These red velvet cupcakes are a classic Southern treat with a vibrant red color, a tangy cream cheese frosting, and a delicious pecan praline topping. They are perfect for any special occasion like birthdays, weddings, and Valentine’s Day!
This is the best red velvet cake recipe, and it’s the same one I sold in my cupcake shops to make our signature red velvet cupcakes and cake layers. Keep reading to learn exactly how to make (and freeze) a red velvet cake or cupcakes.
What makes red velvet cake red?
Red velvet cake gets its distinct color from red food coloring and a small amount of cocoa powder. The red food coloring adds a vibrant red color, while the Dutch-processed cocoa powder adds a rich, dark color.
As the cake bakes, a chemical reaction between the red food coloring and other components takes place, resulting in the iconic red color of the classic red velvet cake.
What are the ingredients in red velvet cupcakes?
The ingredients used to make these delicious red velvet cupcakes are easy to find at your local grocery store.
- All Purpose Flour
- Granulated Sugar
- Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder
- Vegetable Oil
- Vanilla Extract
- Baking Soda
- White Vinegar
- Red Food Coloring
A note about the red food coloring: you want the liquid stuff. Don’t be tempted to use gel food coloring. the liquid red gives this batter just the right amount of deep red color.
How do you make red velvet cupcakes?
This delicious red velvet cake recipe has a unique mixing process. It starts with a creaming method and ends with gently folding in the leavening.
Here’s the step-by-step process:
- Start by combining the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
- In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and red coloring.
- Next, use an electric or stand mixer to combine the oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add the eggs and mix on medium speed.
- Alternate adding the flour mixture and the wet ingredients on low speed until well combined.
Here’s the interesting part. Red Velvet cake is leavened by combining baking soda and vinegar, instead of baking powder which is used in traditional cake recipes. The baking soda and vinegar mixture form a chemical reaction that lightens the batter. It’s important to mix this into the batter gently at the end of the mixing process. Avoid overmixing, which could result in a tougher texture. The result is a velvety, smooth cake batter.
The full red velvet recipe can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
What’s the best way to portion cupcake batter?
I like to use a cookie scoop (aka disher) to portion the batter into the cupcake pan.
- Standard-size cupcakes hold 2 ounces or about 3-4 tablespoons of batter (yellow, #20)
- Jumbo cupcakes hold about 6 ounces or about one-half a cup of batter (2 scoops blue, #16)
- Mini cupcakes hold 1 ½ ounces of batter or about 1 tablespoon of batter (purple, #30)
This set of scoops contains all three sizes for scooping cupcakes.
To prevent cupcakes from overflowing during baking, resist the temptation to overfill the cupcake liners. Aim for about two-thirds full to allow room for expansion, but you may need to adjust the batter amounts for different recipes.
You can read more about how to fill and frost the perfect cupcake here.
What is the best frosting for red velvet cupcakes?
In the southern United States, red velvet cupcakes are traditionally paired with cream cheese icing. (It isn’t just for carrot cake!)
Cream cheese icing is smooth, and creamy, and has just the right balance of tangy and sweet. With only five ingredients, it’s incredibly easy to whip up and adds that final, decadent touch to your already delicious red velvet cupcakes.
All you’ll need is:
- 8 oz. of room-temperature cream cheese
- a stick of unsalted butter
- 4 cups of confectioners’ sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon of heavy whipping cream.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using a paddle attachment (or with a hand mixer)
Combine the room temperature cream cheese and softened butter. Mix until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar one cup at a time until well blended. Add the vanilla and heavy whipping cream and whip on medium-high speed until you reach a light and fluffy consistency.
These cupcakes also taste delicious with Ermine Frosting, which has a wonderful custardy consistency.
Many cottage bakers aren’t allowed to use cream cheese in their frostings. When I need to use a non-dairy shelf-stable frosting, this is my favorite.
How to make pecan topping for red velvet cupcakes
My favorite topping for this moist red velvet cake is a candied pecan topping. It’s made by baking brown sugar, butter, and pecans until caramelized and toasted.
I like to make it a day ahead of time so it has time to cool before sprinkling over the frosted cupcakes.
Can you freeze red velvet cake or cupcakes?
Red velvet cupcakes or cake layers freeze well if you follow the double-wrap method.
Let your red velvet cupcakes or cake layers cool completely
Individually wrap each cake layer tightly with 2 layers of plastic wrap and place it in an airtight container.
To freeze a dozen unfrosted cupcakes, place them in a gallon-sized freezer bag, then place that in an airtight container.
Place the wrapped and protected cupcakes or cake layers in the freezer for up to 2 months.
Can I freeze leftover red velvet cake?
