Red Velvet Cupcakes

by Andie Mitchell on July 12, 2010

When I innocently type the letters “ma..” into Google, guess what phrase pops up as my suggested search? No, not Manhattan, Madagascar, or even Major news stories.  “Martha Stewart cupcakes.” Hmm. So either Martha has topped the Google page rankings with my help and my help alone or I should be reassessing the level of intimacy in my relationship to Google. Because it seemingly knows me better than my own mother.

Once I realized Google was hip to my jive (or keeping me under tight surveillance), I took the bait and licked my way through the pages of Martha’s tiny frosted confections. Vanilla? Done it. Devil’s Food? Ate a dozen. Coconut? Shamelessly made them three times. Red Velvet? Yes, please, thank you, and g’day. You know, it may have been my delirium from not having slept during my Vegas vacation, but yesterday at 3pm, instead of unpacking, going grocery shopping, or preparing for the week ahead, I baked. Gird your loins.

I viewed these blood red beauties as a trial rather than a treat. Now, I’ve walked the red velvet carpet before and haven’t been wild about the results. And while I’ve heard so many people rave about them, I guess I just never understood the flavor of the cake- not vanilla, but not quite chocolate either. And is that slight tang that I so often detect in them pleasant? In most of my experiences with these baby reds, I’ve thought the turnout was a bit too dense, too heavy, with not enough oomph of real flavor one way or the other. Slightly bummed by the ambiguity in taste definition.

But if I know Martha like I think I do (which is technically speaking not at all), she doesn’t fail me in the cake department.

The dozen is scrumptious. Moist, faintly sweet and chocolatey. But their delicate flavor needs the balance of boldness from a proper puff of cream cheese icing. Fitting not only in its stark contrast to the red crumb of cake, but in a fact that can’t be denied: cream cheese frosting can and should be slathered atop everything edible. I’d like to spread it generously on my morning toast, slip it into my sandwich at lunchtime, dress salads with its creamy white tang. Serve a scoop next to turkey and call it mashed potatoes for all intents and purposes.

Red Velvet Cupcakes (recipe by Martha Stewart)

makes 24

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • Cream Cheese Frosting:
    • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
    • 12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
    • 1 pound (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
    • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    I did not have any buttermilk on hand so I made my own. To do so, you simply add white distilled vinegar (or lemon juice) to milk. The ratio is 1 tsp vinegar to 1 cup milk. Combine the two and stir, set aside for a moment to blend.

    Preheat the oven to 350°. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

    Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar and oil in a large bowl until combined.

    Add the egg

    Followed by the red gel and the vanilla. Scrape down the bowl and mix well.

    Add 1/3 of the flour mixture. Mix for a few seconds.

    Next add 1/2 of the buttermilk. Mix for a few seconds. Add another 1/3 of the flour, mix it,  then pour in the remaining buttermilk. Mix. Add the last 1/3 of the flour, scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat once more to ensure that everything is well-blended. When adding the flour and liquid alternately like this, you always want to begin and end with the flour.

    In a small bowl, combine the baking soda with the vinegar. It will foam. Stir it and then pour it into the red batter.

    Mix for 10 seconds.

    Pour the batter evenly into paper-lined muffin tins, filling 3/4 full.

    Bake for about 20 minutes, rotating the pans halfway to achieve even baking. A toothpick inserted into the center of one should come out clean.

    { 42 comments… read them below or add one }

    Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday July 12, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Oh red velvet is one of my favourite types of cake. I’ve always wanted to try it without the food colouring though.


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 12, 2010 at 10:45 am

    Yeah, the artificial red dyes can’t be good. Unfortunately, I feel like the red coloring is at least half the fun of them. Otherwise, they’re just walking a fine line between a white cupcake and a faintly chocolate one.


    Jessica @ How Sweet July 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

    Oh my gosh I want one of these right now. I LOVE red velvet!!


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 12, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Thanks, Jessica!


    Erica July 12, 2010 at 10:46 am

    I can hear your true love of sweets in your writing. You have an amazing way of describing things. The outcome is gorgeous. Simple but beautiful YUM!


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 12, 2010 at 10:48 am

    That’s so sweet, Erica. I really do love dessert so I bet it comes across as insanity.


    Sarah from 20somethingcupcakes July 12, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Perfection! Doesn’t get any better than red velvet cupcakes. You should also try the cooked white frosting – it’s the classic icing used for red velvet, even thought cream cheese has become popular. I made them for an Oscar party, here is the link:

    You’ll love the icing! So fluffy and divine. xxSAS


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 12, 2010 at 11:19 am

    LOVE that! Thanks so much for the link! You’re a cupcake conoisseur!


    homecookedem July 12, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    I love red velvet!! It makes me soooooo happy!! :) My favorite part is the icing……… ;)


    Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine July 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Not only do you always make the most delicious-sounding treats, they’re also always BEAUTIFUL. Seriously, that cupcake looks like a work of art- but I’d definitely be happy to eat it :) Google also makes suggestions based on your previous browsing history, so it’s no surprise that they hooked you up with cupcakes! Hope you’re having a fabulous Monday so far love!! xoxo


    Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman July 12, 2010 at 12:42 pm

    I love red velvet cupcakes. They’re definitely my favorite because they’re always so much moister than both yellow and chocolate. That with cream-cheese frosting…perfect.


