My Red Velvet Cupcakes are carefully crafted to be moist and fluffy, yet sturdy. Pair them with ermine frosting or use your favorite frosting. Recipe includes a how-to video!
The BEST Red Velvet Cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes are a cute and portable dessert that’s perfect for Valentine’s Day or Christmas. They are so festive and instantly recognizable, not to mention totally irresistible. My recipe is incredibly easy to make (no mixer needed!) and is carefully designed to yield fluffy, sturdy results every single time.
I chose to frost my cupcakes with ermine frosting, which is the classic pairing for red velvet cake. It’s a cooked frosting that is easy to make and great for people who don’t like super sweet frostings. If this isn’t your thing–don’t worry! I’m including a few other options that pair nicely below.
Before we get into the recipe though, let’s go over why I’m sharing a separate red velvet cupcake recipe when I already have a red velvet cake recipe!
Red Velvet Cake vs. Cupcakes
While I know it may be tempting to just pour my red velvet cake batter into cupcake tins and bake away, this unfortunately won’t turn out very well. Sure, the cupcakes will be tasty, but they will also be flat (great for cake, not for cupcakes), a bit too delicate and moist for paper liners, and will fall apart so much (in a soft, velvety way) they will need to be eaten with a fork.
A fork kind of defeats the purpose of a cupcake, doesn’t it?
With hopes of a perfectly domed, fluffy, and flavorful cupcake in mind, I made a few tweaks to my cake recipe to make the perfect red velvet cupcakes. Each recipe has been designed for a specific purpose (this is the same reason I have separate recipes for carrot cake and carrot cake cupcakes!).
If you enjoy the science-y part of baking, keep reading. Otherwise, skip to the next section!
Changes made to develop this cupcake recipe:
- More granulated sugar, less brown sugar, and no additional egg yolk. This prevents the cupcakes from being so tender and rich that they cling to their liners. It also lightens up the crumb, which helps the tops dome nicely.
- More flour, which contributes to the cupcakes’ sturdiness.
- Slightly more cocoa powder (you can decrease the amount to 1 ½ Tablespoons if you want the exact same chocolate flavor).
- Whole milk and vinegar instead of buttermilk, which I found it works best here and got the highest ratings from my taste testers.
- Half the batter, so you get an even dozen cupcakes. You can always double or even triple the recipe though!
What You Need
Now you understand why I say these red velvet cupcakes are carefully crafted! So, if you want yours to turn out like the pictures, it is critical that you don’t make any substitutions, particularly with these ingredients:
- Flour. Use all-purpose flour and make sure to measure your flour properly. Do not use cake flour.
- Cocoa powder. Use natural cocoa powder and do NOT substitute Dutch process cocoa. You can read more about the differences between the two in my Dutch process vs. natural cocoa powder post.
- Baking soda. Similar to the cocoa powder, do NOT substitute baking powder here. There is a critical difference between the two, and substituting baking powder for baking soda will negatively affect your cupcakes.
- Food coloring. You could absolutely leave out the food coloring, just note that the cupcakes will, of course, not look red (they’ll be a ruddy brown, instead). For a true red velvet color, I recommend using gel food coloring; you don’t need much, and it produces a vibrant color. Liquid food coloring will work too; you will need 1 oz. Some people have successfully made this recipe using beet powder for coloring, but I have never tried it.
SAM’S TIP: With many cake recipes you have to worry about over-mixing the batter, but it’s actually easier to under-mix this one. Over-mixing is still possible here, but because we’re using a modified version of the reverse creaming method, it’s much less likely to happen. Make sure you combine your ingredients very well and have a smooth batter before you divide it into your cupcake liners.
Remember, this is just an overview of the ingredients I used and why. For the full recipe please scroll down to the bottom of the post!
How to Make Red Velvet Cupcakes
- Create a milk mixture – Combine the milk, vinegar, and food coloring in a large measuring cup.
- Combine the dry ingredients – In a separate bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients.
- Stir in the fats – Add the melted butter and oil and stir until incorporated.
- Add some flavor – Stir in the egg and vanilla until combined.
- Add the milk – Gradually add the milk mixture to the batter and stir until totally smooth.
- Bake – Portion the batter into a lined cupcake tin, filling each ⅔ of the way full. Bake for 17 minutes in a 350F oven.
