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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Buttermilk

When I shared my favorite red velvet cake recipe it led to lots of questions about red velvet cupcakes. After a bit of recipe testing, I’m finally happy with this recipe for red velvet cupcakes with buttermilk.

I made a few tweaks to this recipe in July 2022, which included adding a bit more cocoa powder, swapping out the AP flour for cake flour, and decreasing the amount of oil.

The end result? An incredibly soft, tender cupcake that’s full of red velvet flavor!!

image of a moist red velvet cake that's been unwrapped and frosted with cream cheese frosting

The Secret Ingredient: Buttermilk

Anyone who has made my cake recipes before knows I am obsessed with buttermilk.

I love baking with it and use it in most of my recipes! It makes such tender cake layers and adds so much moisture! It also gives my baked goods a delicious tang.

While I love using it in other recipes, I think it absolutely essential in any red velvet recipe.

It’s a quintessential part of the classic red velvet taste we know and love. That’s why I named this recipe red velvet cupcakes with buttermilk!!

image of red velvet cupcakes being scooped into cupcake liners

While buttermilk can be found in most grocery stores, some parts of the country or foreign countries don’t sell it. If you’re having a hard time getting your hands on buttermilk, don’t worry.

You can make your own buttermilk! Add 1 1/2 tsp of white vinegar or lemon juice into 1/2 cup measure, then top it off with enough whole milk to fill the cup measure.

Let’s Make These Red Velvet Cupcakes Together!

Let’s walk through each step of this red velvet cupcake recipe with buttermilk to make sure it turns out as amazing as possible! I’ve also shared a video tutorial below.

Step 1: Make the Red Velvet Cupcake Batter

Begin by preheating the oven to 350°F/175°C and lining a muffin pan with 12 cupcake liners.

This recipe can be made with either a stand mixer and a whisk attachment or a hand mixer.

Combine the ingredients following the recipe card below.

Make sure that you properly cream together the butter and sugar. This will help the cupcakes bake up fluffy and tender.

image of red velvet cupcake batter that's been made with buttermilk

Step 2: Bake the Red Velvet Cupcakes

Fill 12 cupcake liners 2/3 full and bake for 16-19 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Remove from the oven.

image of red velvet cupcake batter that's been scooped into a lined muffin tin and are ready to be baked

Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.

If you’re in a rush, place the entire pan in the freezer for 15 minutes to accelerate the cooling process

Step 3: Make the Cream Cheese Buttercream

While the cupcakes bake and cool, make the cream cheese buttercream frosting.

This red velvet cupcake recipe would taste great with just about any frosting, but I wanted to stick with the classic combination of red velvet and cream cheese frosting.

My cream cheese buttercream is a dream to frost with. It’s thick, has great structure, and pipes like a dream.

I love frosting cupcakes with it because it’s stiff enough to pipe a big, beautiful swirl on top of a cupcake. And that is exactly what I did for these red velvet cupcakes with buttermilk!

image of cream cheese frosting being mixed in a glass bowl with a hand mixer

If the frosting seems too thick, add an extra Tbsp of heavy cream. If it seems too thin, add in another 1/4 cup of powdered sugar.

Once the frosting is made, stir it by hand with a rubber spatula to get the frosting SUPER smooth.

Then place the buttercream in a piping bag fitted with your favorite piping tip and seal the top with a rubber band or clip.

Step 4: Frost the Cooled, Red Velvet Cupcakes

The final step is to pipe on a frosting swirl! I used an open star frosting tip (like a Wilton 1M) to pipe these massive swirls of cream cheese frosting.

image of cream cheese buttercream frosting being piped onto a red velvet cupcake with a wilton 1m frosting tip

However, when I was done, I felt they like they needed a little something else. I ended up crumbling one cupcake with a fork to create some red velvet crumbs.

I sprinkled these over the top of my frosted cupcakes, almost like sprinkles. The crumbs add a great pop of color.

image of red velvet cake crumbs being sprinkled on top of a moist red velvet cupcake

This decoration is super easy and gives the cupcakes such a classic look.

If you don’t have any frosting tips or piping bags, you can also use a Freezer ziplock bag and trim the corner to have a 2 cm opening.

image of a red velvet cupcake that's been cut into to show how tender and soft it is

No matter how you decorate them, they’re going to be incredibly moist and delicious.  I mean, just look at that crumb!!

Red Food Coloring

When you make anything red velvet, you expect it to have that gorgeous, deep red color. I’ve found that it’s a lot easier to achieve that using gel food coloring.

I prefer Americolor, but any gel food coloring will work! If you don’t have gel food coloring on hand, you can also use liquid food coloring.

image of a red velvet cupcake being held up to show how nicely it baked up

I’ve found that you need to use about half a bottle of liquid food coloring (1 Tbsp) to get that deep red color, so be sure you have enough on hand if you go this route.

Any Color Velvet Cupcakes

While we’re on the topic of color, these cupcakes aren’t limited to just being red. Baking for a baby shower? Make pink velvet or blue velvet!

