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!
Homemade Red Velvet Cupcakes
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.
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.
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.
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 cupcakes and red velvet cake frosting are total keepers.
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.
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.
I also made a one-bowl, no-mixer vanilla cream cheese frosting for the red velvet cake cupcakes that I simply spread on.
These homemade red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are soft, tender, springy, and moist. There’s just enough chocolate flavor to satisfy your chocolate cravings, without being overdone.
The smooth, rich homemade 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.
What’s in Red Velvet Cupcakes?
To make the red velvet cupcakes, you’ll need:
- Granulated sugar
- Canola oil
- Vanilla Greek yogurt
- Vanilla extract
- All-purpose flour
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Baking soda
- Red food coloring
And to make the red velvet cake frosting, you’ll need:
- Cream cheese
- Unsalted butter
- Vanilla extract
- Confectioners’ sugar
How to Make Red Velvet Cupcakes
Simply whisk together the wet ingredients, then stir in the dry ingredients. Add in just enough food coloring to turn the batter red.
Fill your muffin cups 3/4 full, then bake the red velvet cupcakes until risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
While the red velvet cupcakes cool, make the homemade cream cheese frosting. If your frosting is too thick, add a splash of cream or milk to gradually thin it out.
Frost the cooled cupcakes with the red velvet cake frosting and optionally garnish with sanding sugar.
Is There a Buttermilk Substitute I Can Use?
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 years. It’s the perfect solution for that once-in-a-blue moon recipe you make that calls for buttermilk.
Can I Make a Red Velvet Cake Instead of Cupcakes?
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.
Can I Freeze Cupcakes?
Yes, you can bake these red velvet cupcakes and freeze them for later. I recommend freezing just the cupcakes and making a fresh batch of cream cheese frosting when you’re ready to thaw and enjoy them.
How to Store Red Velvet Cupcakes
The homemade red velvet cupcakes will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 3 days. I personally am comfortable storing cream cheese-frosted items at room temperature, but if you prefer to store in the fridge, that’s fine. Just note that the fridge will dry the cupcakes out much more quickly.
Tips for Making Red Velvet Cupcakes
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.
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, breezy, one-bowl, no-mixer cupcake batter, to break out a piping bag seems like a cruel trick.
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Red Velvet 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 oil
- 2 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 cup cream cheese, softened (I used Trader Joe’s soft spreadable light)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 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
Make the Cupcakes
- 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.
- In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first 6 ingredients, through vanilla, until smooth.
- Add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, optional salt, and whisk until just combined; don’t overmix.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Optionally, garnish each cupcake with a sprinkle of sanding sugar or pinch of sprinkles.
Make the Cream Cheese Frosting
- You may have a small amount of frosting left over. It will keep airtight in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
- 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.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 404Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 142mgCarbohydrates: 67gFiber: 1gSugar: 54gProtein: 4g
More Valentine’s Day Recipes:
Red Velvet Chocolate-Swirled Brownie Bars — These easy, no-mixer brownie bars are in between a bar and a brownie. Not supremely fudgy to give them true brownie status, but much fudgier and richer than your typical bar, and not cakey!
Easy Chocolate Pots de Creme – No-bake, no-cook, and made in a blender in 5 minutes!! The PERFECT dessert! Rich, decadent, a chocolate lover’s dream, perfect for special occasions, and guaranteed to impress!!
Red Velvet Poke Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting — The cake is fast, easy, and it’s a poke cake so it’s automatically super soft and moist.
Soft Frosted Valentine’s Heart Cookies — These easy cookies are soft, chewy, dense, made in one bowl, and you don’t have to roll them out.
Red Velvet Gooey Butter Cookies — These chocolate chip red velvet cookies have a secret ingredient — cake mix! These cookies are super ooey gooey and ultra rich!
Valentine’s Day Vanilla Pudding Sugar Cookie Bars – A sugar cookie crust topped with creamy vanilla pudding, whipped topping, and sprinkles!! A luscious and EASY Valentine’s Day dessert that will put everyone in festive spirits!!
The Best and Easiest Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes — One bowl, no mixer, so easy! The warm, gooey, fudgy chocolate lava cake center is heavenly! Better than any restaurant versions! Best chocolate cake EVER!!
Valentine’s Frosted Sugar Cookie Bars – Sugar cookie bars are so much FASTER AND EASIER than making sugar cookies!! The sprinkles and tangy cream cheese frosting help to make the bars a PERFECT Valentine’s Day treat!!
Recipe originally published November 18, 2013 and republished January 29, 2020 with updated text.