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best red velvet cupcake recipe

Minimalist Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe. Take two. 

Okay, okay not a complete failure. But boy is this a story. And its long. So make sure you’re sitting down. A glass of wine wouldn’t hurt either.

Three weeks ago I had the same little problem I did this week, being strapped for cash yet really, really wanted cupcakes. Now you may be thinking that anyone should afford cupcakes at anytime, but you do remember I live in inflated luxuryville (re: New York City) right? Right. So you know when you get all Martha Stewart and think you can whip up something out of nothing in true minimalist baking fashion? That was me, times ten. I only had bread flour as usual, and figured there must be some darn red velvet recipe out there that calls for bread flour. Well there was one, but whoever wrote it needs to be shot. Okay not with a gun, but a horse tranquilizer would suffice. I mean really, bread flour for red velvet? What were they thinking! What was I thinking even trying it!? It was stiffer than a cutting board, more dense than a pound cake, and tasted like paper…better yet, a napkin. It was a total let down for myself, my confidence, and my poor best friend who had to do taste testing. 

Note: ALWAYS secretly taste test before having someone else do it. Save yourself the embarrassment. You’re not that amazing yet.

So here I am again a month later, determined…I mean possessed, to freakin nail this red velvet. And what do I do, but screw it up again! I searched high and low, read for hours, did comparisons and sifted through endless reviews. I chose a recipe by beloved Joy the Baker, but I still fell short somehow. Don't leave me yet, as it wasn’t all a lost cause. I learned vital things for next time through my research. And most of all, this recipe churned out the best minimalist cream cheese frosting I ever had! So what were the lessons? Well, allot actually. For starters, my initial research was about fat. No not my ass, actual fat. The whole butter vs oil debate. You don’t know this, but my first ever true cupcake experience goes way back to when my ex fiance used to buy me cupcakes every Sunday morning for brunch. They were these beautiful little minis, sprinkled with those edible pearls; sapped in oil. But I loved it! It was the best use of oil I ever saw, like magic. Because it wasn’t greasy, it was just…hmmm, smooth. So these days, I’ve got myself thinking that I could recreate those delicious cupcakes, but never have been able to. Then I came across Mr. Cake Man Raven. The king of red velvet, as he once was (now the reviews are bad, as with all things that evolve, aka: go frugal). He makes use of oil in his recipes, which led me to a woman who did an 8 recipe comparison test and said oil was not the best choice. So butter it is! (For now.) Now my problem was getting a rise out of my cupcakes. For some reason they never quite look perfect like bakeries make them. For one, I don’t yet have a scooper to measure evenly, but more importantly I just want a perfect dome. So I read on Chokylit that baking soda AND baking powder together make for a great rise. Voila! But alas, these babies still found a way to let me down. It all came down to the flour. It was more dense then I wanted, and had no crumb in sight. So this mysterious ‘tender crumb’ that cake flour provides is haunting me and I will not rest until I try my hand at red velvet again with the perfect batter! I eventually dream to bake for dollars, so my perfectionist traits are shining through. I know a good cupcake when I see one (as well as a bad one Magnolias!) so one day soon, I will master this darn red velvet! If anyone has ANY TIPS at all, it would be most helpful.

Moist Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe

makes one dozen cupcakes
Note: I'm alerted that there's allot of copy pasting going on. Please feel free to share but credit my blog (which is protected under copyright law) with a link to my homepage when copying this recipe. It's 2021 ladies, technology follows plagiarists. Thanks!


  • 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 Tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 baking powder*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar


  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Turn mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
  2. In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
  3. Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.
  4. Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar. Turn to high and beat a few more minutes.
  5. Spoon batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 325 F for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.
  6. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them of a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.


  • 2 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 3 Tablespoons butter (softened)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese (cold)

  1. Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed.
  2. Add the cream cheese all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated.
  3. Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.
  4. Note: Do not over-beat as the frosting can quickly become runny.

By the way, if you loved this experiment, you'll die for my Cotton Candy Cupcakes!

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    1. It was a long time ago, but I know I made these:
      and they were not bad at all. But I wasn't writing a blog back then, so I kind of forgot everything. But they were good, seriously. I hate it when red velvet doesn't taste even a little chocolate-y (like those from Martha Stewart... they were disgusting). And these totally did. They were delicious.

    2. But they look so pretty!! Red velvet cupcakes are darn tricky to make!

    3. @Tanja OMG you didn't like Martha Stewart's recipe for RV? Must hear more about this!! But yeah I amped up the cocoa in mine, so chocolatey flavor was not the problem :)

      @Paris They are in deed! have you tried your hand at them yet? Where are the best ones you've tasted in Europe so far?

    4. Anonymous8:43 PM

      I have unfortunately fallen into the same trap many time before, and if there is one thing I've learned in my life it's to never find a recipe to try to fit an ingredient, but always look for the best recipe and friggin beg for quarters on the corner street if you have to to get the right ingredients.

      non-the-less - gorgeous photo!

    5. I didn't like the recipe because there were only 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder in it! The taste was horrible, one of the most disgusting things I've ever baked, lol. And the cream cheese frosting didn't help much. But I've never had a real red velvet cake, so I don't know how they're supposed to taste like.

    6. At least the cupcakes look lovely- although I know how frustating it can be when they don't taste like you expected. I've had trouble with red velvet cake as well- it's tricky! So glad I found your blog on TasteSpotting- S.

    7. Chi Chi6:00 PM

      Ok, so are you totally against oil? Because THE BEST red velvet I have ever made/tasted, were oil-based. And I would love to share my "cake-flour" based recipe with you.

