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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Who can resist red velvet?!?

Ha – apparently, my friends and I cannot. :)  I ended up making two batches of red velvet cupcakes to take to a handful of events with friends this weekend, and they were a definite hit! People’s eyes always seem to light up whenever the hear the words “red velvet”. And then for those like me, hearing anything having to do with “cream cheese frosting” just seals the deal. So irresistible!

Part of the fun of the weekend was that I ended up using two of my favorite recipes for these — partly because I wanted to compare taste, and partly because I was short on time and out of food coloring halfway through the weekend! So you may have guessed — one recipe was made completely from scratch (including two little bottles of red food coloring), and one was based from a box mix (kicked up a notch!).

While I’d love to tell you that I thought the homemade cupcakes were far and above better, I could actually hardly taste a difference. Both were wonderfully moist, full of that rich chocolate-y flavor, and of course, that gorgeous color of red. And both paired perfectly with that luscious cream cheese frosting. Although let’s be honest — what wouldn’t?! :)

So for those of you who like to go 100% homemade, or those who want to save a few minutes of prep (and rounding up red food coloring and cake flour), I’ve included both recipes below! Just scroll down to the bottom of the post for the cake mix recipe. So in honor of Valentine’s Day this week, I love them both!!


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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 24 cupcakes 1x


Two great Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting recipes — 100% homemade, or a box mix recipe kicked up a notch. Both irresistible!



Cupcake Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour (not all-purpose flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 oz. red food coloring (two bottles)
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:

  • 1 lb (2 blocks) cream cheese (not softened)
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar, sifted


To Make Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
  2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
  4. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. (Yes, it will fizz!) Add vinegar mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Fill cupcake cups with cake batter until they are about 3/4 full. (I like to use an ice-cream scoop for this!) Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check early and don’t overbake!
  5. Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.

To Make Frosting:

  1. To make the frosting, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.


Here is the alternate recipe using a red-velvet cake mix!


  • 1 (18.25 oz.) box red velvet cake mix
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 eggs


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 baking cups with paper liners.

Add the first three ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until moistened, about 30 seconds.  Add eggs one at a time, until the batter is well-mixed. Increase speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes longer.

Pour or scoop the batter into the paper liners until they are 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool on a wire rack.


Ali’s Tip:

Here is the alternate recipe using a red-velvet cake mix!


  • 1 (18.25 oz.) box red velvet cake mix
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 eggs


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 baking cups with paper liners.

Add the first three ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed until moistened, about 30 seconds. Add eggs one at a time, until the batter is well-mixed. Increase speed to high and beat until thick, 2 minutes longer.

Pour or scoop the batter into the paper liners until they are 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool on a wire rack.

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89 comments on “Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting”

  1. My mom has two recipes for red velvet cake, one being from scratch and one that is a modified white cake mix with chocolate pudding and food coloring :)

  2. Wow! These look amazingly scrumptious! Love that deep red color!

  3. Funny thing–I made red velvet cupcakes this weekend too–it must be “the thing” lately :-)

  4. Your pictures are always absolutely adorable! What tip did you use for the frosting?

  5. I love Valentine’s Day desserts, and yours looks so, so delicious! You should really consider submitting this to Recipe4Living’s Valentine’s Day Recipe Contest! You could win a GreenPan Stainless Steel Todd’s Perfect Gourmet Cook Set!

  6. Yum! These cupcakes look fabulous… Perfect for Valentine’s Day :) I know my hubby would love them.

  7. These were the talk of my teacher dinner tonight! Yum!

  8. I made these for my Church Staff today…..they loved them :)

  9. These look absolutely stunning and extremely delicious!

  10. This looks so yummy! I love how the cream cheese frosting made. My frostings always looks so easily to melt. I guess I need to practice more in making my frosting.

  11. They look so pretty and perfect for Valentine’s Day treats.

  12. The frosting is so gorgeous! This is one of the most perfect cupcake I ever saw in my whole search. I guess I need to try this out to know what it really taste but I think it taste so good as it looks.

    • I’ve tried this using the recipe for cupcakes and it was delicious. Just want to ask if we can use this recipe for 2 layers cake?

  13. These cupcakes look great – wonderful photos.

  14. wow… these looks so so so good! if you dont’ mind letting me know, did you use a 1M tip? You did such a wonderful job with the icing. I love it!

  15. The recipe makes A LOT of frosting. I cut it in half and it was just about right. Also, it is very, very cream cheesey. :P Yummy, though.

    • Hi Rhea,

      Yeah, I probably should have mentioned that it’s a big batch of frosting! But when using a pastry bag (and large tip!) to frost them, it disappeared fairly quickly for me. Hope you enjoyed it! :)


  16. I just made this recipe last night and I can say that it is the best red velvet recipe I’ve used. The cake was very moist and dense. They turned out fantastic!

  17. I just finished baking these. They are nice, chocolatey and so delicious!! It came out a bit crumbly though but I tried baking the second batch for a few minutes shorter than the first. It came out so nice and moist. yummy!
    I’m bringing them over to school tomorrow. I hope the kids like it because I do!

  18. Just made these tonight using the 2nd version (box mix). VERY good and not “box-cakey” tasting! I didn’t care for the taste nor the texture of the frosting though :(

  19. Thanks for the recipes and tips.

  20. I just made them….soo yummy!

  21. I made the doctored cake mix you have listed for Valentines Day treats and everyone loved them! I didn’t have any buttermilk so I just used heavy cream.

