Admittedly Modern Red Velvet Cupcakes

Admittedly Modern Red Velvet Cupcakes

One of my favorite things about cooking is sharing recipes.  I love to hear that people out there in the world use my recipes to feed their families, celebrate birthdays, welcome neighbors, and entertain friends.  Even though it’s a small thing, just knowing that a recipe was useful to another human being makes my life feel worthwhile.

My friend’s daughter, holding my cookbook. So adorable … makes my heart melt!

With that said, you can imagine how eager I was to respond to a request by the hugely popular (and rightfully so) foodiecrush online magazine for a “tried and true” recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes.  The timing was perfect, too, as I’m in the process of making about 200 of the little red gems for John’s birthday party this coming Sunday.

Celebrating as a family on John’s actual birthday last weekend

If you’d like to learn about the history of Red Velvet Cake, check out this well-researched piece on Gilt Taste: The Unknown History of Red Velvet Cake by pastry-chef and blogger Stella Parks.  While my own recipe is not true to the original Red Velvet cake (which was actually more of a chocolate cake with a slight red hue due to the interaction of cocoa powder, buttermilk, vinegar), it is not — as Parks would say — “a crimson chalk-fest,” either.

Nope, mine is a simple recipe (as usual) that uses vanilla extract (no scraping vanilla bean pods here!), red food coloring (yes, I admit it), and your standard cream cheese icing (I ain’t servin’ no icing made with raw eggs at a birthday party!).  So maybe my recipe isn’t completely authentic.  But so what?  It’s easy.  And delicious.  And in my book, that’s what counts.

Admittedly Modern Red Velvet Cupcakes

Makes 2 1/2 dozen

½ pound unsalted butter, softened

2 cups light brown sugar, packed

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon red food coloring

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar (or other mild vinegar, such as white balsamic)

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup buttermilk

6 large eggs

For Icing

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

2 packages (8 ounces, each) cream cheese, softened

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 boxes (16 ounces, each) confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper or foil liners.

In large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy.

Mix in vanilla, food coloring, and vinegar.  (Wait, is that Elmo in my mixing bowl?  Apologies for the bad lighting in the photo.)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Now, moving onto the cocoa powder.  If you’re like me, you’ll probably want to skip the cocoa-sifting step.  Don’t.  Cocoa powder has a tendency to clump.  If these clumps make it into your batter, they will be nearly impossible to get rid of … meaning that you’ll end up with, at best, lots of little brown dots in the finished cake, and at worst, big pockets of unsweetened cocoa powder (bleh).  To avoid these problems, use a fine mesh sieve to sift the cocoa.

Sifting with a sieve is really quite simple:  Just shake or tap the sieve with your hand and let the cocoa powder flow into a bowl.

It will look like this when you are done.  All nice and silky and clump-free.
Now combine the cocoa, with the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Then add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk and beating in between.

Beat in eggs.

Fill lined muffin cups about 3/4 full.  For me, getting the cupcake batter into the muffin cups is always a challenge.  (I usually end up with batter all over the pan and myself.)  Lately, I’ve started using an OXO measuring cup to pour the batter into the cups, and it works wonderfully!  The little lip on the cup makes pouring a cinch.  You can use a butter knife to guide the flow of batter.

See how nice and clean my pan is?  No more burnt dribbles of batter to scrape off after cooking!

Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Place on wire racks and cool completely.  In the picture below, I put a red teaspoon on the cupcake pan so you can see that, although the batter looks bright red, the cupcakes actually come out a little more maroon, which I like better.

For icing, in a medium bowl, beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until creamy.  Add confectioners’ sugar, about 1 cup at a time, beating after you add each cup.  Icing is finished when all ingredients are thoroughly combined and creamy.  Ice each cupcake with a generous amount of frosting.  (Another blog post on icing cupcakes with a ziploc bag available here.)

Yikes!  Time to go get Jack from preschool!  Will post pictures of the icing and finished cupcakes soon. … In the meantime, dear foodiecrush, I hope this recipe meets your needs.  Do let me know how your little Smudge likes it!

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26 Responses to Admittedly Modern Red Velvet Cupcakes

  1. Ashley @ Josh & Ashley's World December 19, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    I LOVE my OXO measuring cup! I don’t know what i ever did without it!

  2. austintexashomes January 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    They were delicious!

  3. Faye January 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    This recipe looks amazing. Can’t wait to try it! It’s interesting that the eggs are mixed in last instead of creamed in after the butter and sugar. How does that affect the outcome of the cupcakes? Just curious….

