Two years ago, I posted a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes to celebrate the Year of the Tiger. Up until recently, that has been my go-to recipe for anything red velvet – whether making red velvet cupcakes, red velvet layer cakes, or even red velvet cake ball truffles. However, I always felt there was room for improvement in the recipe, and decided to tweak it a little bit and see if I could make it better…
These red velvet cupcakes are so moist, so amazing… by changing around the proportion of a few ingredients, subbing oil for butter, sour cream for butter milk… I think I succeeded!!!! I’ve also felt like the recipe could probably use less food coloring… so I reduced that in half to 1 oz. (instead of 2 oz) – and found no difference in color (so save $$ and use less food coloring)! If you make red velvet cake a lot, consider purchasing red food coloring in a big bottle. I got a HUGE bottle (about 2 cups worth of red food coloring) at Smart & Final for about $7… which is next to nothing considering a small 1 oz. bottle at the supermarket can run you anywhere from $3 – $4.
Since I was making these cupcakes for my soon to be sister-in-law’s bridal shower, I made them a little bit fancier by using the Wilton Petal Baking Cups. These are a little bit taller than regular paper baking cups, so I was able to fill 24 of them using the entire recipe… without any overflowing batter or exploding cupcakes in the oven (you will yield more like 30 cupcakes using regular liners). The nice thing about using these taller baking cups (which fit in a normal sized cupcake pan, by the way), is that the cupcakes are easier to bake without worrying that they are overcooking or drying out. This time, I used the Wilton Red Rose Petal Baking Cup – I liked how the red rose design looked, and thought it was a pretty combination with the red velvet cupcakes.
The Ultimate Red Velvet Cupcakes:
- 2 1/2 c. flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 2 T. unsweetened cocoa powder
- 2 c. sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 c. canola oil
- 1 c. sour cream
- 1 T. vinegar
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 oz. (2 T.) red food coloring
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 8 oz. cream cheese
- 1/2 c. unsalted butter
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 – 2 1/2 c. powdered sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare cupcake pans with paper liners. This recipe will make 24 large cupcakes if you are using the tall Wilton “Petals” style baking cups like I did… or about 30 normal sized cupcakes if you are using regular paper liners.
2. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, and cocoa powder. Set aside.
3. Mix the sugar, eggs, oil, sour cream, vinegar, and vanilla until combined.
4. Carefully add the red food coloring. (If you are using an electric mixer, start on LOW speed to prevent red coloring from splashing up all over the place.)
5. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry, until thoroughly combined – but do not overmix!
6. Fill the cupcake liners about 1/2 full. (Be careful not to overfill because the batter WILL rise… and if you over fill, you will have cupcakes exploding all over your oven. Trust me… been there, done that!)
7. Bake at 350 degrees 18-20 minutes. (Closer to 18 minutes for regular sized cupcakes, it took a full 20 minutes for the 24 large cupcakes.) Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.
UPDATE 27 October 2013: I’ve been getting a few comments from people saying these cupcakes sunk in the middle upon cooling. Folks, that means the cupcakes WEREN’T DONE when they were removed from the oven. You have to check! Don’t take my word for it that it will take “20 minutes” to bake… my oven, my atmospheric conditions… so many other factors can influence the time it takes for the cupcakes to bake. At the 18-20 minute mark, push the tops of the cupcakes with a clean finger. If they feel soft, or under cooked in the center, then DON’T remove them from the oven! Bake another 5 minutes, then check again. Still soft? Bake another 5 minutes. It could possibly take up to 30 minutes for the cupcakes to bake depending on several factors. Cupcakes that appear normal looking in the oven, with a center that sinks in upon cooling – the #1 reason for this is underbaking. It means the center was not fully cooked or set! Unfortunately, there is no way to save them at that point – you can’t return the cupcakes to the oven once the centers have sunk. So make sure you do not underbake your cupcakes!
8. Mix the cream cheese, butter, salt, and vanilla extract until uniform. Add the powdered sugar, and mix on low until combined. Then, mix on high speed for 1-2 minutes to make fluffy.
9. To frost, you can spread the frosting on with a knife… but to make these cupcakes really pretty, pipe the frosting on. Snip off the corner of a gallon sized Ziplock bag, and fit the open corner with a large star tip. Scrape the frosting into the bag. Starting from the outside, pipe the frosting in a spiral pattern toward the center. When you get to the center, continue piping as you pull the tip up – then stop – and pull completely up.
For piping the frosting onto the cupcakes… I don’t like to use regular sized piping tips – extra large tips work much better. My favorite, most useful set is the Extra Wide Decorating Tip Set made by Ateco. There are two tips in this set – a star tip that makes lovely swirls for frosting, and a round tip that is good for piping dough for cream puffs or eclairs. For less than $8, it’s a good value, and I use the star tip all the time! I normally don’t use the piping bag that comes with the set – because I’m too lazy to clean it – instead, I just use Ziplock bags so I can throw away the mess!
10. As is, the swirl of frosting is quite decorative and pretty. But if you want to continue decorating your cupcakes, you can sprinkle with cake crumbs (sacrifice one cupcake and pulverize it into crumbs using a food processor), or with fondant flowers. For a tutorial on how to make fondant flowers, see my post “How to make Fondant Roses, Flowers, and Royal Icing“.