Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting

Red velvet cake and cupcakes are so popular, but so many problems tend to plague them.

They’re either from a box which feels like cheating, or they’re from scratch but are horribly dry, and you need a mixer and will dirty every bowl in your kitchen in the process.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

These are the best red velvet cupcakes I’ve ever had, and the easiest recipe you’ll ever find.  If you’ve ever wanted to make red velvet cupcakes from scratch that are as good as those you’d find in a bakery, try this hassle-free recipe. You’ll come out looking like a superhero baker to anyone you serve them to.

They’re made in one bowl, no mixer, no creaming ingredients, and it’s a cupcake batter that’s more like a muffin batter. Whisk together wet ingredients, fold in the dry, pour into liners, and bake. Five minutes of active work never tasted so good.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

My issue with most red velvet cakes and cupcakes is that they’re dry, and dry anything just isn’t worth the calories. Why bother.

These are incredibly moist from the trifecta of moistening and tenderizing ingredients: oil, buttermilk, and Greek yogurt. I stopped at nothing to make sure they weren’t dry.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

It took me quite a few batches of cupcakes to perfect this recipe. When people think that recipe development isn’t a big deal and you just throw things in a pan and it’ll work out, well, sometimes you get lucky, but most times it’s not that easy, especially for a recipe like this. The same can be said for questions I get along the lines of, Can I substitute coconut sugar for granulated sugar, or Can I use whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose? Well, maybe you can, and please let me know how that works for you.

Determining if I should use 1 egg, one egg plus yolk, or two eggs; butter or oil and if butter, should it be melted or creamed; buttermilk or just regular milk/cream; to include Greek yogurt or sour cream and if so, how much; how much cocoa powder gives enough pop of chocolate; what kind of leavener to use – baking soda or powder; one of each, or only one or the other, and which one; cake flour or all-purpose.

The choices can be overwhelming, but I’ve done the legwork, and the recipe is a total keeper.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

For baked goods that I want to soft, springy, and bouncy, like cakes, cupcakes, and muffins, I generally prefer using oil to butter because oil does a better job keeping things soft and moist.

The same can be said for buttermilk. It does a fabulous job of tenderizing and softening the texture and crumb of breads and cakes, and when in doubt, I always opt for buttermilk over plain milk or cream. If you’re the type of person who doesn’t tend to keep buttermilk on hand, you can make your own by adding about 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice to 1 cup regular milk, letting it stand 10 minutes to curdle, and then use as indicated.

Or, you can buy a tub of Powdered Buttermilk and it’s shelf stable for year(s). It’s the perfect solution for that once-in-a-blue moon recipe you make that calls for buttermilk. Although, I’ve got tons of recipes to help you use it up.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

I added a couple hearty dollops of vanilla Greek yogurt. You could probably use a bit more buttermilk if you don’t keep Greek yogurt on hand, but yogurt is thicker and sweeter than buttermilk, so it makes the batter a little thicker and sweeter, and helps the cupcakes stay sweet and soft.

Many recipes for red velvet aren’t chocolaty enough. While these aren’t as chocolaty as chocolate cupcakes, the chocolate flavor is pleasantly noticeable.

They rise beautifully to the point I was worried they were rising a little too well. I filled my liners to a solid three-quarters full (this is a non-issue if you only fill to 2/3-full), but thankfully they stay contained, and the resulting cupcakes and hearty and full, not skimpy, wimpy, little cupcakes that no one reaches for.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

The batter makes enough for about 14 cupcakes, but because I have a small oven, I can only fit one 12-cup muffin pan in my oven at a time. The remedy is to either lick the bowl (I’m still alive after a lifetime of raw dough and batter eating); discard the batter (that’s criminal), or bake an adorable mini loaf in a mini loaf pan that fits on the same oven rack as the muffin pan (score!).

I use my mini pans all the time for a 13th or 14th cupcake, extra muffin batter, or for mini cakes. Best money you’ll spend this year and you get 4 mini pans for $10 bucks.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

I made a one-bowl, no-mixer vanilla cream cheese frosting that I simply spread on. I used light cream cheese, which makes frosting softer and runnier. If you want to pipe your frosting on, use full-fat. However, given that this is an easy, breezey, one-bowl, no-mixer cupcake batter, to break out a piping bag seems like a cruel trick.

They’re soft, tender, springy, and moist. There’s just enough chocolate flavor to satisfy your chocolate cravings, without being overdone.

Although I haven’t tried it, I surmise this cupcake batter could be used as cake batter. I’m guessing a 9-inch square cake (not a 9-inch round pan because they’re smaller and it could overflow) would be about right.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

The smooth, rich cream cheese frosting is the perfect complement to the cupcakes, and adds the right amount of zip and tang.