To freeze leftover cake, place the unwrapped frosted cake in the freezer for 8-12 hours.
Once it is fully frozen, wrap it in 2 layers of plastic wrap.
For best results, wrap the frozen red velvet cake in an additional layer of aluminum foil, to help prevent freezer burn.
What’s the best way to frost red velvet cupcakes?
While the cupcakes are cooling, you can mix the cream cheese frosting.
My favorite way to frost red velvet cupcakes is by using a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.
Fill the pastry bag and squeeze out any extra air bubbles.
Then frost the cupcakes by starting from the center of the cupcake and making your way to the outer edge in a spiral motion until each cupcake has a nice tall pile of frosting.
Sprinkle the tops with the candied pecan praline mixture.
How to make red velvet crumb sprinkles
I love to add a few sprinkles of cake crumbs to the top of the decorated cupcakes. To make the crumbs, just remove the wrapper from a baked cupcake. Place it in a zip lock bag and crumble it into fine crumbs. Now sprinkle a little red color on top of the cupcakes, and viola! a beautiful red velvet cupcake ready to be devoured!
My favorite tools for making and decorating cupcakes
Cupcake pan- These cupcake pans ensure even baking and easy release!
Cupcake liners– I always use these high-quality liners.
Ice cream scoop– This set of three scoops has all the sizes you need for portioning various size cupcakes.
Pastry bag– These sturdy pastry bags hold up well to multiple frosting refills!
Piping tip– This is my favorite large star tip for decorating.
Cupcake holder– Keeps your cupcakes fresh and transports them in style.
Click on the links to discover these essential tools on Amazon and take your cupcake game to new heights! Some of the links you’ll encounter in this post may be affiliate links.
If you loved this red velvet cupcake recipe, don’t miss out on exploring a few more of my other classic cake recipes:
1. Carrot Cake
3. White Cake
Enjoy these delicious red velvet cupcakes
This red velvet recipe isn’t your average one – it’s the exact one that 1000’s of customers enjoyed while visiting my cupcake shops. Add a taste of the South to your next special occasion like birthdays, weddings, and Valentine’s Day! If you decide to give it a go, share your thoughts by leaving a review in the comments below. Your feedback means the world to me!
Classic Red Velvet Cupcakes
- 2 1/2 cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 1/2 Cup Granulated Sugar
- 2 Tbsp Cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 Cup Canola Oil
- 2 Egg
- 1 tsp Vanilla
- 1 Cup Buttermilk
- 2 Tbsp Liquid Red Food Coloring
- 1 tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp White Vinegar
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients
- 8 oz Cream Cheese room temperature
- 8 Tbsp. Softened Butter 1 stick
- 4 Cups Confectioner's Sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 Tbsp. HeavyWhipping Cream
- In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients: flour, salt, and cocoa. Set aside
- In a medium bowl combine the buttermilk and red food color. Set aside
- In the bowl of an electric or stand mixer combine oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add eggs and mix on low for 3 minutes.
- With mixer on low speed alternate adding flour and buttermilk mixture, starting and ending with a flour addition.
- In a small dish combine the baking soda and vinegar. Add this to cake batter. Fold in and mix until just incorporated.
- Using a 2 oz scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup portion batter into cupcake wells.
- Line cupcake pan with paper liners. This batch size makes approx 22 cupcakes, or 2- 8 inch cake rounds.
- Bake at 325° for 20-25 minutes for cupcakes, or 30-35 minutes for cakes.
- Allow to cool completely before frosting.
To Make the Frosting
- Before diving into the mixing marathon, ensure your cream cheese and butter are at room temperature.
- In a large bowl, beat the softened cream cheese and butter together until the mixture reaches a fluffy consistency
- Gradually add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Mix well after each addition.
- Add the vanilla and heavy cream and mix until it has a light and airy consistency.
- Fill the pastry bag and squeeze out any extra air bubbles. Frost the cupcakes by starting from the center of the cupcake and making your way to the outer edge in a spiral motion until each cupcake has a nice tall pile of frosting.
- Sprinkle the tops with the candied pecan praline mixture.
Pecan Crumble Topping
- 3/4 cup Brown Sugar Packed
- 1/2 cup Butter Unsalted
- pinch Salt
- 1 1/2 cups Pecans shelled and coarsely chopped
- On a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet, place the cubed butter, brown sugar, salt and pecans. Bake at 350° for approx. 30 minutes. Set timer for 10 minutes and stir, repeat every 10 minutes until mixture becomes evenly caramelized and toasted.
- Allow to cool for about 30 minutes. At this point you can chop the praline into smaller pieces. It does set up as it cools, so another option is to refrigerate the praline for several hours or over night, and chop it once it is fully cooled.
- The praline is now ready to use!