    These were delicious and no one could tell it was from a box. I added a few drops of red food coloring too and they were seriously cute!

  22. Wow gotta try it ! Can i decorate the muffins with cream cheese frosting the night before?

  23. why are mine not turning right? I did all the steps with all the ingredientes, and still when I get them out of the oven are just flated…What am I doing wrong?

    PLEase help!!!

    Your photo is used by this cake shop.

  25. I am so excited to try this recipe (the first one – all from scratch.) Can you tell me what adjustments to ingredients or baking time I would need to change if I don’t make cupcakes but instead split the batter between 2 pans to make a cake?

  26. Where do you get your cupcake cases from? I dont know how to get my cupcakes to go straight up and down at the side, they’re always fluted

  27. Hi Ali,

    My church group (made up of youths) is organizing a cupcake sale and we’re selling red velvet cupcakes too for our pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro. Was searching online for a picture and came across yours which was very nice. Just wondering if you will allow us to use your first red velvet cupcake picture??? Would most appreciate if you are agreeable! Thank you.

  28. Hi Ali,

    I gave these cupcakes a try and although they came out tasting great they were not red at all.. More of a browny black colour and I used two bottles of food colouring as the recipe says ,, any advice? I also over whipped the icing and it came out quite sloppy but still tasted great like the cup cakes. Think il have to try another batch with these to get them right as I’m making a load for my niece’s christening.

  29. Hi Ali! I’m looking for a cream cheese frosting recipe that is super thick and tastes like cheesecake.. does this one have the cheesecake flavor? Thanks!

  30. I followed the recipe to the letter! Taking extra care over quantities of every ingredient…my cupcakes turned out looking very very dark brown and were sunken in the middle! I am really disappointed wight he results and they tasted awful??

    What am I doing wrong????

    • Maybe the baking powder is not good? It not rising could be attributed to the baking powder. I am currently making this. Like literally i have a batch in the oven and i am making 12 dozen mini cupckaes, so 2 batches. They turn out perfect for me.

  31. I’m about to try these cupcake, and I noticed that there is a discrepancy in the yield. At the top of your recipe it says 12-16 cupcakes, but then you later advise to line 24 cupcake tins! Just thought I would point it out in case you wanted to correct it. Looks like a fantastic recipe.

  32. These were terrible, sunk in the middle, dark brown and the icing was watery.

  33. What is a cake flour.

    • Cake flour is a special kind of flour that is extra finely ground. It’s available in the flour section of grocery stores.

  34. Question – how much cocoa powder is used in this recipe? The ingredient is listed in the recipe but without a specific quantity. Thanks!

  35. I have tried these cupcakes (from scratch) and they turned out grate ! I substituted the buttermilk by plane milk and used all-pupose flour. The frosting was a bit too liquid to my taste, but still tasted great.

  36. Aaaah, using food colouring in a red velvet is what i call blasphemy. They’re called RED velvet because of the chemical reaction between the cocoa powder and the vinegar, which makes the cocoa powder turn slightly red. 

  37. These cupcakes look amazing!  I am curious-how much cocoa powder do I use?  The recipe above does not state.


  38. I made your cupcakes for a party and they went down really well. This was my first attempt at red velvet and I thought they were great! The only thing I changed was the icing – I used only half of the amount of cream cheese because I’ve made similar icing and it usually ends up too runny for me (with this variation it piped beautifully!!). Thanks for the recipe!

  39. Do you recommend putting these in the refrigerator after frosting or can they be left out? Making them a day ahead of time…thanks!

    • Hi Kristen! We think we would keep them in the fridge if you’re making them a day ahead of time. Just make sure you take them out a couple hours before serving, so they can come to room temp, or so most of the chill comes off (unless you prefer them cold) – either way is fine! We hope you enjoy! :)

  40. Hi! Are you using red liquid food color or gel color?

  41. Hi Ali,

    Can’t wait to make these next week for Valentine’s Day! What kind of food coloring did you use? This is my first time making red velvet so I want to make sure I get the color right! Thanks :)

    • Hi Maggie! We just used a regular red food coloring (McCormick’s — found in the baking aisle) — nothing fancy! :) We hope you enjoy these!

  42. Does this recipe half well? It seems as though it would…

    • Hi Amber! Yes, this definitely halves well. We hope you enjoy the cupcakes!

  43. Hi! To make a double batch do you just double everything? I’m a newbie. LOL

  44. I made these for a friends son’s graduation party this weekend and they turned out great. I will save the recipe. I did not use the frosting recipe as I didn’t want that much cream cheese since I was piping frosting on the cupcakes.

    • Thanks for sharing with us, Lisa — we’re so glad to hear they turned out well! :)

  45. Always scratch for me until I did the cake mix one. Was a pro for years but hey, I may be older but open to change!!! Love this one from a mix! Sooooo easy! My critical family didn’t notice the difference?

  46. Made these cupcakes without the frosting for my boyfriend’s birthday and it’s definitely now my go to red velvet recipie..
    Didn’t have buttermilk so I substituted with whole milk and few drops of lemon juice… worked perfectly well..

  47. Best thus far !!

  48. Great recipe, very easy to make! I didn’t have buttermilk so I subbed it out with natural yogurt and normal milk, it worked very very well. Love this recipe will use it time and time again!

  49. For making the red velvet cupcakes from a box mix, you state using an 18.25 box mix. All the cake mixes are 15.25. Would the amount of ingredients be the same? Thanks.

  50. Today is my 2nd time making the homemade version of the red velvet cupcakes, and I absolutely love this recipe!!