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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Buttermilk

I shared my favorite red velvet cake recipe earlier this year and it led to lots of questions about red velvet cupcakes. I should have seen this coming, but was not prepared and hadn’t tested out my cake recipe as cupcakes. After a bit of recipe testing I finally ended up with this recipe red velvet cupcakes with buttermilk.

I’ve made a few tweaks to this recipe so that it makes the most tender and delicious red velvet cupcakes possible 🙂

image of red velvet cupcake

I also cut my cake recipe in half, which allows this red velvet cupcake recipe to perfectly make 1 dozen cupcakes.

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 cake and cupcake 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 scooping red velvet cupcake batter 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! For each cup of buttermilk that the recipe calls for, use 1 tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice plus enough whole milk to fill 1 cup. 

Oil Vs. Butter, or Oil & Butter?

While my red velvet layer cake recipe uses oil as the only fat, this cupcake recipe uses both butter and oil.

Butter can add a lot of flavor to a cake, but oil adds a lot of moisture. Not to say that a butter cake is dry, but the texture is far from that of a cake recipe made with oil.

Oil gives the cake a fluffier texture. While I love butter cakes and cupcakes, that’s not the texture I associate with red velvet.

image of moist red velvet cupcake, cut in half to show moist crumb

I loved the texture of my cake recipe with all oil, but I found the bottom of the cake layers to be a tiny bit oily. I didn’t want that to happen to these cupcakes, especially since they’d be baking in paper liners.

So I decided to split the difference, and make these cupcakes with equal parts butter and oil. The result is a fluffy, tender cupcake with the perfect amount of moisture.

Red Food Coloring

When you make anything red velvet, you expect it to have that gorgeous, deep red color when you bite in. 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 bright red, red velvet cupcake

I’ve found that you need to use about half a bottle of liquid food coloring 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!!

The Cream Cheese 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.

image of red velvet cupcake frosted with a giant swirl of cream cheese frosting

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!

Decorating These Red Velvet Cupcakes

Speaking of frosting, I used a wilton 1M frosting tip to pipe these massive swirls of cream cheese frosting.

However, when I was done and stepped back, 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 adds a great pop of color, along with some additional texture!

This decoration also is super easy to do, and give the cupcakes such a classic look.

Tips for Making Tender, Moist Cupcakes:

  • Don’t overmix your batter! Stir until the flour is just combined into the batter.
  • Be sure to properly measure your flour (spoon into the cup measure, then level), or even better, use a kitchen scale when making the cupcake batter.
  • Make sure your ingredients are at room temp.
  • Bang your cupcake pan on the counter before putting it in the oven, to bring any air bubbles that are trapped in the batter to the surface.
  • Don’t over bake your cupcakes. Keep an eye on them, and be sure to set a timer.
image of beautiful red velvet cupcake, decorated with red velvet crumbs

Let Me Know What You Think!

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

Yield: 12

Red Velvet Cupcakes

image of red velvet cupcake

These red velvet cupcakes with buttermilk are easy to make & absolutely delicious! They're frosted w/ the best cream cheese frosting, and are irresistible!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 18 minutes
Additional Time 30 minutes
Total Time 58 minutes


Red Velvet Cupcakes

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (56 grams)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (57 grams)
  • 1 egg (56 grams)
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature (114 grams)
  • 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar (5 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (3 grams)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar (200 grams)
  • 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (4 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda (3 grams)
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (163 grams)
  • 1 squirt of red gel food coloring (or 1 1/2 tsp liquid food coloring)

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (169 grams) - 1 1/2 sticks
  • 1/4 cup full-fat cream cheese, room temperature (56 grams or 2 oz.)
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (375 grams)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (3 grams)
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream (or whipping cream) (15 grams)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (4 grams)

Additional Tools

  • piping bag
  • wilton 1M frosting tip


Red Velvet Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degree C).
  2. Line a standard sized muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the butter and vegetable oil.
  4. Mix in the egg, buttermilk, white vinegar and vanilla extract.
  5. Add granulated sugar, and whisk for 30 seconds to help the dissolve the sugar.
  6. Mix in the cocoa powder, salt and baking soda, and whisk until no clumps remain.
  7. Add red gel food coloring, and mix until the batter is evenly colored a deep shade of red.
  8. Mix the flour into the batter in two installments.
  9. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake tins, and bake for about 18-20 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out with moist crumbs).
  10. Remove the cupcake pan from the oven, and allow them to cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
  11. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the pan, and place on a wire rack to finish cooling.

Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:

  1. Beat the butter and cream cheese on a medium speed for 30 seconds with a paddle attachment, until smooth.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and salt, and beat on low until the ingredients are fully incorporated.
  3. Slowly mix in the powdered sugar on a very low speed, 1 cup at a time. Alternate with small splashes of cream. 
  4. If the frosting is too thick, add in additional cream (1 tablespoon at a time).
  5. If the frosting is too thin, add in more powdered sugar (1/4 cup at a time).
  6. Place frosting in a piping bag fitted with a wilton 1M (or open star) frosting tip.

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. 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!


These cupcake can be made in advance! If stored unfrosted in an airtight container, they can last for:

  • 2 days at room temp
  • Up to a week in the fridge
  • Up to 3 months in the freezer

If you have extra buttercream you don't use, it can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 454Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 63mgSodium 331mgCarbohydrates 60gFiber 0gSugar 50gProtein 3g

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Saturday 4th of September 2021

Moist and delicious! I love Sprinkles red velvet cupcakes and bought their baking book but it can get pricey to use Plugra butter. Chelsea, these taste exactly like Sprinkles cupcakes but maybe yours is just a tad bit more moist. I love oil-based cupcakes because it stays moist and your recipe uses oil + butter and wow the depth. I weighed all the ingredients and it came perfect. Thank you so much for the recipe! You amaze me.


Monday 19th of July 2021

Hi there. Just wanted to know if this recipe can be cut in half so that I could make 6 cupcakes instead of 12 ?

Gena Henry

Sunday 13th of June 2021

Hi, Chelsey. First, let me tell you how much I LOVE your recipes and watching your posts. It's been fun following your journey from this being a hobby, to allowing you to quit your full-time job, to getting married... You are very talented. Thank you for sharing with us. I have been asked to make red velvet cupcakes for my nephews wedding and, not having a recipe of my own, went to your website to try yours out. One of the biggest problems I have with any cupcakes is finding a recipe that DOESN'T stick causing you to lose half of the cake as you pull the liner away. Unfortunately, it happened again with your recipe. What am I doing wrong? Is it the liner or the recipe? I purchased foil liners in four different colors for the wedding to help distinguish between the flavors, but if I can't find recipes that don't stick, it's going to be a disaster. Any suggestions? p.s. Feel free to respond privately. You don't have to post this to the site.

THANK YOU for any insight you might provide. Gena

p.s. The wedding is June 25th!! Less than 2 weeks away.


Tuesday 25th of May 2021

Hi Chelsweets!! Silly question... is it really only one teaspoon of cocoa powder in this recipe? I would think it would need a little more no? I want to make these this weekend Thanks!!! Wasn’t sure if I was seeing a typo!!


Monday 19th of April 2021

Hi Chelsea, I've tried your cupcakes and it came out very good and sponge. However, it didn't come out flat like yours, mine has a dome. Would you please tell me where did I go wrong. Thanks

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