Recipe: Red Velvet Cupcakes

The red velvet trend seems to have taken the world by storm, especially in the last couple of years. I had no idea what it was when I first heard people talking about it, but now, I guess you could say I’m a bit of an expert in the field. When I was in New York earlier this year, I was bombarded with red velvet cheesecake, red velvet waffles, red velvet pancakes, red velvet cake balls, red velvet milkshakes – the list goes on! For me, though, red velvet cake will always be the winner. The original. The best. Nothing beats a vanilla/chocolate combination, with cream cheese icing.

I made my first batch of red velvet cupcakes for my 20th birthday celebrations last year, and I received lots of compliments on them. That was the first time that I had ever really made cupcakes from scratch – in my household growing up, we only ever made them from packet mixes. When my older sister Nicole and I used to come home from school, we would bake a cake together at least once a week. As a result, my dad’s favourite thing to say about our family is, “All we do in this house is play tennis, and bake cakes!” He thinks he’s a comedian.

After my birthday, I decided that I wanted red velvet cupcakes to become one of my signature baking dishes (alongside my Italian baked ricotta cheesecake, which is equally as amazing). Any time there was a family event, function, or party, I would bake them and try to improve on the recipe each time. I made them again for a barbeque on Saturday night, and I think I have finally got the recipe perfected! So, without further ado, I present to you my favourite cupcake recipe of all time.

Before you start! Please make sure you read the whole recipe through at least once, as I have added in tips and tricks at the very end of the post to speed up your preparation time.

Cupcake Batter:

  • 2 and a half cups of cake flour (not self raising)
  • 2 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 and a half cups of sugar
  • 1 and a half cups of vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon of liquid red food colour
  • 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract (not vanilla essence)
  • 1 cup of buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 and a half teaspoons of baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons of white vinegar

Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 225grams of unsalted butter
  • 340grams of cream cheese (I use Philadelphia brand)
  • 3 cups of icing/confectioners sugar
  • 3 quarters of a teaspoon of vanilla extract (not vanilla essence)


  • 2 large mixing bowls
  • 1 mid size mixing bowl
  • 1 small mixing bowl
  • Sieve
  • Whisk
  • Butter knife
  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Electric beaters
  • Spatula
  • 1 muffin tray (2 would be preferable, but one will be fine for alternating)
  • Patty pans/cases (red looks best, sometimes I use silver) in small-medium size
  • Cake tester/barbeque skewer


  • Preheat your oven to 180°C, then line your muffin trays with the patty pans.
  • Chop the butter and cream cheese into smaller pieces (as can be seen in the picture). Set aside in one of the large mixing bowls, to be used later whilst the cupcakes are baking.
  • Using the mid size bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt, then whisk together gently until combined.
  • In the other large mixing bowl, using the electric beaters on a medium-high speed, beat sugar and oil together until combined. Add the eggs to the mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula as you go, until combined. Add the food colouring and the vanilla extract and beat until the colour is even.
  • Mixing on a low speed, add one third of the flour/cocoa/salt mixture to the sugar/oil/egg mixture. Once combined, add half of the buttermilk. Repeat, then add the last of the flour mixture.
  • In the small bowl, mix together the baking soda and the vinegar. Be prepared: it will foam and fizz, but that is completely normal. Add this mixture to the large bowl, folding through gently with the spatula. Give the sides of the bowl one last scrape down and mix with the spatula to ensure the batter is even.
  • Divide the batter evenly between the lined muffin trays. They should be between halfway and 3 quarters full, no more. Bake in the preheated oven, setting a timer to check them at 10 minutes. Set a new 5 minute timer each time you check the cupcakes – they are cooked when you insert the cake checker/skewer into the middle of one of the cakes and it comes out clean. If not, keep baking and checking as you go!
  • Meanwhile, beat together the butter and cream cheese mixture from earlier on a medium-high speed, until light and fluffy (2 minutes). It should be soft and easy to mix now at room temperature.
  • Add the vanilla extract and one cup of icing sugar. Beat until combined, then add the remaining cups of sugar one at a time. Keep mixing until all lumps have vanished. Set aside.
  • Once you have removed the cakes from the oven, transfer them carefully onto a wire rack or plate to cool.
  • Wait until the cakes are at room temperature, then ice with the cream cheese mixture using a spatula or a piping bag.

Crouch down to eye level to check that the liners are filled evenly, and add mixture accordingly.

If you notice the cakes rising past the muffin tins, turn down the oven temperature by 20°C. This will slow down the cooking time, but prevent your cakes from overflowing.

Check your cakes while they are in the oven as often as you can! It would be an awful shame to ruin a batch of these cupcakes, as they do take lots of time and effort to prepare. Check check check!

If the cake gets stuck to the muffin tray, gently push the edges away with a butter knife. Do not force them out!

To make icing application easier, dollop a spoon of the cream cheese mixture onto each cupcake first. Sit a dessert spoon in a cup of warm water for around 30 seconds. Then, use the back of the spoon (being careful to get rid of any drips first) and spread the icing over the surface of the cake.

Glory from Glorious Treats gives a great tutorial on how to ice cupcakes using a piping bag, here. It is definitely worth checking out! I always try to ice my cupcakes this way if I have enough time.

If you have any questions about my recipe, or need any further clarification on anything, I’d be happy to help out! Just leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as humanly possible. I would like to point out that I only ever bake for special occasions. I believe 100% in leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and enjoying food like this should be done in moderation. Happy baking!

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  • Greta Gale

    Yum these look amazing! Unforutnately I’m gluten intollerant, but I so wish I could eat these cupcakes!


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    • emilyschnickle

      Oh no! Sorry to hear that, Greta. The cream cheese frosting would probably be okay for you to try? I don’t know much about gluten free dishes, unfortunately! If you find a way to make this recipe gluten free, I would love to hear back from you :) x.