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 Cupcake Recipe 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 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. 

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

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 in a large bowl. 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 the tin lined with paper cupcake liners. I like to use a large cookie scoop to scoop the cupcake batter. Bake until the cupcakes are firm and spring back when gently pressed on with your fingertip. Allow to cool completely before frosting. Place the cupcakes on a wire rack to speed up the cooling time.

Frosting the cupcakes when the cupcakes are even slightly warm will cause the frosting to melt.

Follow my tutorial for more detailed instruction on making classic cream cheese frosting!


Make Ahead Cupcakes: Bake cupcakes up to 2 days in advance. Store the cupcakes at room temperature or in the refrigerator on a sheet pan and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Frost before serving.

Make Ahead Buttercream: Make this buttercream frosting up to 1 week in advance. Store it in the refrigerator in an airtight container. When ready to frost and serve, remove the frosting from the refrigerator, let it come to room temperature, re-whip it using a hand or stand mixer, and frost the cupcakes.

How to Store Frosted Cupcakes: Cupcakes are best served and stored at room temperature. Place the frosted cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Try to avoid storing them in the refrigerator as frosted cupcakes tend to dry out if stored there.


If you enjoyed these perfect red velvet cupcakes, you might like to try another delicious cake recipe that can be made into cupcakes, layer cake, or a sheet cake.

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

  • 200 grams (1 ⅔ cups) all-purpose flour
  • 15 grams (3 tablespoons) cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 180 grams (¾ cup) sour cream, room temperature
  • 113 grams (½ cup, 120 milliliters) milk, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar, white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 150 grams (⅔ cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 300 grams (1 ½ cups) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons red gel food coloring (or 1 ½ tablespoons liquid food coloring, optional)

For the Cream Cheese Frosting

  • 226 grams (8 ounces, 1 cup) full fat cream cheese, room temperature
  • 28 grams (2 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 360-480 grams (3-4 cups) powdered sugar
  • large pinch salt



  1. Set out all the ingredients that need to come to room temperature. I recommend at least 30 minutes for the butter, sour cream, milk, and eggs. Cream cheese takes a long time to come to room temperature so give it at least a full hour.
  2. Position an oven rack in the center position. Preheat the oven to 325°F/165°C. Line the cupcake tin with paper liners. This recipe will make about 16 cupcakes. Set aside.

Make the Cupcakes

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour (200 grams/ 1 ⅔ cups), cocoa powder (15 grams/ 3 tablespoons), baking soda (½ teaspoon), and salt (½ teaspoon). Whisk to evenly distribute.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sour cream (180 grams/ ¾ cup), milk (113 grams/ ½ cup), vinegar (1 teaspoon), and vanilla extract (1 tablespoon) until well combined.
  3. 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 (150 grams/ ⅔ cup) for about 30 seconds. Add the granulated sugar (300 grams / 1 ½ cups) and beat until very light and fluffy about 5 minutes. Scrape down the bowl periodically.
  4. Mix in one egg (total of 2 large) at a time to the creamed butter and sugar until incorporated.
  5. Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients into the butter mixture. Start by adding about a third of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Next, add in about half of the wet ingredients and mix until combined. Repeat until all of the dry and wet ingredients are combined with the butter mixture. Stir in the gel food coloring (2 teaspoons). The food coloring gives the cake its color and can be reduced or omitted completely if preferred.
  6. Fill the lined cupcake tins ¾ full with batter. Bake on the center rack for 21-25 minutes. The cupcakes are done with they are firm and spring back when gently pressed on. Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Make the Frosting

  1. Place the cream cheese (226 grams/ 8 ounces), butter (28 grams/ 2 tablespoons), smaller portion of the powdered sugar (360 grams/ 3 cups), and salt (large pinch) in a large mixing bowl. Mix with a hand mixer or stand mixer, starting on low speed and gradually increasing until well combined and creamy. Add up to 1 more cup of powdered sugar for a stiffer frosting that will stand up better to piping.
  2. Frost the completely cooled cupcakes. I crumbled up some the cake crumbs from one of the cupcakes to sprinkle on top for decoration.
  3. 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

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