These classic red velvet cupcakes are moist and tender with a hint of vanilla and cocoa powder. The sour cream in the recipe gives the cake the classic slight tanginess of red velvet cake. 

Red velvet cupcakes on a plate beautifully decorated with cream cheese frosting

Red Velvet Cupcakes Overview

Red velvet cake is really a unique variety of cake in the ingredients that it calls for. Red velvet is sort of a hybrid between vanilla and chocolate cake, with a hint of each flavor, and colored with red food coloring to make it intensely red. 

Red velvet cupcakes beautifully decorated with cream cheese frosting on a plate, one with bite taken out

Red velvet cake also contains a few acidic ingredients in it, typically vinegar and either buttermilk or sour cream. These acidic ingredients give red velvet a slightly tangy flavor but also serve to bring out the red color in the food coloring. The acidic ingredients also interact with the baking soda, leavening the cake and giving it the velvety texture as the name suggests. 

What do Red Velvet Cupcakes Taste Like? 

Red velvet cupcakes are a vanilla cake with a small amount of cocoa powder added in. They are not as chocolaty as traditional chocolate cake, but the cocoa does come through. 

Red velvet cupcakes also taste somewhat tangy from the acidic ingredients. These days, red velvet cupcakes typically paired with cream cheese frosting to compliment the tangy flavor of the cake. However, the original cake was served with Ermine frosting, which is a boiled milk frosting. 

Red velvet cupcakes beautifully decorated with cream cheese frosting on a plate

Where did Red Velvet Cake Originate? 

Red velvet cake originated in the 1800’s when cocoa powder was often added to cake to lighten the texture. The lighter texture of this new method paired with increased leavening from baking soda and acidic ingredients gave the cake its velvet name. (Source)

How to Make Red Velvet Cupcakes

Traditionally, red velvet cupcakes are made using the creaming method for cakes. You want to be sure all of your ingredients are at room temperature so that your cake will have the best texture. 

Step 1: Sift Dry Ingredients

Start by sifting all of your dry ingredients together. If you do not have a sifter, you can simply whisk them together until well combined. 

Step 2: Mix Wet Ingredients

In a separate bowl, whisk together all of your wet ingredients. The vinegar and the sour cream are acidic are are important to the flavor and texture of the cake. 

Step 3: Cream Butter and Sugar

Up close view of butter and sugar creamed together, light and fluffy

Cream together your butter with the sugar until really light and fluffy. This will take about 5 minutes of mixing to truly cream the two together. 

Step 4: Mix in Eggs

Next add your eggs in one at a time. If you add them both in you are risking breaking your creamed butter and sugar mixture. 

Mix until they are just absorbed. You don’t want to over-mix at this part and whip air into the eggs. 

Step 5: Alternate Dry & Wet Ingredients

Next we are going to alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients. The batter cannot absorb all of the wet or all of the dry at one time, which is why you alternate the two. 

Add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with two additions of the wet ingredients. Mix until you have a cohesive batter. 

I also add the red food coloring in the last dry ingredient addition. I prefer to use gel food coloring as it is more intense, but you can use more or less food coloring as you prefer. 

Step 6: Bake

Cupcake pan filled with cupcake liners and filled with batter about level to the pan

Scoop the batter into prepared cupcake tins and bake. Allow to cool completely before frosting. 

Red velvet cupcakes on a plate beautifully decorated with cream cheese frosting
Yield: 16 Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcake

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes

These classic red velvet cupcakes are moist and tender with a hint of vanilla and cocoa powder. The sour cream gives the cupcakes the classic slightly tangy flavor of red velvet cake.


For the Cake

  • 1 2/3 cups (200 gr) all-purpose flour
  • 3 TBSP (15 gr) cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup (182 gr) sour cream, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) milk, room temperature
  • 1 tsp white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • 2/3 cup (150 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups (300 gr) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp red gel food coloring (or 1 1/2 TBSP liquid food coloring, optional)

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 8 oz (225 gr) full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 TBSP (28 gr) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3-4 cups (360-480 gr) powdered sugar
  • large pinch salt


  1. PREP: Position an oven rack at the center position. Preheat the oven to 325 F (160 C). Line 1 full cupcake tin and 4 cups of a second cupcake tin with liners. This recipe will make about 16 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. MIX DRY INGREDIENTS: In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Whisk to evenly distribute.
  3. MIX WET INGREDIENTS: In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream, milk, vinegar, and vanilla until well combined.
  4. CREAM: In the bowl of your stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, or a large mixing bowl with a hand mixer, beat the softened butter for about 30 seconds. Add the sugar and beat until very light and fluffy. About 5 minutes. You can scrape down the bowl periodically.
  5. EGGS: Mix in one egg at a time to the creamed butter and sugar until incorporated.
  6. DRY & WET: You will alternate adding the dry with the wet ingredients. Add the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the wet ingredients in 2 additions. Start with about 1/3rd of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Add in 1/2 of the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Add in another 1/3rd of the dry ingredients and mix. Then the rest of the wet ingredients and mix. Then add the last of the dry ingredients along with the food coloring. The food coloring only gives the cake its color and can be reduced or omitted completely if you like.
  7. BAKE: Fill the cupcake tins 3/4 full with batter. Bake on the center rack of a 325 F (160 C) oven for 21-25 minutes. The cupcakes are done with the are firm and spring back when pressed in on. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
  8. FROSTING: Place the cream cheese, butter, 3 cups of the powdered sugar, and a large pinch of salt in the mixing bowl. Mix with a hand mixer or stand mixer, starting on low speed and gradually increasing until well combined and creamy. You can add up to 1 more cup of powdered sugar for a more stiff frosting that will stand up better to piping.
  9. STORE uneaten cupcakes covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. For best flavor and texture, allow them to come back to room temperature before serving.


Heavily adapted from I Scream for Buttercream's Red Velvet Cake Recipe

Recommended Products

As an Amazon Associate and member of other affiliate programs, I earn from qualifying purchases.