      Also, I add at LEAST 1/4 cup coa-coa powder and a couple teaspoons of espresso powder. I like it nice and chocolatey too. : )

    8. @Shelley, wow I am even more glad you found my because now I have found you and I LOVE, love your blogger profile. What an inspirational life you have so far. Le Cordon in Paris and college in Spain, now baking/blogging in Texas. You must must let me interview for my blog, it would be an honor :)

    9. @Chi Chi, oh not against oil at all!! Just bad experiences so far. Its a very very specific texture and crumb I am looking for. I would be delighted to see your oil and c. flour recipes. Do you want to email me? xx

    10. I loved this post sooo much!! I laughed so much when reading it. With the debate over oil and butter cakes, each one has characteristics I love. I find that ones made with butter have a much finer crumb, which I love, are less greasy and have a butter flavor. The one thing I don't like about it is that it becomes hard when put in the fridge. For oil cakes, it tends to have more air pockets, and is greasy but I love how it stays soft when put in the fridge. I think it's all about preference. I also made red velvet cupcakes too!! BTW, I love your blog so much that I started following. :)
      Would you mind checking out my blog? :D

    11. @AJ Woah! How amazing. You are officially my first male commenter! Woo hoo. So glad you stopped by. I see you have a red velvet recipe post worth trying too. Thanks so much for the feedback. I think I will just try both and see what's what. But yeah, has to hold up in the fridge.
      Please come back and comment again! Love your opinions. xx

      PS- following you too ;)

    12. Anonymous2:43 AM

      the best recipe i know of has not one but TWO cups of oil in it...and the whole bottle of red food coloring(1 oz.).
      2 C sug.
      2 C oil
      2 eggs
      mix well.
      1, 1 oz. bott. red fd color
      2 tsp. cocoa(i have used 2 TB)
      1 tsp. wht. vinegar(i have used 1 TB)
      mix well.
      2 1/2 C. pl. flour
      1 tsp. bak. soda
      1 tsp. salt
      combine dry ingred. and alternate adding with
      1 C. buttermilk
      beat wel after each addition. then add
      1 tsp vanilla
      bake in 3 greased and floured cake pans at 350 deg. for 30 mins or so. do not overcook.
      frost with cream cheese icing.
      recipe is from a very old southern(GA) church cookbook.
      this cake is very tender.

    13. try the smittenkitchen recipe i really liked her cake part, nice crumb great flavor. The frosting not so much.

    14. Wow, a ton of responses! On your cake flour issue. I know sometimes good cake flour is hard to find in anything other than like a 50 pound sack, my baking instructor (I'm a culinary student) told us that you can put 30% cornstarch into your AP flour and it makes it a equal substitute for cake flour! Super easy, she even uses it at her restaurant. I've used it and it worked perfect. Hopefully that can help in any future recipes you try out.

    15. Loved this post! I'm on the look out for a great red velvet cupcake as well... my friends requested the flavor for some wedding cupcakes and I'm determined to find the best! I tried Joy's recipe too and wasn't impressed which was disappointing to say the least.. Let me know if you find one you like and I'll do the same if you're interested :)

    16. Anonymous7:35 PM

      Hi Lola!
      I have tried this recipe before but made with beetroot juice instead of food colouring and it was absolutely delicious! The flavour of the beetroot is very subtle and blends well with the other ingredients. Once I find the recipe again, I'll pass it on!

      Alexia :)

    17. These look so delicious. I don't care if you say they taste bad. I'm ready to lick my computer screen. :)


    18. Hi There!
      I'm on the hunt for a perfect red velvet cake and have a 'search party' going on over at my blog and wanted to invite you to link up this and any other red velvet recipes you have! It ends at the end of the month.
      Hope to see you there.
      Cupcake Apothecary

    19. Hey i have already made red velvet cake in the past but with another recipe (that i love) that uses beetroot. However was on a hunt for a beetroot free recipe and came across yours. By the way if ever you want a amazing one find the beetroot one- amazing!

      Anyway recipe turned out ok but a few things i found along the way, first i agree with the last of cocoa powder i doubled it- much better. Second i used food colour paste and had a lovely rich colour, third i used bakerella's quanities for topping (but yours looked nice) and lastly i had to convert it all into grams so it took a while... oh well it was worth it. Love the photo of your finished cupcakes they look so cute :)

    20. Anonymous12:49 PM

      I just stumbled across your blog and love it! And I also loooove red velvet, especially from Sprinkles :)

      I've made this red velvet cake before, with great success: and used it in a red velvet white chocolate cheesecake brownie cake. Insanely good. I think the cake flour really helps make a fine, tight crumb and make it tender rather than dense. I've been wanting to try using pastry flour as well--I think that would definitely yield finer results.

      If you are looking for bakery-like results, I just found this Sprinkles red velvet copycat recipe that I am super excited about:

      I tried making them with my friend, but she accidentally left out a whole cup of flour so they didn't...turn out. But they smelled amazing and I'm pretty sure they'd be awesome...

    21. I just made this recipe in the weekend I found the recipe online with some beautiful pictures (link posted below). It is a little dense but very moist and nice hint of chocolate I liked it.

    22. ooops here's the link:

    23. Your pictures are amazing! Great recipe too!

    24. Making this tonight. Excited.

      1. Let me know how it goes Rachel!


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    Letitia Elizabeth is the author of EUROPE NOMAD, the travel blog for daydreaming fellow travelers who love cheap countries in Europe, beautiful countrysides, and magical quality of life. Here you'll receive packing lists + guides, Europe travel tips, digital nomad working life advice & living in Europe as an American stories. Welcome!