Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Please welcome Simply Recipes guest contributor Garrett McCord. ~Elise

Red velvet cake is classic Americana cooking with its roots in the south. Deliciously festive, rich, flavorful, red velvet is like yellow cake but with a little kiss on the cheek of chocolate.

The red color can come from beets or even strawberries but personally I unapologetically prefer red food dye and in large quantities as it does a better job of disguising the brown chocolate without altering the flavor.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Be sure to be careful when putting this recipe together as the batter can stain, so you may not want kids putting it together (better to put them on frosting duty).

Adapted into little red cupcakes and topped with a dollop of cream cheese frosting, they make for a colorful and tasty dessert for late winter picnics and are especially sweet for Valentine’s Day or for the Fourth of July if adorned with some blueberries.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe

  • Yield: Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes


  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/3 cups of cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 cup of buttermilk*
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar

Frosting ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
  • 2 - 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

*You can make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to milk and letting it stand for about 10 minutes.


The cupcakes

1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.

2 Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

3 In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring.

4 Add a fourth of the dry ingredients and mix, then add a third of the wet. Continue adding in a dry, wet, dry pattern, ending with the dry ingredients.

5 Scoop into cupcake papers, about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes of baking to ensure even baking.

6 Allow to cool for one minute in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

The Frosting

1 Beat the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

2 Add the vanilla extract and mix.

3 Add the powdered sugar, continually taste to get to desired sweetness. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

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Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a food writer, writing instructor, culinary consultant, freelance food photographer, and recipe developer who shares his enthusiasm for food and the written word through his blog Vanilla Garlic. Garrett's cookbook, co-authored with Stephanie Stiavetti, is Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese

More from Garrett

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Showing 4 of 122 Comments

  • Julie

    After several high altitude baking adjustments these cupcakes came out wonderful at my 8200′ elevation. I particularly liked that this recipe uses butter instead of vegetable oil. I also used gel color (less than what is in recipe) instead of liquid food coloring and the color came out a beautiful, deep red. The cupcakes had a very mild flavor and the rich, sweetness of the cream cheese frosting really brought these cupcakes to life.

  • Kristyn

    If I used blue food coloring instead of red would the taste still be the same?

  • Jess

    My husband loves these – they are one of his favorite cupcake recipes. I’ve made them three times now, after my sister made them for a family event and they were a big hit there! The recipe is great, and the cream cheese frosting is really good!

  • Anonymous

    Where can these cupcakes be stored? Can they be left out or do they need to be refrigerated?

    Like many baked goods the shelf life is limited. Leave them out on the counter overnight and no more. Putting them in a fridge will make the cakes hard and dry. ~Garrett

  • aini

    Could you give me a red velvet cupcake recipe that uses traditional beet juice? I’m kind of scared of using a big amount of food coloring. Thank you.

    The traditional way is not to use beet juice or coloring. The traditional “red” color was due to a chemical reaction with the cocoa powder and the acid in the buttermilk. The color was more a muddy red-brown. Beet juice will turn it dark purply-brown. As for the recipe, I suggest a Google search. ~Garrett

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