I adore red velvet cupcakes. Vibrant and bold, with just a hint of chocolate, all topped off with a tangy-sweet cream cheese icing. If I had to pick a cupcake flavour, red velvet would be the one I’d choose.
You might be wondering why these cupcakes have buttermilk in them and my other cupcake recipes do not. Well, there are two reasons for that: firstly, the tang of buttermilk really compliments the classic cream cheese icing; and, the second is all about rise. Buttermilk is acidic, whilst bicarbonate of soda is alkaline. When the two are mixer together, a chemical reaction takes place which results in lots of air bubbles and a lighter sponge. This is particularly useful for chocolate cakes as the fat in cocoa tends to make cakes denser: the buttermilk/bicarb trick combats this. (I bet you didn’t think you would get a bit of a science lesson when you clicked on this recipe, did you?!)
If you prefer not to use cream cheese icing, I would still suggest using buttermilk for these red velvet cupcakes for the reason mentioned above but vanilla buttercream would be a perfectly suitable alternative. If you do prefer buttercream, you can find my recipe for the perfect buttercream here (along with a number of other icing recipes). It’s all about preference (and, often, what you have in the cupboards at the time) so do not feel like you shouldn’t make these delicious cupcakes just because you don’t like cream cheese!
As a bonus, these cupcakes freeze really well and still turn out light and springy. Simply place the cooled cupcakes (uniced) into tupperware and store in the freezer for up to 3 months then, when you are ready to use them. Defrost overnight and make the cream cheese icing to top them the next morning.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
For the cupcakes:
- 160 ml milk room temperature
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 200 g caster sugar
- 65 g butter softened
- 1 egg large
- 50 ml sunflower oil
- 5-6 drops gel food colouring red
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 200 g plain flour
- 10 g cocoa powder
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
For the cream cheese icing:
- 100 g butter softened
- 150 g cream cheese
- 500 g icing sugar sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 175°C. Line a standard 12-hole muffin pan with cupcake liners and set aside.
- In a jug, mix together the lemon juice and milk and leave to stand for at least 10 minutes whilst we carry on with the recipe. This will be your buttermilk!
- Then, in a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until it is pale.
- Add the egg and mix until fully combined.
- Next, mix in the oil, red food coloring, and vanilla extract.
- Add the buttermilk, which should now be curdled and lumpy (don’t worry, it will taste great) and mix well.
- Now fold in the flour, cocoa, bicarbonate of soda, and salt until all of the dry mix is fully incorporated into the wet.
- Fill your cupcake liners to about half to two-thirds full. You should end up with about 16-18 cupcakes.
- Bake for around 15-20 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Leave the cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack.
Let’s make icing!
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter together until smooth.
- Add in the icing sugar and vanilla extract and continue mixing until fully combined. Beat for approximately 5 minutes to create a light, airy icing.
- Adorn each cupcake with a healthy amount of icing in whatever manner you prefer. A piping bag and your favourite nozzle? An offset spatula? Or, maybe, a simple teaspoon. Go crazy with creativity! (This bit is perfect for kids to have a go at!)