavor of the cake.

Why you’ll love this recipe

Here’s why you’ll love this red velvet cupcake recipe:

  • Made of simple pantry ingredients, even the buttermilk is homemade! No need for an extra trip to the grocery to buy buttermilk.
  • The cake texture is moist, soft, and tender. I promise this is one of the best red velvet cakes you’ll ever have!
  • Beginner-friendly recipe, with lots of tips and step-by-step photos, and recipe video.

Red Velvet Cupcake Ingredients

Here’s what you need to make the cake:

flour, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt, eggs, butter, cocoa powder
  • All-purpose flour – also known as plain flour. Makes a tender crumb–not too soft, not too moist.
  • Cocoa Powder – I use natural unsweetened cocoa powder for this recipe.
  • Leavening agents – baking powder and baking soda. Baking soda is a must for cakes made with buttermilk.
  • Butter – use pure unsalted butter for the best flavor.
  • Sugar – granulated sugar or superfine sugar works best for making cakes as they dissolve more easily.
  • Oil – secret to making the red velvet moist even the next day! Canola oil or any neutral-tasting vegetable oil should work.
  • Eggs – use two whole large eggs.
  • Buttermilk – I promise this would be a simple recipe so we’re going to make our own buttermilk.
  • Vanilla Extract- Use pure vanilla extract for the best flavor.
  • Red food coloring – red liquid food coloring is what makes modern red velvet cakes red. Back in the old days, bakers use red beet juice as a natural food color.

Homemade Buttermilk Ingredients

To make the buttermilk, you only need two ingredients: white vinegar or lemon juice and whole milk or full-fat fresh milk. Don’t use low-fat milk or evaporated milk as it can may the cake dry and crumbly.

buttermilk substitute ingredients: milk and white vinegar

To make the buttermilk: Combine vinegar and milk in a small bowl. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Once it thickens and curdles, it’s ready to use.

Tip: Use room temperature ingredients

Use room temperature ingredients, this includes eggs, butter, and milk. Bring them out of the refrigerator 45mins to 1 hour before you start baking. Room-temperature ingredients make a smooth and uniform batter while cold ingredients do not blend well together and sometimes cause a flat cupcake.

How to Make Red Velvet cupcakes

Making red velvet cupcakes is as easy as making regular cupcakes. You don’t necessarily need an electric mixer but it will certainly make it easier for you to blend all the ingredients.

Here’s how:

step by step process on how to make red velvet cake batter

Here are my best tips for making the best red velvet cake:

  • Make the buttermilk first and foremost. It usually takes around 10 minutes before the milk and vinegar mixture transforms into buttermilk. You can use that time to prepare and measure the rest of the ingredients.
  • Beat butter, vegetable oil, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time and beat after every addition. This is the secret to making a light and fluffy cake.
  • Pour the buttermilk, salt, and red food coloring then whisk until everything is combined. Tip: At this point, you can adjust the amount of food coloring depending on your preference.
step by step process on how to make red velvet cupcakes
  • Sift the dry ingredients to remove the lumps. You can do this directly into the wet ingredients using a fine-mesh strainer. There’s no need for a separate bowl.
  • Do not overmix the batter. Note that an overmixed cake batter can make the red velvet cupcake dense and chewy. Stir everything together until there are no streaks of flour visible. I usually start with an electric mixer and then finish stirring with a spatula so I don’t overmix.
  • Fill the muffin pan lined with cupcake liners 3/4 full to allow room for the cupcakes to rise.
  • Tap the muffin pan one to two times on your kitchen counter to remove air pockets. This will prevent holes inside your cake.
red velvet cupcakes with no frosting

Finally, bake the cupcakes in a preheated oven at 350f / 180c for 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Before Frosting

Cool the cupcakes for 5 minutes then transfer them to a cooling wire rack to cool completely. Warm cupcakes will melt the frosting, but you probably know that already 🙂

While waiting for the cake to cool, you can go ahead and make the frosting.

red velvet cupcake being frosted with cream cheese frosting

Frosting for Red Velvet Cupcakes

Luckily for you, I have two cream cheese frosting recipes that you can use for these delicious cupcakes. These are:

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting

This is the traditional cream cheese frosting–made of butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar. It’s creamy, smooth, and delicious! You can taste the tanginess of the cream cheese but it’s not too sweet either.

I like my cupcakes with minimal frosting so as not to overpower the cake. So I always make a small serving. This recipe can frost 12 cupcakes if spread moderately.

Cream Cheese Whipped Cream Frosting

Light, fluffy, and cloud-like frosting made of cream cheese, whipped cream, and powdered sugar. This frosting is also known as stabilized whipped cream in the baking world.

Compared to the classic cream cheese frosting, this one is not tangy as it uses more cream than cream cheese. Of course, the ratio can be easily adjusted depending on your preference.

red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting

How to Make-Ahead

You can make the cupcakes ahead of time before you actually need them. Cool completely then place an air-tight container without frosting.

