(Not so) red velvet cupcakes

Cupcakes have taken the world by storm, and a flavour that’s right on top of that list is the red velvet cupcake. I remember seeing it on many American food blogs, and being very intrigued by the bright colour. Now, I’m normally not a fan of food colourings, but for some reason red velvet cupcakes are on my list of exceptions. πŸ˜›

I made these cupcakes because I had some leftover chocolate frosting from a birthday cake I baked. I won’t write an individual post about the cake as I have no good photos of it (as I only finished decorating it an hour or so before leaving for dinner, and it had to sit in the fridge to set, and then I had to get dressed…. you get the picture), but I must mention the recipe as it was simple yet very good. I used this yellow cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen, and really liked it. Do remember to use cake flour though, you can add corn flour to plain flour to achieve this.

A quick (and bad) photo of the cake, right before wrapping it up in the foil (which was how I transported it to the restaurant).

Red velvet cupcakes are normally paired with a cream cheese frosting, but I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with flavours…. so I decided to try this to use up the leftover frosting as I’ve never made red velvet cupcakes/cakes before. I have to admit that my red velvet cupcakes looked more like brown velvet cupcakes, as I didn’t use much red food colouring (and what I did use I suspect was expired…), but it still tasted divine though! Just a little less attractive to look at. Just a note – the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook suggests using Dr Oetker’s “red” food colouring, and not “natural red” or “scarlett” as the latter two makes the cake come out brown.

Red velvet cupcakes
from the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook

(I know the recipe seems ridiculously complicated as there are so many steps, but it’s actually much simpler than it looks)

  • 60 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 150 g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 10 g cocoa powder
  • 20 ml red food colouring (preferably Dr. Oetker Red Food Colouring)
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 120 ml buttermilk
  • 150 g plain flour
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 11⁄2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

1. Preheat the oven to 170Β°C.

2. Put the butter and the sugar in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed.

3. Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.

4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a thick, dark paste.

5. Add the food colouring mixture to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula).

6. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour, and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added.

7. Scrape down the side of the bowl again.

8. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture.

9. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the salt, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.

10. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20–25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean.

11. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

12. When the cupcakes are cold, spoon or pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. I topped the chocolate frosting with chocolate shavings (more leftovers from the cake), and the peanut butter ones with crushed amaretti biscuits (as I didn’t have any peanuts to hand).


Chocolate frosting
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, who adapted it from The Dessert Bible
Makes 5 cups of frosting (to frost and fill a two layer 8-9 inch cake) – I think you’d probably need 1/3 of this amount for these cupcakes

  • 15 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I use Green & Black’s)
  • 3-4 teaspoons mixed berry jam (I use Bonne Maman)
  • 2 1/4 cups sour cream, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup icing sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Put chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water, and stir until chocolate is melted. Remove from the heat and let chocolate cool. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave for 30 seconds, stirring well, and then heating in 15 second increments, stirring between each until the chocolate is melted.) – I prefer the double boiler method as I find it’s easier to accidentally burn your chocolate when using a microwave. Maybe it’s just me though.

2. Whisk the sour cream, icing sugar and vanilla extract until combined. (I used the paddle attachment on my stand mixer.)

3. Add the cooled chocolate slowly, and mix on medium speed (or with a spatula) until mixture is uniform.

4. Let the frosting cool in the refrigerator until it is of a spreadable consistency. This should not take more than 30 minutes. Should the frosting become too thick or stiff, just leave it out until it softens again.


Peanut butter frosting

  • 1 cup peanut butter (either crunchy or creamy, depending on what you prefer)
  • 1 cup light cream cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

1. Mix peanut butter and cream cheese in a stand mixer fitted with the balloon whisk, until well combined. Alternatively, mix with a hand held mixer.

2. Add icing sugar to the mixture, and mix. Feel free to add in more icing sugar if you prefer a sweeter frosting.

3. Lastly, add the lemon juice and whisk/mix the frosting for about 1 minute.

4. The frosting should then be ready to use, but if it does get too runny, place it in the fridge to let it thicken.

(Please note that you won’t be able to pipe the frosting if you use crunchy peanut butter due to the nut pieces which get stuck in the nozzle – which is what I learnt when I tried to pipe it!)

25 thoughts on “(Not so) red velvet cupcakes”

  1. your not-so-red velvet cupcakes look divine! and honestly it has nothing to do with the look – it’s just a chocolate cup cake all dressed in red πŸ™‚ Great pics too and LOVE th big cake!

    1. Thanks! They look more inviting when they’re bright red though, hehe. I just need to get someone else to add the food colouring in for me…

  2. Im not a fan of food colouring either..and thats the reason I’ve never made a red velvet cake altho Ive seen the recipe years ago…. and was tempted to try it because it looks beautiful…. and yours look divine esp with the luscious topping! really lovely.

    I laughed when you said the recipe was ridiculously complicated…..it was but I do believe you when u said it s not as difficult as it sounds.

    your photos are great too… Love the angle!

    1. Thanks Zurin. It does seem quite complicated as you keep on having to change the speed of the mixing, I had to circle these bits up or I would definitely have made a mistake somewhere. You could always try this without the food colouring – I really enjoyed the lightness of the cupcake itself, even minus the frosting.

  3. Yummy and gorgeous Su-yin! Not a fan of food colouring either, I think you might have seen on my latest post that I use beetroot juice for reds and pinks. Works perfectly and doesn’t leave a taste either =)

    1. I’ll definitely need to try out beetroot for food colouring, I think that’s such a good idea. Just need to make sure I’m not wearing anything white at the time (coz I’m exactly the kind of person who manages to splatter food on white shirts…) πŸ˜›

  4. Looks really great! I actually pulled out a couple recipes for red velvet cupcakes this week- I never have done something with food color in the batter, but think I will give it a try after reading this!

    1. I think as Catty says, the red only adds to the look, and the cupcake doesn’t taste any different if they are brown… so you could always omit the food colouring. πŸ™‚

    1. I know, the beauty of cupcakes is definitely in the frosting. This is actually the first time I made frosted cupcakes, and it strangely therapeutic. Definitely gonna make frosted cupcakes again soon!

  5. They still look great! esp the one with PB forsting. I hate dealing with the red colouring, my fingers were stained red for a few days and I have a few bowls that are permanently stained!

    1. I know what you mean! My worst experience of red food colouring is with chinese “birthday eggs” where your fingers always turn red post-egg peeling, hehe.

  6. Where did you buy the Dr Oetker red food colouring? I bought one from Phoon Huat today and my cake taste real awfull.

    1. Ah I get mine here in London. Sorry to hear the food colouring didn’t taste good – I’m not sure where you can get ‘ok tasting’ food colouring in Sg though as I haven’t been cake shopping there before.

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