Year of the Tiger: Red Velvet Cupcakes

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(Original Post Date:  Feb 15, 2010)

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Happy Lunar New Year!  Yesterday marked the beginning of the year of the Metal Tiger.  I’m not a big fan of fireworks, but since most Lunar New Year celebrations incorporate the color red prominently,  I decided to celebrate this occasion instead with some Year of the Tiger Red Velvet Cupcakes.

With 2 bottles of red food coloring in the batter, these cupcakes are guaranteed to be a bright rich red.


Updated 10/28/2011:  You can easily decorate these cupcakes just with some plain frosting, and a sprinkle of red colored decorating sugar.  (Which I did originally – you can see the photo at the bottom of this page.)  

Since then, I have tried to make my cupcakes look a little bit more “fancy” with some red M&M’s and cupcake crumbs.  (Sacrifice one cupcake, and chop it into crumbs using a blender or a mini food processor.)   Sprinkle the cupcake crumbs over your piped on frosting (use a large star tip shoved in the corner of a big Ziploc bag to pipe the frosting), and top with a few candies if desired.  

Red Velvet Cupcakes:

  • 1 stick (1/2 c.) unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 10 oz. cake flour (or 2 1/2 c. + 5 T.)
  • 2 T. cocoa powder
  • 1 c. buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 T. white vinegar
  • 2 oz (two 1 oz. bottles) red food coloring

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line 18 muffin tins with paper liners.

2.  Cream the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs and vanilla, beat well.

3.  Mix in the cocoa powder and salt.

4.  Weigh 10 oz. of cake flour on a kitchen scale.  Or, measure 2 1/2 c. + 5 T. cake flour.  If you must use all-purpose flour, only use 2 1/2 cups.

5.  Slowly add the flour and buttermilk into the butter mixture, blending on low speed with a hand mixer.

6.  Sprinkle the baking soda onto the vinegar in a small cup, then stir into the batter.

7.  Dump the two 1 oz. bottles of red food coloring into the batter, and slowly mix until combined.

8.  Fill muffin tins 2/3 full with batter.

9.  Bake for 18 – 20 minutes, or until done.  Make sure not to overcook, or the cupcakes will be dry instead of moist.

10.  Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour.  When completely cool to the touch, frost with cream cheese frosting, adding decorative sprinkles if desired.

Prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting while cupcakes are cooling.




Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 box cream cheese (8 oz)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 c. powdered sugar

1.  Cream the butter and cream cheese.  Mix in the vanilla.

2.  Slowly add in the powdered sugar, mixing on low speed.

3.  Put a star tip into a plastic pastry bag, or use a ziploc bag with the corner snipped off.  Fill with frosting.

4.  When cupcakes are cool, pipe frosting in a circular pattern starting from the outer edge.

5.  Sprinkle cupcakes with red decorating sugar if desired.  (Or see my updated decorating notes at the top of the page, just above the list of ingredients.)


  1. marg says:

    Hello Have you ever made red velvet with out all the red food coloring which is not good for you. Just wondering if you have a recipe for a natural red velvet . thanks marg

    • Mika Mika says:

      You can leave out the red food coloring if you want… your cake will be a reddish brown.. but much more brown than “red”. If you don’t like to use red food coloring, it’s probably better to stay away from red velvet cake in general.

      I’m a fan of science-based medicine, and science-based decision making. And by science, I mean peer-reviewed accredited science. The FDA currently feels that approved food colorings are safe, and there isn’t any legitimate evidence that red food coloring is harmful (currently). Frankly, the sugar in cake is probably much more “unhealthy” than any miniscule amount of food coloring that you would consume.

  2. Leanna Argullano says:

    Can I ask if I can substitute buttermilk to sour cream? How many cups of sour cream I will use to replace the buttermilk? Thank you and please reply immediately!

    • Mika Mika says:

      I would do 3/4 c. sour cream + 1/4 c. milk, but you are better off using buttermilk or “sour milk”. To “sour” milk, add about 1 T. (1 tablespoon) lemon juice or vinegar to 1 c. milk.