Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes are fabulous. A light, chocolatey flavour and a unique velvety texture make these cupcakes something extra special.

Red velvet is also a bit weird. I avoided Red Velvet Cakes for years, because, to be honest, I didn’t really know what it was. 

Then, I tried a slice and started working on my own Recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes and absolutely fell in love. 

The light chocolate flavour is quite different from anything else, brightly coloured food is always a win, but, let’s face it, it’s the velvety texture, that doesn’t feel anything like the cakes that we are used to that makes Red Velvet something extra special. 

This Red velvet cupcakes recipe is easy, delicious, and very very red. A bitesize version of a wonderful treat. 

Close up of cupcake with cream cheese icing.

Is Red Velvet a Chocolate Cake?

What are red velvet cupcakes is a common question. Even though Red Velvet is extremely popular, and available all over the world, so many of us still aren’t quite sure what flavour it is. Yeah, it’s red, yeah it’s velvety, but, what does it taste like? What Flavour is Red Velvet Cake?

This blog post contains affiliate links, this means if you click on a link and go on to buy the product I recommend, I will get a small commission, but you will not be charged more.


Unlike a rich chocolate cake recipe, red velvet doesn’t contain any actual chocolate, just cocoa powder, and not even a huge amount of that. 

The flavour is fairly mild but sweet and sticky, perfect with cream cheese icing. 

3/4 shot of cake on wire rack, others in background.

What Makes Red Velvet Cake Different from Normal Cake?

While the mild flavour of red velvet cupcakes is different, it’s the texture of Red Velvet that makes it different from a normal sponge cake. 

This incredibly soft, silky texture comes from the frankly quite bizarre ingredients

A Red velvet recipe might seem a little strange at first glance. Firstly, there’s a lot more than usual. 

close up top view of red velvet cupcake on wire rack.

I’m a big fan of the traditional Victoria sponge recipe with 4, equally weighted ingredients. 

This Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe has 11 ingredients, and one of them is vinegar

But, it works. It’s this combination of ingredients that creates that fabulous Red Velvet texture and contributes to its very redness. 

Do You Put Food Colouring in Red Velvet Cupcakes?

Traditional red velvet cakes didn’t have to contain red food colouring. The velvet in the name comes from the wonderful velvety texture, and the red colour came from the chemical reaction between the ingredients. 

top view of cakes on glass stand and wire rack.

However, while we still get a bit of a reaction, you have to use a specific kind of unprocessed cocoa powder to get the full-on red colour. 

Nowadays we give it a little helping hand to achieve a gorgeous red colour.  Without food colouring, chances are your red velvet would be a bit of a brown.

What Kind of Food Colour Should You Use in Red Velvet Cupcakes?

Adding any food colouring won’t do. Cheap supermarket liquid food colouring won’t be enough to dye a dark chocolate sponge. 

3 Red Velvet Cupcakes, front one peeled from paper case.

You’d have to use tons of it to make any difference, which would change the texture of the cake, and give it a chemically flavour. 

Why isn’t My Red Velvet Cake Red?

If your red velvet cupcakes aren’t particularly red, or red at all, you probably haven’t used the right colouring. 

Bitted red velvet cupcake. Cake stand in background.

I use these (affiliate link), but any professional paste or gel type should do the job. If your red velvet still isn’t red, try adding a touch more colouring. 

Substitutions for Buttermilk

If you don’t have buttermilk, don’t panic, you can absolutely make Red velvet cakes without buttermilk with a quick substitution. 

Add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to regular milk and leave it to sour for a few minutes, while you prepare the rest of your recipe for red velvet cupcakes. 

cupcake with red paper case, more on glass stand in background.

What Kind of Vinegar Do You Use in Red Velvet Cake?

I use white wine vinegar for my red velvet cupcakes. If you don’t have white wine vinegar, any white vinegar will do. 

Cream Cheese Icing for Red Velvet Cupcakes

Cream cheese is the best Icing for red velvet cupcakes. It just complements the flavour and texture really well, and looks fab!

Cream cheese frosting is fairly similar to buttercream in terms of how you make it. This is the same recipe as I use on my carrot cake, just different quantities.

The big difference is that when you make buttercream you often have to really mix it to get it all to come together and avoid grittiness. 

top view of cupcakes on glass stand.

If you over mix a Cream cheese icing recipe it will get sloppy, which is very hard to recover. 

Beat the butter and icing sugar until soft, which can take a while, but then just very carefully beat in, or lightly whisk the soft cheese in until there are no big lumps.

