Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe

The Spruce / Kristina Vanni

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 50 mins
Servings: 24 servings

Ruby-hued red velvet cake topped with a rich cream cheese frosting has been a favorite American dessert since the turn of the last century. The Adams Extract Company claims to have created the “original” red velvet cake in the 1920s. However, The Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City also claims it is the birthplace of the red velvet cake, with it being a popular menu item in the 1950s. This red velvet cupcakes recipe was inspired by this sweet history.

One of the lingering questions about the typical ingredients in a classic red velvet cake surrounds the use of white vinegar in the batter. During World War II baking staples like sugar and butter were rationed, and some bakers began adding beets or beet juice to their cakes. The red from the beet juice made the cakes more appealing, and the beets also acted as a filler and kept the cakes moist. However, when beet juice is in too alkaline of an environment, it tends to bake into a bluish hue rather than the red velvet color we associate with this cake.

By adding vinegar to the baking soda in the recipe, the environment becomes more acidic, resulting in a beautiful red cake. Although, nowadays most bakers tend to use red food coloring which isn't reactive to pH changes, the tradition of adding vinegar to this cake remains.

This recipe is a variation on the classic red velvet cake in the form of single-serving cupcakes. They are perfect for creating a cupcake display at a party!


  • Cupcakes:
  • 1/2 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ounces red food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 1 (8 ounces) package cream cheese (softened)
  • 1 pound confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon butter (softened)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • About 1 tablespoon buttermilk

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Prepare muffin tins with paper liners. Preheat oven to 350 F.

    Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe Ingredients
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  2. Cream the softened butter and sugar until light and fluffy. 

    Cream the softened butter and sugar
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  3. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth. 

    Add eggs
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  4. Beat in the red food coloring, white vinegar, and vanilla extract.

    Beat in the red food coloring
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  5. Sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

    Sift together
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  6. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk into the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. 

    Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center of one of the cupcakes comes out clean. 

    Pour the batter into the prepared muffin cups
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  8. Cool 5 minutes on a wire rack before removing from the muffin tin to cool completely.

    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  9. To prepare the frosting, mix softened cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, softened butter, and vanilla extract until smooth and fluffy. 

    prepare the frosting
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  10. Add the buttermilk, only a few drops at a time until the frosting achieves the desired spreadable consistency.

    Add the buttermilk
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  11. Spread gently on top of the cooled cupcakes. 

    Red Velvet Cupcake Recipe
    The Spruce / Kristina Vanni
  12. Enjoy!