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Fluffy and tangy cupcakes topped with a sweet cream cheese frosting. A cupcake classic!
No, you aren’t lost in February.
Fear not, it is still September!
I know that red velvet is typically one of those flavors that pops up closer to Valentine’s Day, but I assure you, I have a very good reason for sharing these red velvet cupcakes and their complementary cream cheese frosting right at the start of fall.
So now that that’s out of the way, have you seen the blueberry lemon cupcakes I shared a few weeks ago? I don’t have nearly as many cupcake recipes on my blog as I have in my back baking pocket, so I decided some RV cuppies were the perfect way to grace my blog’s recipe collection with a basic cupcake/cake and a base cream cheese frosting for creating fun variations on both later in blog life.
Variations on a theme— they’re a favorite around here!
WHAT EXACTLY IS RED VELVET CAKE?
Did you know red velvet is one big science experiment?
Did you also know that it’s not a vanilla cake nor is it not a chocolate cake?
It’s its own cake.
While it is red, obviously, it’s generally considered a buttermilk cake. The “velvet” part of its name comes strictly from its texture– a tight crumb made so by a reaction between baking soda and white vinegar, which also produce a satisfyingly tangy flavor.
It is truly a unique cake flavor, and it must be made just right in order to be absolutely out-of-this-world delicious.
And don’t you worry, my dear baker friend. I’m here to help you make the most perfect red velvet cupcakes possible! Ready?
THE SECRET TO MOIST RED VELVET CAKE AND CUPCAKES
Over the years, I’ve discovered that red velvet cupcakes tend to dry out more quickly than I’d prefer, so let’s talk first about how we keep them nice and moist without being dense (because red velvet is not supposed to be the tiniest bit dense!).
While I’ve tried red velvet cake/cupcakes with all butter and all oil, I don’t like the overall taste and texture combination with either one standing alone as the fat source.
All butter? Great taste, but too dry.
All oil? Great moisture, but missing that buttery flavor.
A combination of both gets the job done– a nice buttery flavor with a touch of moisture to prevent things from getting too dry.
As I just said, we’re looking for a tight, light crumb. In order to achieve that ideal texture, we’ll use a mixture of all purpose flour and cornstarch (similar to cake flour).
Another contributor to the velvety texture of these cupcakes? The vinegar + baking soda reaction, and a little buttermilk to up the moisture even more.
HOW TO MAKE RED VELVET CAKE AND CUPCAKES FLUFFY
But the real kicker to getting the fluffiest cupcake texture ever is this: two whipped egg whites you’ll fold into the batter right before spooning it into the liners to bake.
You’ll just need to whip them about 2 minutes, just enough to form soft peaks. The airy egg whites will bring lift and pockets of air to your cupcakes, keeping them light while giving them that springy texture you look for in a good red velvet cake/cupcake.
Since gel colors are so concentrated, you don’t have to worry about them thinning out your batter. If you must use food coloring, that’s totally fine. I made a note about how much to use in the recipe.
THE PERFECT CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
Now. Onto the oh-so-dreamy cream cheese frosting that tops these beautiful red cupcakes.
GUYS. I have been making this frosting for years. Like 10 years. And IT. IS. TO. DIE. FOR.
I have made it for all sorts of cakes and cupcakes, added fruits, other flavorings, and even sprinkles, and it is just the very greatest cream cheese frosting I’ve ever had.
All you’ll need is a block of full fat cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and a teeny bit of salt. You’ll be left with a sweet and slightly tangy frosting that absolutely melts in your mouth.
Now you certainly don’t have to put cream cheese frosting on top of your red velvet cupcakes. You can opt for a classic vanilla buttercream if you’d like, but the combination of light and tangy cupcakes with a sweet yet equally tangy frosting on top will just make you weak in the knees.
So there. Red velvet in September. Is it really all that bad to have red velvet all year round? I think we can all agree it’s not!
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 large eggs room temperature and separated
- 1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 and 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 4 Tablespoons unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
- 1 teaspoon red gel coloring1
- 1/2 cup buttermilk2
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 8 ounces full fat block cream cheese softened to room temperature
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 3 and 1/2 cups powdered sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a 12-count muffin tin with cupcake liners. Set aside.
- In a medium size bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites until soft peaks form (approximately 2 minutes). Set aside or remove from mixer bowl and transfer to a smaller bowl.
- Sift the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda together into a medium size bowl. Set aside.
- In a large bowl with a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy (approximately 2-3 minutes). Add the vegetable oil and beat again until completely incorporated. Add the egg yolks, vanilla extract, vinegar, and food coloring and beat again on medium speed until everything is combined.
- Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the dry ingredients in three additions, alternating with half of the buttermilk. Do not overmix batter. Gently fold the whipped egg whites into the batter with a spatula.
- Spoon batter evenly into the cupcake liners filling 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full (I like to use an ice cream scoop with a trigger-- one scant scoop full). Bake for 14-16 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake, as red velvet tends to dry out a bit. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- In a large bowl with a handheld or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter together on high speed until smooth and creamy. With the mixer on low, add the powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt.
- Increase mixer speed to medium-high and beat for 2 minutes.
- I prefer gel color. If you only have liquid food coloring, use approximately 2 Tablespoons.
- If you don't have buttermilk, you can make your own: see my post about homemade buttermilk.