Or maybe your favorite color is purple (like me)? Purple velvet cupcakes it is!!

This cupcake recipe can be made in any color, just be sure you have that shade of food coloring on hand.

I used this recipe to make both red and green velvet cupcakes for my grinch cupcakes, and they turned out perfectly.

Don’t be afraid to get creative and taste the rainbow!!

Substitutions and Swaps – Red Velvet Cupcakes

This recipe use quite a few ingredients and I know you might not have them all on hand.

Or if you have food allergies or restrictions, I’ve got you covered. Below are some swaps and substitutions that you can make.

  • Cake Flour – This recipe turns out best with cake flour. If you can’t find any, use this trick to make your own. You can use a gluten free flour blend if needed.
  • Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – I use natural unsweetened cocoa powder like this. I don’t recommend using Dutch-processed or dark cocoa powder in this recipe. It’ll throw off the color of the cupcakes.
  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this cupcake recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place.
  • Granulated Sugar – I do not recommend reducing the amount of sugar or changing the type of sugar as it will change the texture of these cupcakes.
  • Large Egg – If you have an egg allergy, try using a flaxseed egg or a vegan egg replacer like this one made by Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Vegetable Oil – You can use any flavorless oil in this recipe. Canola or sunflower oil would work great!
  • Vinegar – This recipe needs a bit of white vinegar because it activates the baking soda and helps the cupcakes rise. You can also use apple cider vinegar.
  • Red Gel Food ColoringRed gel food coloring works best in this recipe. It gives the cupcakes a vibrant color without throwing off the consistency of the cupcake batter. Liquid food coloring can be used in its place if needed, and I recommend using 1 Tbsp.
  • Buttermilk – If you’re having a hard time getting your hands on buttermilk, you can make your own buttermilk! Add 1 1/2 tsp of white vinegar or lemon juice into 1/2 cup measure, then top it off with enough whole milk to fill the cup measure.
image of a red velvet cupcake that's been cut into to show how tender and soft it is

Substitutions and Swaps – Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • Unsalted Butter – If you only have salted butter on hand, you can use it in place of the unsalted butter. Just be sure to omit the salt that this frosting recipe calls for. You can also use vegan butter in its place!
  • Cream Cheese – This frosting turns out best using full fat cream cheese that comes in a brick. However, low fat cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese can be used too.
  • Heavy Cream – Whipping cream, coconut cream, or alternative milk (soy, almond, oat, coconut) will work fine in this frosting recipe if that’s what you have on hand.
image of a block of full fat cream cheese

Making These Red Velvet Cupcakes in Advance & Storage Tips

You can make these cupcakes in advance! Unfrosted cupcakes can sit at room temperature overnight or be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container.

They can also last up to a month in the freezer. If you plan to freeze them, I suggest waiting to frost them until they’re thawed.

Make your frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to a month.

Be sure to give the frosting a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

Frosted cupcakes can sit out at room temperature for up to 3 hours or be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container. However, I find frosting them right before serving is best.

image of a red velvet cupcake recipe that's made with buttermilk and topped with cream cheese frosting

Tips for Making the Best Red Velvet Cupcakes with Buttermilk:

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure and then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Once you add the cake flour, mix your cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
  • Use a cookie scoop to easily fill your cupcake liners. It also makes sure your cupcakes end up being the same height.
  • Bang your cupcake pan on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • Seal off the top of your piping bag with a rubber band to prevent any frosting from seeping out the top of the bag and make the piping bags easier to use.
image of a red velvet cupcake recipe that's made with buttermilk and topped with cream cheese frosting

Let Me Know What You Think!

If you try these red velvet cupcakes with buttermilk, I’d love to hear what you think of them! Please leave a rating and let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

Don’t forget to tag me @chelsweets and use #chelsweets on social media so I can see your delicious creations!

Other Recipes You Might Like:

Yield: 12

Red Velvet Cupcakes

image of a moist red velvet cake that's been unwrapped and frosted with cream cheese frosting

These red velvet cupcakes with buttermilk bake up so tender and delicious and are frosted w/ the best cream cheese frosting!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 17 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 57 minutes

Ingredients

Red Velvet Cupcakes

  • 1 cup cake flour (120g)
  • 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (6g)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (3g)
  • 1/4 tsp fine salt (2g)
  • 3 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (38g)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (150g)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (56g)
  • 3 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil (42g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1/2 tsp white vinegar (2g)
  • 1 squirt of red gel food coloring or 1 1/2 tsp liquid food coloring
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (120g)

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 1/2 cup + 5 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature (180g)
  • 1/4 cup full-fat cream cheese, room temperature (56g)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4g)
  • 1/2 tsp fine salt (3g)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (375g)
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream or whipping cream (15g)

