Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Borrowing Zarah’s idea for making both miniature and regular sized cakes, I made a batch of red velvet cake and divided it up between two differently sized pans. We all know that everyone likes cupcakes these days. Adults can relive a moment of their childhood and children can, well, experience a moment that they can relive in the future.

The origins of red velvet cake are shrouded in urban legend, just like Neiman Marcus cookies or any other recipe urban legends. Be suspicious of the origins of any recipe that someone “was charged $250!” This is not to say that the recipes aren’t good ones. They are.

The name for red velvet cake comes from its red color. The most common story about the origin of the color cites a chemical reaction between the baking soda and the cocoa powder in the cake. If this were true, I think that most of my chocolate cakes would come out red. Leite’s Culinaria has some more information on the science behind the cake.
My personal belief is that some chef dumped red food coloring into his cake to suprise people or to be festive for a holiday. The outside of the cake browns enough to disguise the real color. Whatever the origin, I quite like this cake. I like the flavor of buttermilk, the hint of chocolate and the raspberry red interior of the cake. Even more than the cake, I like this icing. Mascarpone cheese makes it creamier and more interesting than an ordinary cream cheese icing. I love it with this cupcake because it lends an adult touch and makes the icing the star.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 1/8 cups sifted cake flour (10 tbsp)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp red food coloring
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease cupcake tins or line with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla extract.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add in egg and beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients in 4 additions, alternating with 3 additions of the buttermilk mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir until just combined.
Spoon batter into prepared cupcake tins. Fill them 2/3 to 3/4 full, which will create nice, rounded tops.
Bake mini cupcakes for 15 minutes and regular cupcake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Yield: 7 large and 12 mini cupcakes, with more than enough frosting to top each one thickly (or 12 full-sized cupcakes!)

Mascarpone frosting
8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla paste (extract is fine)
1 tbsp milk
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar

Beat together mascarpone and butter until well combined. Beat in vanilla and milk. Add in confectioners sugar, scraping down the bowl as you go. When it has all been incorporated, beat on high speed for 1-2 minutes, until icing is smooth.


  1. I love them! They’re so cute! I’ve never heard of red velvet cake before, sure sounds like a showstopper – and mmmm, nice icing…

  2. Marscapone instead of cream cheese–what an inspired idea! Red Velvet Cake is a HUGE deal here in the South, so I will have to try this adaptation. Thanks!

  3. I love red! I bet I will love these.

  4. They are cute little things, and I loved reading about all the urban legends going around.

  5. Love how you split between large and small. The icing looks so good!

  6. Zarah – The color just makes them so much more fun! And with cupcakes fun is almost as important as taste.

    Amy – The Mascarpone is a great way to dress up a red velvet for a party.

    Naranja – I certainly hope so!

    Ana – I always love hearing a little bit of history with my food. That’s why I love your posts so much!

    Joe – Thanks! I’m still giving credit to Zarah, though.

  7. This is my most favorite cake in the world. Orange cake comes second but since that is another southern cake, I rarely had it during my midwestern upbringing. Red velvet cake has been as elusive as orange until I moved to North Carolina 2 years ago. They even sell the Duncan Heinz cake mix in red velvet here which you never see in the north. Although the flavor is good, it is not as moist as a homemade one so it is kind of a let-down.
    Anyway, I heard a different urban legend about red velvet cake but it’s kind of gross so I won’t put details unless you want me to. As a hint, legend has it that a woman would add a special ingredient to the cake in order to get a man to marry her.

  8. Terry in Hong Kong

    I fell in love…
    In New Orleans…..
    With red velvet cake.
    I will definately try this adaptation, especially since today is my mothers birthday. Terry in Hong Kong

  9. these look good but we make ours with much more chocolate!

  10. first time that i’ve heard of red velvet cupcakes. brilliant. they look so inviting nic! esp the icing. it just makes me wanna reach out through the screen… gotta try them out one day!

  11. Hi Nic,
    These look like mine. :) It’s too bad I can’t try the frosting you used. Mascarpone costs an arm and a baking pan here in Manila!

  12. Hey these look lovely! I have never tried ‘red velvet’ anything, but these look just beautiful, will definately have a go very soon!

  13. GENIUS! You’re a genius! Mascarpone frosting! Perfect! Because so far, I am just hating the flavor of the cream cheese frosting that’s traditionally paired with this cake. I think I’m going to have to try your recipe here…of the seven I’ve tried so far, only one has been a “wow,” but your cupcakes look gorgeous.

  14. I’m probably late to comment and maybe you don’t care anymore.

    When I was looking for a good recipe last year, ( I used Cake Man Raven’s), I discovered that the red, actually came from beets back in the day.

    a google search will show the how commmon this thought is.

    I haven’t made it yet with beets, but I just might, I still havent gotten used to the amount of coloring that goes in the batter.

    Over here at the Grand Lake Farmer’s market there is a vendor that supposedly sells a version that gets it’s red from strawberries. And it somehow doesn’t take like strawberry.

    I like your blog and have been scanning the archives for more recipes.

    Good luck with culinary school

  15. it calls for butter, do you use salted or unsalted butter?

  16. How important is the buttermilk? Could milk or cream be substituted? Sorry if that is an absurd question – I’m def a novice baker :)

  17. We don’t really have Red velvet cake here in Denmark, I’ve only seen it here on the web. Now I knew it was red but I had no idea that there was cocoa in it.
    I really have to make this cake, I’d love to bake and taste a whole new cake.

  18. For those that don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for mascarpone, it’s not that hard to make!

    I highly recommend this red velvet cupcake recipe! I use it for all my bake sales and it comes out perfect every time. This also tastes wonderful with the vanilla bean buttercream also on this blog, although it is an extra decadent touch.

  19. Beeze – The buttermilk is what helps the cake retain the red color otherwise the chocolate would take over the red.

    Betty – When baking it is always best to use unsalted butter as the chemical makeup of the recipe is altered with adding extra salt, from the butter!

    Rachel – I’ve used recipes with more chocolate too! But I’m sure this mild recipe is tasty with the mild mascarpone icing too!

  20. The red is because the coco wasn’t always as refined, so from the baking soda and butter milk, a reaction occurred with the coco making it red.

  21. My granddaughter made them with beet juice and it was good. I cant be bothered to go that route so these are my answer to red velvet cupcakes..Delicious..

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