So good, so easy, so soft, fluffy, and moist. Perfect for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or any old Tuesday.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting {From Scratch} - Made in 1 bowl, no mixer & the cupcakes taste like they're from a bakery! Easy recipe at averiecooks.com

Print Recipe

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

If you've ever wanted to make red velvet cupcakes from scratch that are as good as those you'd find in a bakery, try this hassle-free recipe. You'll come out looking like a superhero baker to anyone you serve them to. They're made in one bowl, no mixer, no creaming ingredients, and it's a cupcake batter that's more like a muffin batter. Five minutes of active work never tasted so good. Many red velvet cakes and cupcakes are dry, but I used a trifecta of moistening and tenderizing ingredients to ensure these are soft and moist. The batter makes enough for about 13 or 14 cupcakes. I discussed above the various options for the extra batter - bake a second muffin pan, discard it, or bake a mini loaf. Although I haven't tried it, I surmise this cupcake batter could be used as cake batter. The vanilla cream cheese frosting adds is the perfect tangy complement to the just-chocolaty-enough cupcakes.So good, so easy, so soft, fluffy, and moist. Perfect for Christmas, Valentine's Day, or just because.

Yield: about 14 cupcakes

Prep Time: 10 mintues

Cook Time: about 20 minutes

Total Time: about 1 hour, for cooling

Ingredients:

Cupcakes
1 large egg
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup buttermilk (or Powdered Buttermilk, use 2 1/2 tablespoons + 2/3 cup water)
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 rounded tablespoons vanilla Greek yogurt (plain Greek yogurt or sour cream may be substituted)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons unsweetened natural cocoa powder 
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 to 2 tablespoons red food coloring, or as needed

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 heaping cup cream cheese, softened (I used Trader Joe's soft spreadable light)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 2 to 2 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, or as necessary
splash cream or milk, only if necessary
sanding sugar or sprinkles, optional for garnishing

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a Non-Stick 12-Cup Regular Muffin Pan with paper liners; set aside. You will likely have batter for a 13th or 14th cupcake, and I baked it in this cooking-sprayed mini loaf pan because my oven is small and that setup works; discard extra batter if that's easier.
  2. Cucpakes - In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients, through vanilla, until smooth.
  3. Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, optional salt, and whisk until just combined; don't overmix.
  4. Carefully whisk in the food coloring, making sure to add only as much as necessary to color the batter a deep shade of red; adding more than necessary can leave an aftertaste.
  5. Using a medium 2-inch cookie scoop, place about 2 heaping tablespoons of batter per cupcake into each of the 12 cavities so they're solidly 3/4-full. I poured the excess batter into a mini loaf pan.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until domed, set, springy to the touch, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter; don't overbake. My cupcakes were on the large side of normal because I generously filled liners to 3/4-full, and they took exactly 20 minutes. If yours are filled more shallow, start checking at 18 minutes. Allow cupcakes to cool in pan for about 15 minutes before removing. I baked the mini loaf for 20 minutes. While cupcakes cool, make the frosting.
  7. Cream Cheese Frosting - Combine first 3 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add about 1 cup confectioners' sugar, and whisk to combine or beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Continue adding sugar until desired frosting consistency is reached. If you add too much sugar and need to thin frosting out, add a splash of cream. Because I used light cream cheese, the frosting stayed on the runnier side. If you want frosting thick enough to pipe, do not use light cream cheese.
  8. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons frosting to the top of each cupcake and smooth with a knife. Optionally transfer frosting to a piping bag and frost the cooled cupcakes. I like the Wilton 1M tip  for cupcakes. You may have a small amount of frosting left over. It will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
  9. Optionally, garnish each cupcake with a sprinkle of sanding sugar or pinch of sprinkles. Cupcakes will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days. I personally am comfortable storing cream cheese-frosted items at room temp, but if you prefer to store in the fridge, that's fine, but note the fridge will dry cupcakes out much more quickly.

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Thanks for the entries in the Mr. Coffee® 12-cup Programmable Coffeemaker Giveaway and in the West Elm $50 Gift Card Giveaway

Do you have a favorite Red Velvet recipe?

227 comments

  1. to be honest, my cream cheese frosting is runny. How to make it thick, sweet with a hint of sourness? Thank you! I love your blog. 