- Cool completely – Let the cupcakes cool in their pan for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
- Add frosting and enjoy! Frost your completely cooled cupcakes as desired.
SAM’S TIP: Don’t over-fill your cupcake liners or they may overflow and cave in on themselves (similar to my chocolate cupcakes). If you have excess batter, bake it separately or discard it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Just as with the cake version, red velvet cupcakes have a subtle chocolate flavor, slight buttery undertones, and a very faint acidic tang that lingers. The cupcakes have a plush texture, but the crumb itself isn’t significantly different from many other cupcakes you might have tried.
While ermine frosting is the classic choice, cream cheese frosting, swiss meringue buttercream, buttercream frosting, white chocolate buttercream, or german buttercream would all work nicely too!
Store these cupcakes in an airtight container. They’ll keep at room temperature for up to two days, or in the refrigerator for up to a week (keep in mind the refrigerator has a tendency to dry out cupcakes!). You can also freeze your cupcakes for several months.
If you like red velvet, give my red velvet cookies a try!
Let’s bake together! I’ll be walking you through all the steps in my written recipe and video below! If you try this recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram, and you can also find me on YouTube and Facebook
Red Velvet Cupcakes (Soft, Sturdy, Domed Cupcakes!)
- ¾ cup whole milk (177ml)
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon red gel food coloring (I use Americolor "red red" or "super red"
- 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (155g) I don't recommend substituting cake flour or any other flour
- ¾ cup granulated sugar (150g)
- ¼ cup light brown sugar firmly packed (50g)
- 2 Tablespoons natural cocoa powder (12g)
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter melted
- ¼ cup canola oil may substitute vegetable oil or another neutral oil (60ml)
- 1 large egg room temperature preferred
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 batch Ermine frosting (click the link for the recipe, or scroll down to the notes section for some other frosting recommendations)
- Preheat the oven to 350F (175C) and line a 12 count cupcake tin with paper liners. Set aside.
- Combine milk, vinegar, and food coloring in a large measuring cup, stir together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugars, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until well-combined.
- Add melted butter and oil and stir well, until ingredients are well-combined (the mixture will be thick).
- Add egg and vanilla extract and stir until combined.
- Gradually add the milk mixture and stir until all ingredients are combined and batter is smooth.
- Fill each cupcake liner ⅔ of the way full with batter, (do not overfill or cupcakes will collapse, if you have leftover batter discard it or bake separately). Transfer to 350F (175C) preheated oven and bake for 17 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean or with moist crumbs (not wet batter). Allow to cool for 10 minutes in cupcake pan then transfer to cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
Other Frosting Recommendations:Ermine frosting is the traditional, old-fashioned frosting used with red velvet cake/cupcakes, but here are a few other favorites:
- Cream cheese frosting (this has recently become a popular choice to pair with red velvet cake)
- Chocolate cream cheese frosting
- Swiss meringue buttercream
- American buttercream
- See my full frosting library
Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered an estimate only. Actual nutritional content will vary based upon brands used, measuring methods, cooking method, portion sizes, and more.
hi would i be able to leave out the brown sugar / exchange for something else else ?
You could substitute in regular granulated sugar here. I’m not sure how they would turn out if you completely omit it.
Not sure what went wrong, made them twice and both times they continued to sink even after the toothpick test came out successful. No dome, no flat tops just sinkholes. I’m so frustrated because these were for a gathering(no blame to you) and I just can’t see where I went wrong. The baking soda was fresh, I mixed until smooth and even went an extra minute in the oven. Any advice on what went south? I’d greatly appreciate any improvement I can make to get this right, because they were so tasty
I’m so sorry to hear this, Jess! That’s quite strange. Is it possible the mixture isn’t being quite mixed well enough? Did you make any substitutions or changes?
I probably added too much food coloring or under-mixed. Excellent tasting either way. I’ll give it another shot. Thanks tor replying
Any recommendations for a natural red food dye for those allergic to artificial dyes?
Hi MaryLou! Some people have used beet powder with success, but you could also leave it out, the cake won’t be red but will still have the taste you are expecting. 🙂
Thanks I’ll try the beet powder next time I literally put 1 drop in just to try and I ate 2 and still got that familiar funny feeling in my throat! I took some medicine after and was fine. So good I was willing to risk a reaction for them! lol
I love this red velvet cupcake recipe — moist and fluffy and it bakes domed. I’m using this recipe again to make it gluten-free. Do you have a particular favorite GF flour because I was planning to use cup for cup. Hopefully, it turns out ok. Thanks!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Najia! Many people have success with Cup4Cup, so if that’s what you have, you should be fine too. Let us know how they turn out for you!