    Shanna, like Banana July 12, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    Here I am trying to eat my carrots and cucumbers and you show me red velvet cupcakes? There should be laws against your scrumptious blog posts ;)


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 12, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Haha, the second I saw you wrote “carrots…” I immediately thought of carrot cupcakes as my next venture. I can’t be stopped. Madness.


    Shanna, like Banana July 12, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Gotta love a girl with a one-track-cupcake-mind ;)


    Heather (Where's the Beach) July 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    I have never had red velvet cake/cupcakes!


    julia July 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    Those cupcakes don’t only sound delicious, but they look gorgeous as well!

    x Julia (Taste of Living)


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 12, 2010 at 2:51 pm



    Anna July 12, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    I remember the first time I had red velvet cake, I was awestruck by how great it was :-) It was a defining moment in my chidhood :-)

    These look amazing!


    Cindy July 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    and it just so happens that my lunchtime workout has left me so spent (esp in the arms) that I couldn’t reach out and strangle the monitor to try and get one of those, even if I truly truly went insane. My first love was cream cheese frosting. That and that fluff stuff. I think of you now!

    second, the red, is purely food coloring? purely for looks? can’t they just be “velvet” cupcakes without the red? I tend to ask “why” when things are there for purely no reason at all, other than to entertain our eyes.

    says the woman who has a freezer full of otter pops.


    I am glad I am beat. your pictures might have been mean! hahaha

    and can you post an AWAKE pic now. every time I see you sleeping I want a nap!


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 12, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Haha, so true. Pics of me sleeping are really yawn inducing! And you’re right- the red dye is purely for aesthetics, unnecessary in every other way. Skip it, but if you do, I’d just suggest making either vanilla or chocolate cupcakes- these won’t be a true color on their own. The brown would be too washed out. I suppose they’d just look taupe or mocha. Hope you have a lovely end to your day, my darlin!!


    joan July 12, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Can you believe I’ve never had red velvet cake! Red Velvet frozen yogut is delicous though.


    Brittany July 12, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    I could dive right into that!


    Kelly July 12, 2010 at 5:47 pm

    Those look so good! Cream cheese frosting is by far the best.


    peggyhogan July 12, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    I’ve never understood the red velvet love. The food coloring grosses me out. LOVE LOVE cream cheese frosing tho. they look fabulous. In DC a couple weeks ago and bought a summer special…lemon and coconut with cream cheese frosting…yum!


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 12, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    Oh my, Peggy!!! Those lemon coconut cupcakes with cream cheese frosting sound outrageously delicious. I might have to concoct a recipe around that flavor profile!


    Cindy July 12, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    I second it! yes yes yes, do the lemon/coconut thing.




    Nora@LifeLifeEatRight July 12, 2010 at 9:20 pm

    I am beyond jealous of your baking skills. I need to get a real oven so I can bake these asap!


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 12, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Nora, your comments always make my day! Thanks! But trust me, you could make them to look just the same!!


    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors July 12, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Dear Andrea – You have a way with words and a way with food that is completely endearing. You have de-mystified red velvet cupcakes for me completely.

    Thank You

    I adored your letters to Starbuck and Las Vegas – swill hole indeed! I can’t agree more right down to your hotel room at the Venetian that I instantly recognised as we stayed there last month! :)

    Ciao, Devaki @ weavethousandflavors


    greensandjeans July 12, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Red velvet cupcakes are seriously like crack to me. I was thisclose to licking the screen!


    Sophie @ yumventures July 13, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Confession: I’ve never had red velvet…anything! It was just never something I would jump to order! I guess I should try it, huh?


    wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas July 13, 2010 at 8:25 am

    Just found your blog…

    I dig.

    In 15 years of bakery work, I never understood red velvet, either. But that never stopped me from eating it!


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 13, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Hi Wendy! Thanks! I know, red velvet cake is somewhat odd to me in its popularity. I think it’s the color, the moistness, and the frosting pairing


    xeyedmary July 15, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I just found your entry on Tastespotting- your Red Velvets look scrumptious. I laughed aloud about your cream cheese icing comments- my sentiments exactly! I usually only make CC icing for carrot cake (try MS’s Carrot cake cupcakes-YUM) and I always say: “The cake is just a neat, convenient way to get the frosting into my mouth!” and vow to just make a bowl of the frosting to eat by itself, and save the cake calories!


    Can You Stay for Dinner July 15, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Haha, so true- the frosting is enough of a dessert, just skip the cake! Thanks for commenting!


    Nikki August 18, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    can you use a different color instead of red


    Lori Panarello September 25, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    Red Velvet is a beautious cupcake!! but i do not use the dyes you buy in any of our grocery stores,, they are filled with alot of artificial stuff,, just not wholesome, there are websites that offer all natural dyes including red… the cake comes out amazing try it…


    Can You Stay for Dinner September 26, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Thanks for the tip Lori! I’ll have to check out my options at the store next time!


    Lori Panarello September 25, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    I would never use artificial dyes in my cake,,, there are many natural dyes available that have amazing colors including red, and the Red Velvet comes out beautiful…


    Lori Panarello September 25, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    sorry website said that the first comment was duplicated… so sorry!!!


    PattyJean Fisher November 7, 2010 at 5:47 am

    I just found your website and love it! Please notify me of new recipes.


    Can You Stay for Dinner November 7, 2010 at 7:02 am

    Thanks Patty!!


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