  2. Hi Averie,

    This recipe is AMAZING and so super duper easy !! I have been using the same ol’ recipe for ages now, and came across your page and wanted to give these a try.. So glad i did they are so soooo moist and perfect!! Just made these for a birthday. Im kicking my old recipe to the curb LOL this will be my new “go to” recipe! However i do wanna add next time i will add 1/2 teaspoon salt, i found them a little too bland for my tastebuds to just add a pinch ;-) i just sprinkled a little sea salt very lightly over them and they were perfect!

    Thank you!

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and I’m glad it came out great for you and that you’re kicking your old recipe to the curb! And yes, always salt to taste – your sea salt on top sounds perfect!

  3. Can I use olive oil instead canola/vegetable oil? Cause I don’t have it right now. Thanks before.

  4. Great recipe, used butter instead oil and doubled the amount of cream cheese. Baked in a heart shaped tin and worked perfectly. Yummm!!

  5. i love these red velvet cupcakes. Made some with buttercream frosting – yum

  6. This is my second time using this recipe. This time I omitted the cocoa powder and replaced the vanilla extract with strawberry essence. I also only used two drops of red food coloring for a barely pink cupcake. They are still delicious!

  7. I have a hard time finding scratch cupcake recipes that come out moist and not dry.  Red velvet is also not my favorite, but I was asked to make some.  Thank goodness for your recipe!  This is going in my recipe book for sure.  I also plan on trying any other cupcake recipe you have!  

  8. Hi Averie :)
    Love ur blog so much, ive made so many recipes of it i cant even count! i check out ur blog almost on a daily basis, its one of my favorite blogs ever <3
    Im sorry if u have already been asked this but theres just too many comments to read through, will this recipe work as a layer cake when doubled?

    Thanks so much for all ur recipes <3

    • Thanks for all your compliments and support! I really appreciate it all :)

      As for a layer cake when doubled, I do believe someone has tried successfully but like you, there are so many comments to read :) I know on many of my cupcake recipes people have made cakes and on my cake recipes, people make cupcakes, so as long as the pans seem to be filled appropriately and not too much or too little batter, and you bake til the cake is set, you should be good to go. LMK how it works if you try it!

  9. Hello. Since here, South Italy, finding buttermilk is more difficult than spotting a ufo, I’m wondering: you wrote 1 cup of milk and 2tbs of lemon or vinegar. But the recipe calls for 2/3 cups of buttermilk…should I adjust the 2tbs vinegar to the 2/3 cups or should I just use the 1 cup you mentioned? Thank you

    • You should make 1 cup’s worth of buttermilk using the vinegar method. Then you should take 2/3 of that and use it for the recipe. It’s too hard to try to measure liquids in such small amounts when doing fractions of a cup which is why I wrote it the way I did.

  10. Hi Averie, I just came across your blog and been enjoying the variety of recipes you provide. Thank you for sharing these recipes :) by the way I was wondering why some of the recipes have a print version while some do not. The lemon bars recipe have it and this and the other lemon recipes and cupcakes don’t have it. I would really appreciate it to have the recipe in the print version. Thanks. Also, I read your about page and was happy to know that I am reading a food blog from a fellow San diegan :) well actually I live in chula vista but close enough he he….

    • If you look in the recipe card section of the recipe in the right hand corner, there’s a large PRINT RECIPE button that you can print directly from for all recipes from about mid 2011 and newer. Anything older than 5+ years ago, it’s a little iffy if they are printable, but you can always copy/paste the recipe in an email to yourself. Glad you’re enjoying the recipes.

  11. Hi Averie, thank you for the response. I am using mobile and I tried using a different browser and it works. By the way I just finished baking the lemon loaf (Starbucks copycat) that you have posted. It is now cooling :) I would try this recipe next.

  12. Thank you for this incredible recipe! This is my “go-to” for red velvet cupcakes (and I love that people think they’re difficult to make)! Easy enough to make with my four year old niece, but so delicious and pretty that I’m always being asked to make them when it’s someone’s birthday at work!

    • Thanks for trying the recipe and so glad it’s your go-to and what a compliment that you’re always being asked to make them for bdays! And you’re right, people think red velvet is difficult but not this recipe!

  13. I made these today for my sons birthday. Not only did he love them, but so did everyone else. Thank you, Averie!

    By the way, I used Philadelphia Whipped Original for the frosting, and I never had issues with runny frosting. Also, the link to the Wilton 1m tip, is no longer valid. It will take you to their website but not the item. Thought you might care to know. I used a baby knife to spread the frosting and it worked great…but it would have been more professional looking if I had a tip to use. Would love to invest in one. Any recommendations?

    • You can still get the 1M, just google or amazon it, and it’ll pop right up.

      So glad the cupcakes were a bit hit with everyone and what a lovely bday present for your son!

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