Turned out perfect… thank you!
I only have 2%milk. Is that gonna be okay?
Hi Selina! I think that should work fine. 🙂
Thanks for your quick response. I made the cupcakes with your cream cheese frosting (which I’ve made at least a dozen times now) into Bleeding Brain cupcakes for our Office Potluck tomorrow. Super pleased with the results! Thank you for sharing through your website and emails. I’m here for all of it! Happy Halloween 🎃
So, so good! Thank you for this recipe. As you said, a little too long in the oven can dry the cupcakes but still delicious! They were a bit underdone and so i left them in and then got distracted – yikes!! Next time I’ll set the timer for 1-minute 🙂 Thanks again – love all of your recipes. P.S. The cream cheese frosting is a perfect compliment
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
So glad they were still delicious, Sarah! Enjoy 😊
I made these and they are AMAZING!! Perfect red velvet texture and incredible taste.
Sam, have you made these as mini cupcakes before? I am going to give it a try, but was wondering if you had any suggestions for baking time or if minis are worth it! Thank you!
Hi Chloe! I’m so glad you enjoyed them so much! While I haven’t baked them as mini cupcakes myself I would suspect it would take about 14-15 minutes. 🙂
I made them as mini cupcakes and they turned out great! Mine took 9-10 mins in case that’s helpful for anyone else!
Thanks Chloe. I’m gonna try as mini cupcakes. Will follow your timing.
I’ve made mini cupcakes and it takes about 10-12 minutes.
Does the milk need to be room temp?
Hi Carol! I always find it easiest to combine things when at room temperature, but in this case it will sit for a few minutes before you use it so it’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t start at room temp. 🙂
This is my favorite red velvet cupcake recipe, and even though I usually don’t add the food coloring, I definitely believe that there are advantages to making these cupcakes over chocolate cupcakes, even if they’re not red! Texture-wise these cupcakes are a bit sturdier, though still soft & moist. I also love how they’re not quite as rich as some chocolate cupcakes & have a fainter chocolate flavor. This can make them great for pairing with a richer frosting, and when I made these with Sugar Spun Run’s Brown Butter Frosting, someone told me it was one of the best cupcakes they’ve ever had!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Yum, we love that pairing Lynne! Thanks so much for your review ❤
I’m just learning how to bake and this has become by go-to website for all things baking. I’m just catching up and adding a bunch of reviews on recipes I’ve tried, but I finally was able to get moist vibrant red cupcakes from this recipe! Adding in the food colouring to the wet ingredients was the best recommendation ever. I had tried other well reviewed recipes and the colour never came out right. Mixing oil with melted butter was also a great recommendation as they came out moist. And the cream cheese frosting was perfection.
Thank you so much! I’m so glad you’ve been enjoying everything. 🙂
I tested 3 other recipes which were all pretty bad. Yours was delicious and I will be making these for my niece’s graduation gathering. Only thing is that mine were flat with no dome. Any idea why? Thank you!
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so glad ours was a winner, Laura! They definitely shouldn’t be flat…could your baking soda have been old/expired? Another common cause of this is accidentally under-mixing the batter.
I think my baking soda was ok bc I saw the “fizzing” reaction. I did use natural cocoa powder and I thought I mixed it a lot. Still no dome 🙁
Hmmm strange. They may have just needed another minute or two in the oven.
Oops, also, can I used distilled white vinegar?
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi I want to test these on Sunday for my niece’s graduation. I only have Dutch processed cocoa powder and hope to not have to by natural. Would these work with Dutch processed??
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
Hi Laura! Using Dutch process cocoa could affect the rise of your cupcakes. We’d recommend sticking with natural cocoa if you want them to rise properly 😊
Delicious! these red velvet cupcakes turned out amazing with the best cream cheese frosting! Thank you for this delicious recipe! 😁
Emily @ Sugar Spun Run
We’re so happy they turned out so well for you, Bella! Thanks for giving our recipe a shot 😊
I’m all out of white vinegar, would apple cider vinegar work for this?
Hi Kylie! The apple cider vinegar should work, but it may change your flavor profile a little bit. 🙂