Red Velvet Cupcakes

Yield: about 15 large cupcakes (or 12 large cupcakes and a dozen mini cupcakes)
Recipe: 30/200
“Back to Baking”, pp. 137

Red velvet cupcakes

    I realized very recently that I hadn’t baked cupcakes for a long time. That is simply unacceptable. I love making, baking, decorating and eating cupcakes! At my previous work I used to make some every couple of weeks and bring them in. Perhaps it is because I focused on more complex or different recipes from Back to Baking, and hence (almost) forgot my passion for making cupcakes. I took advantage of a friend’s birthday this weekend to make these cute red velvet cupcakes. They were moist, tasty and the frosting was exquisite. It is the best cream cheese frosting I have tasted thus far, probably because I am not a huge fan of cream cheese (except in cheesecakes!) and that this frosting was more subtle. I must also disclose that albeit I do find them tasty, I never fully understood what red velvet cupcakes are supposed to taste like. Obviously, a chocolate cupcake tastes like chocolate and a vanilla cupcake like vanilla, but what about these? They contain both chocolate and vanilla in similar amounts, so in my mind red velvet cupcakes are supposed to taste like both. Please correct me if I am wrong. This recipe was a success nonetheless! They were all gone in an instant.

Ingredients for cupcakes:

  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) dark brown sugar, packed
  • 6 tablespoons (90 mL) white sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon red gel food coloring

Ingredients for cream cheese frosting:

  • ½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup (175g or 6 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


Edit: I made a mistake in my orignal write-up of this recipe when I posted it to my blog. I somehow wrote that 1 ¼ cup buttermilk is required, when in fact the correct amount should be ¾ cup. That’s almost half the amount! I unfortunately discovered this mistake when I attempted to make these in cake format for a work party while looking at the recipe directly from my blog. I did find that the batter was very very fluid, but since in my impressions of this recipe I had written that the cupcakes were really tasty, I trusted the process. However, after cooking for way too long (we’re talking more than an hour here), the cake was really underbaked and it was not looking very hopeful. It also smelled very strongly of buttermilk, which I found quite strange since I did not remember that from the first time I made this recipe. It is at this point that I realized that I might just have made a mistake when copying the ingredient list.

As I put the cake back in the oven, I checked in the physical cookbook and, alas, I did indeed write the wrong amount and ended up putting in almost twice the amount of buttermilk actually required. It was unfortunate and I had to throw that whole cake away, but whatever batter was left (I had planned to make a three-layer cake, and one layer was not baked yet), I tried to salvage by adding flour, sugar and some vanilla extract. I gave up on the cake idea and made a few cupcakes instead. They actually turned out pretty well the second time around and were moist and tasty. The funny thing is that when I brought them to work no one knew the story of course and everyone liked them. It’s funny to see how people enjoyed them considering what happened behind-the-scenes! This was an annoying mistake that turned out okay in the end, but I thought that it was worthwhile to share since it was an unusual situation. It definitely reminded me of why I now always double- and triple-check the ingredient list !


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line muffin  tins with large muffin liners.
  2. Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Whisk the ingredients to combine.
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar using a hand or stand mixer.
  4. Add the egg, vanilla extract and red food coloring to the butter mixture and mix well until the mixture is homogenous and fluffy
  5. In yet another bowl, mix together the buttermilk and white vinegar.
  6. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in two additions, alternating with the buttermilk.
  7. Spoon the batter evenly between the muffin liners. Bake the large  cupcakes for 18-20 minutes and the small cupcakes for 10-12 minutes, until the top of the cupcakes springs back after being pushed down gently. Cool the cupcakes in the tin for 10 minutes before letting them cool completely on a rack.
  8. For the cream cheese frosting, beat together the butter and cream cheese until the mixture is fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract and beat gently until the sugar is well incorporated. Pipe or spread the frosting on each cupcake.

Notes from Anna:

  • The cupcakes should be stored in the fridge but served at room temperature.
  • If you want a more natural red color, you can substitute the red food coloring with 3 tablespoons finely grated raw beets. In that case, use only ¾ cup of buttermilk in the recipe.