Red Velvet Cupcakes

Last week Ben and I went to the Channel Islands for his cousin’s wedding, which was the second of three weddings we’re attending this spring, and the reason why I didn’t post last week. What I’ve come to learn is that the traditional British wedding cake is fruit cake. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and I agree.

So this week I was at the pub with some colleagues from work, following a trip to the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican. I asked them if there were any requests for something they wanted me to make, and one of them asked about American traditional cakes. Instantly I thought of Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese frosting. There is nothing more Southern and more delicious than Red Velvet.

When you look at the list of ingredients, it seems like a strange concoction – buttermilk, cocoa powder, vinegar – but trust me, it all comes together to make a wonderful chocolate-y cake.

This recipe works well for cupcakes, but if you’d like to make a layer cake instead, double the amount of butter and leave out the water. Also, this batter rises a lot so you don’t really need to fill the cupcake tins more than halfway.


For the cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 one-ounce bottle of red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 1/2 baking soda
For the frosting:
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, just barely softened
  • 1 1/4 cups icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk


1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Place cupcake liners into the pan.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, then set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the eggs, red food coloring, and vanilla.

4. Add the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture, alternating it with the buttermilk. Add about 1/3 of each part at a time, waiting until each part is fully incorporated before adding the other. After everything is combined, add the water.

5. In a small bowl or ramekin, mix together the vinegar and baking soda. Once the reaction begins, quickly fold it into the batter. Fill each of the cupcake tins with a couple spoonfuls of the batter until they are filled just over halfway – leaving plenty of room for them to rise!

6. Bake the cakes for approximately 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese until it is light and smooth. Gradually mix in the icing sugar and milk until it reaches the desired consistency. Spread onto your cupcakes with a spatula. If you’d like to pipe the frosting onto your cupcakes, adjust the icing sugar to milk ratio so that you add less liquid and get a stiffer frosting. It also helps if the cream cheese is still pretty chilled.

For this batch of cupcakes, I made a runnier icing and let it completely cover the top and run over the sides but these look amazing when they’re piped!

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