It can also help to put your cream cheese icing in the fridge to settle for a while (up to an hour) before piping on to your red velvet cupcakes

How to Decorate Red Velvet Cupcakes?

I don’t know where it’s come from or why we don’t do it to any other cakes, but most people decorate red velvet cakes, both big and small, by crumbling some of the red velvet sponge over the cream cheese. 

It looks great, and the red crumbs really contrast the white cream cheese. 

Now to get these crumbs, you’ve got two options. 

cupcake with red paper case, more on glass stand in background.

You can level your cupcakes with a sharp knife or cake leveller (affiliate link) and use this excess from the top to crumble over. This is what I’d do with a larger red velvet cake.

Or, you can take a big bite out of your cupcakes, just to test it out, and use the rest. This is what I do!

Do You Have to Keep Red Velvet Cakes in the Fridge?

Red Velvet cakes themselves don’t need to be kept in the fridge. 

But, many people keep cakes topped with cream cheese icing in the fridge, as cream cheese can sour if left out. 

In theory, cream cheese icing has enough sugar in it that it shouldn’t sour. But, you may still feel more comfortable keeping your red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese in the fridge

How to Make Red Velvet Cupcakes

top view of cakes on glass stand and wire rack.

My top tips for making red velvet cupcakes are:

  • Use good quality food colouring 
  • Always use full-fat cream cheese
  • You can use margarine instead of butter
  • Whisk the vinegar, buttermilk, colouring, cocoa, and vanilla in a small jug and add them all together
Yield: 12 Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

cupcake with red paper case, more on glass stand in background.

Red Velvet Cupcakes are fabulous. A light, chocolatey flavour and a completely unique velvety texture make these cupcakes something extra special.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Icing Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes


For the Red Velvet Cupcakes:

  • 85g Butter or Margarine
  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 2 Medium Eggs
  • 20g Cocoa
  • 0.5tsp Vanilla Essence
  • 1.5tsp White Wine Vinegar
  • 1tsp Red Food Colouring Gel
  • 170ml Buttermilk
  • 225g Plain Flour
  • 1tsp Bi-Carbonate of Soda
  • 1tsp Baking Powder

For the Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 125g Unsalted Butter – At room temperature
  • 125g Icing Sugar
  • 250g Soft Cheese - Philadelphia is best


For the Cakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees (fan assisted) and line a 12-hole muffin tin with cake cases
  2. Cream together the butter and caster sugar until smooth and thick
  3. Beat in the eggs, one at a time
  4. Whisk the buttermilk, cocoa, vinegar, vanilla, and food colouring in a small jug and pour in
  5. Whisk for 3 minutes until smooth (longer by hand)
  6. Sift in the flour, bi-carb, and baking powder and whisk for 3 minutes until smooth
  7. Spoon evenly into the cake cases, making sure to fill no more than 2/3rds
  8. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean
  9. Remove from the tin and leave to cool completely on a wire rack

For the Icing:

  1. Beat the butter until soft
  2. Add the icing sugar and continue beating for 5 minutes until smooth
  3. Add the soft cheese and fold in carefully until evenly mixed without lumps, but don’t over mix
  4. Pipe or spoon onto the cool cakes

To Decorate (optional):

  1. Level the cakes, or use one of them, to crumble crumbs onto the top of the cream cheese


  • If you don’t have buttermilk mix 1tbsp of lemon juice or white vinegar into 170ml milk
  • If you don’t have white wine vinegar, any white vinegar will do
  • Margarine and English soft cheese both have a lot of liquid, so I try to use a block of hard butter for my cream cheese. Philadelphia also typically works better than supermarkets own soft cheese.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:


Amount Per Serving: Calories: 407Total Fat: 22gSaturated Fat: 13gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 86mgSodium: 262mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 1gSugar: 28gProtein: 9g

The nutritional information provided is approximate and is calculated using online tools. Information can vary depending on various factors.

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2 thoughts on “Red Velvet Cupcakes”

  1. Hello Donna,
    I’ve used and continue to use most of your cake recipes. Love them!! Could I ask if this red velvet recipe however could be used to make a 2lb loaf cake?

    Thank you
    Maria x

    • Hi Maria

      That’s lovely to hear, thank you :)

      I suspect these quantities might be a little on the low side for a 2lb loaf. I’d be tempted to increase everything by 50%, so 3 eggs instead of 2 etc and bake for around 45 minutes.

      Let me know how you get on!

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