  4. Joy January 27, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

    question, I made these today and by looking at your photos here it looks like you used white granulated sugar, but it says in the recipe light brown sugar… can you clarify please… thanks

    • Marie H. Saba January 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      Oh goodness thank you! I totally missed this and am so glad that you caught it. In the original recipe that I drafted a few years ago, I used white sugar. And I used that recipe for the pictures in my blog. However, as I was on to my third and fourth batch (for my husband’s birthday party), I decided that brown sugar would be better for this recipe — to make the cupcakes even more moist, to add a touch more sweetness, and also to add some additional brown color. So, I changed the ingredient (from white granulated sugar to light brown sugar) in the ingredient list but did not re-take the photos. I apologize for this error and I hope this clarification helps. In sum, I prefer and recommend the light brown sugar (as listed in the recipe), but if you happen to use white granulated sugar, you will also get a lovely result. Thank you again for catching this — I really appreciate you for taking time to post this comment. My best, Marie

      • Joy January 27, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

        thank you, I thought maybe it could of been a typo, it happens from time to time! I had them in the oven with brown sugar was starting to worry as they are for my daughters birthday party tomorrow :) thanks!

        • Marie H. Saba January 31, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

          Hello Joy! Hope the birthday was wonderful! What a lot of January birthdays! My son’s second birthday was yesterday. I made Tres Leches cupcakes for his party — they were a lot of fun to make and I can’t wait to share the recipe. Thanks again for taking time to comment on my Red Velvet post, and hope to hear from you again soon. My best, Marie

  5. Lorri Frame January 28, 2012 at 4:20 pm #

    I made these cupcakes today ,but when I brought them out of the oven they fell in the middle. Was there susposed to be baking powder in the recipe? HELP!

    • Marie H. Saba January 31, 2012 at 10:54 pm #

      Hi Lorri! I am so sorry to hear that your cupcakes fell in the middle. After all that work, what a drag. The recipe is correct as posted, and I have made it successfully many, many times, so I’m not sure what may have gone wrong with your batch. I believe cupcakes can fall in the center if they are not completely cooked — could this have happened? Or possibly the oven is not quite as hot as the temperature indicates, so maybe they cooked too slowly? I wish I could offer better feedback here … I wonder: Does anyone else know what might have happened? Or has anyone else has this same problem? Hopefully some other readers will be able to help! Thank you so much for taking time to comment, and I do hope we can get to the bottom of this one! My best, Marie

    • Caitlin December 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm #

      If you live in a high altitude area, your cupcakes probably fell because there wasn’t enough eggs and flour. I live in Colorado and have failed to remember doing this several times. all you need to do is add an extra egg and about a quarter cup of flour.

  6. Dana February 17, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    These were delicious! I normally have a ton of problems making cakes and cupcakes from scratch – mainly that they are always way too dry. But these were very moist with excellent texture!

  7. Jo Anne February 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    Had been searching for a red velvet recipe that did not use oil…found your blog and made them last night. They are THE BEST red velvet I have ever had! Wasn’t sure about all the eggs, but used them all anyway. As one of my friends said, the cupcakes are like pound cakes but not as dense and ever so moist! Well done and THANK YOU!!!

  8. Amy May 23, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    Will the batter for the cupcakes equal the amount you would need to make an 18×12 inch single layer cake?

    • Marie H. Saba May 24, 2012 at 8:14 am #

      Hi Amy! I’ve made a 3 layer 9-inch round cake with this batter, but not a 18×12 sheet, so I can’t say for sure. I think you will need to double the recipe. Hope this helps!

  9. alicia June 29, 2012 at 8:34 am #

    quick question: i want to make this cake (my modifyed version) for my 4H project. What size round cake will this go in? the pesky judjes say in cakes (my level in foods) you have to bake a cake. thanks

    • alicia June 29, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      Sorry needs to be single layer

  10. Alison June 16, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

    My son and I made this recipe last night — two 9″ layers with [half] the frosting recipe — and it is absolutely delicious! My neighbor said it was good enough to come from a fine bakery. The frosting is very silky in texture and very lovely. And my 9-year-old was so excited to see the batter turn red. VERY EXCELLENT recipe, will be making it again and sharing it!

    • Marie Saba
      Marie Saba June 16, 2015 at 10:01 pm #

      Hi Alison! Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m glad to hear that you all enjoyed the recipe! It is one of my favorites, too. Would be fun for July 4th, wouldn’t it? Maybe with blue sprinkles or blueberries for extra color :) Thanks again, and please do stay in touch. Best, Marie


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