Additional Tools

Instructions

Red Velvet Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F / 175°C and line a standard sized muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, sift 1 cup of cake flour, 1 Tbsp cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 1/4 tsp salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream 3 Tbsp butter and 3/4 cup sugar together on medium speed for 2-3 minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer.
  4. Mix in 1 large egg and mix on a medium speed until fully combined. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  5. Next, mix in 3 Tbsp oil, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1/2 tsp vinegar, and a generous squirt of red gel food coloring on a medium low speed.
  6. Add in half of the dry ingredients and mix on low until just combined, then mix in 1/2 cup of buttercream. Mix in the last half of the dry ingredients on a low speed, taking care not to over-mix the batter. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed with a rubber spatula.
  7. Divide the batter evenly between 12 cupcake liners and bake for about 16-19 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few moist crumbs. Rotate the pan halfway through to help the cupcakes bake evenly.
  8. Remove the cupcake pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  9. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:

  1. Beat 3/4 cup butter and 1/4 cup cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment or hand mixer until smooth.
  2. Add in 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp salt. Beat on a medium speed until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  3. Mix in 3 cups of powdered sugar and 1 Tbsp of heavy cream on a low speed.
  4. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 tablespoon at a time). If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (1/4 cup at a time).
  5. Place frosting in a piping bag fitted with an open star piping tip (like a Wilton 1M) frosting tip. Seal the top of the bag with a rubber band or clip and set aside.

Red Velvet Cupcake Decoration:

  1. Once the cupcakes are fully cooled, remove one cupcake from its liner and use a fork to crumble it into tiny pieces in a small bowl. If you don't want to crumble an entire cupcake, trim the tops off of a few cupcakes and crumble. Set aside.
  2. Pipe large swirls of buttercream frosting on top of each cupcake.
  3. Sprinkle the red velvet cupcake crumbs on top of the frosting and enjoy!

Notes

Making Mini Red Velvet Cupcakes

If you want to make mini red velvet cupcakes, this recipe can be baked in mini muffin tins! It makes about 36 mini cupcakes, and they only need to bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 F / 175 C.

Tips for Making the Best Red Velvet Cupcakes

  • Ingredients at room temp mix together better. Set out any cold ingredients ahead of time.
  • Properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure and then level) or use a kitchen scale to measure your dry ingredients.
  • Once you add the flour, mix your cupcake batter just until the ingredients are incorporated. This will ensure your cupcakes are tender and fluffy.
  • Use a large cookie scoop to easily fill your cupcake liners. It also makes sure your cupcakes end up being the same height.
  • Bang your cupcake pan on the counter before putting it in the oven. This brings any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • Seal off the top of your piping bag with a rubber band to prevent any frosting from seeping out the top of the bag and make the piping bags easier to use.

Red Velvet Cupcake Variations

To make gluten free red velvet cupcakes, swap in your favorite gluten free flour blend for the AP flour this recipe calls for and be sure to over-mix your batter and let it sit for at least 30 minutes before baking for best results.

Making These Red Velvet Cupcakes in Advance & Storage Tips

Make your cupcakes in advance! If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, they can sit overnight at room temp, up to a week in the fridge, or up to 3 months in the freezer.

Make your frosting ahead of time too or save any leftover frosting! It can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to a month.

Be sure to give the frosting a good stir once it thaws to get the consistency nice and smooth again.

Frosted cupcakes can sit out at room temperature for up to 3 hours or be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days in an airtight container. However, I find frosting them right before serving is best.

Nutrition Information

Yield

12

Serving Size

1

Amount Per Serving Calories 410Total Fat 22gSaturated Fat 11gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 9gCholesterol 63mgSodium 249mgCarbohydrates 52gFiber 0gSugar 42gProtein 2g

NMA123

Tuesday 31st of January 2023

Could I use this recipe to make cake pops, with the frosting to bind it? If yes, how many cake pops do you think this recipe would make? Thank you!

NJ

Tuesday 3rd of January 2023

The cupcakes take a few hours to make, but are totally worth it.

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Monday 5th of December 2022

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Jennifer

Tuesday 6th of September 2022

Hello, my family has always loved the recipe before you tweaked it. Are you able to send me the original recipe? They will definitely know if I change it up. LOL.

Thank you in advance!

Chelsweets

Sunday 11th of September 2022

Hi Jennifer,

For sure! Just emailed it to you :) Happy baking!!

Jennifer

Friday 22nd of July 2022

I've been using this recipe for awhile now.....when I logged on this time, the directions are totally different! Did you make some changes to this recipe?

Thank you!

Chelsweets

Sunday 24th of July 2022

Hi Jennifer!

A lot of people were having issues with this recipe (centers sinking in, oily liners, liners sticking to the cupcakes) so I made a few tweaks to this recipe this past week! These included adding a bit more cocoa powder, swapping out the AP flour for cake flour, and decreasing the amount of oil.

The end result is an incredibly soft, tender cupcake that’s full of red velvet flavor!! I think the updated version takes a tiny bit longer to make but it's worth it. If you want to make the old version of this recipe, you can find it here: https://chelsweets.com/eyeball-cupcakes/

Hope that helps, happy baking!

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