Storage and Shelf-Life

To keep cupcakes moist, cover them with plastic wrap and place them in an air-tight container. Store in the fridge for 2 to 3 days or freeze for 1 to 2 months. Completely thaw overnight in the fridge before frosting.

Frost and decorate before serving.

Frequently asked questions

Can I substitute plain flour with cake flour?

Cake flour can also be used to make red velvet cupcakes. Note that it may yield a slightly sticky cake. For 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, use 1 and 2/3 cups cake flour.

Can I use beetroot powder as natural food color?

The color output of the cake when using beetroot powder is reddish-brown (see photo below). As beets are a natural ingredient, the shade can be affected by many factors such as other ingredients and the heat during the baking process.

To use, start with 2 tablespoons of beetroot powder dissolve in 1 tablespoon of water for every single recipe of my red velvet cupcakes.
Red velvet cake recipe natural color

Watch How to Make It

Love baking? Try these recipes!

red velvet cupcake on a plate

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Homemade Buttermilk

5 from 1 vote
Soft, fluffy, and delicious red velvet cupcakes made with simple ingredients. This one is specially made with homemade buttermilk. No need to buy buttermilk from the store that you might not end up finishing.
You can frost these cupcakes with classic cream cheese frosting or the lighter version, cream cheese whipped cream frosting.
Servings12 cupcakes
preparation time20 minutes
Total cooking time20 minutes

Ingredients
 

Homemade Buttermilk

  • ¾ cup full-fat milk (room temperature, note 1)
  • 1 ½ tsp white vinegar

Other Wet Ingredients

  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (softened)
  • ¾ cup caster sugar (or superfine sugar)
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs (room temperature)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • liquid red food coloring (note 2)

Dry Ingredients

Cream Cheese Frosting (choose 1, note 3)

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350f / 180c. Place 12 cupcake liners in a muffin pan.
  • Combine buttermilk ingredients in a cup. Stir and set aside for 10 minutes until it curdles.
    3/4 cup full-fat milk, 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream butter using a mixer or a whisk. Add sugar, oil, and vanilla. Beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time. Whisk after every addition until creamy.
    1/4 cup unsalted butter, 3/4 cup caster sugar, 2 tbsp vegetable oil, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 large eggs
  • Pour buttermilk, salt, and red food coloring. Continue whisking until everything is combined.
    1/2 tsp salt, liquid red food coloring
  • Sift dry ingredients into the wet mixture using a fine-mesh strainer. Whisk until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX.
    1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour, 3 tbsp unsweetened natural cocoa powder, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder
  • Fill each cupcake liner with the batter. They should just be over 3/4 full. Use a big spoon or an ice cream scoop. Tap the pan on the kitchen counter 1 to 2 times to remove air pockets.
  • Bake for 20 to 21 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Recipe Notes & Tips:

  1. Milk – Use full-fat fresh milk. Don’t use low-fat or skim milk as it can make a dry cake.
  2. Red Food Coloring – The amount of food coloring is entirely up to you. I usually start with 1 teaspoon of liquid food coloring and go from there. If using gel food color, start with 1-2 drops and go from there.
  3. Frosting – Use either frosting recipe depending on your preference. The classic cream cheese frosting is tangier than the cream cheese whipped cream frosting (also known as stabilized whipped cream).
  4. Make ahead & storage instructions: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance. Place in an airtight container in the fridge. Frost before serving.
  5. Nutrition: Calculation is per 1 cupcake without the frosting.
Jump to Video
Author : Mella
Course : Dessert
Cuisine : American-Western
Keyword : easy red velvet cupcake recipe, red velvet cupcakes recipe
Nutrition Facts
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Homemade Buttermilk
Serving Size
 
1 cupcake
Amount per Serving
Calories
180
% Daily Value*
Fat
 
8
g
12
%
Saturated Fat
 
3
g
19
%
Trans Fat
 
0.2
g
Polyunsaturated Fat
 
2
g
Monounsaturated Fat
 
2
g
Cholesterol
 
43
mg
14
%
Sodium
 
174
mg
8
%
Potassium
 
71
mg
2
%
Carbohydrates
 
25
g
8
%
Fiber
 
1
g
4
%
Sugar
 
14
g
16
%
Protein
 
3
g
6
%
Vitamin A
 
190
IU
4
%
Calcium
 
48
mg
5
%
Iron
 
1
mg
6
%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?I love hearing how you went with my recipes! Tag @rivertenkitchen or leave a comment below!

Originally published on March 2020. Updated with new photos, video, and a streamlined recipe after further testing.

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5 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Mella, esta receita é simplesmente maravilhosa!! Meus cupcakes ficaram tão fofinhos e deliciosos!!🤤
    Realmente um veludo vermelho!!!

  2. The color of the cupcake was just brown, not even a tint of red. I followed the beetroot directions, adding a bit more as instructed for more color. Did anyone else have that issue?

    1. What kind of cocoa did you use?? Anything other than natural, unprocessed cocoa (like anything that says “Dutch” on the label) will work against the chemical process that gives that red color.