Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Red Velvet Cake seems to be a specialty of everyone’s grandmother who grew up in the South. However, being a Yankee, I only heard of it a few years ago. Now people seem to rave about it so I spent the last few years tasting red velvet cake at every southern restaurant we went to. It just seemed to be yellow cake mix with red food coloring. I was perplexed. I mean that can’t be what all the fuss was about. No way.

Then we moved downtown and I had a red velvet cupcake from the cafe around the corner. At this point I pretty much tasted red velvet anything every time I saw it. Aha! Now I get what the fuss is about. Yes, it is primarily yellow cake however, there is some cocoa in it which adds a richness that makes plain yellow cake seem boring. Then there is the frosting. Ah the frosting. It has cream cheese frosting, which let’s be honest, is the main reason people flock to it. (At least Northerners, since my research tells me cream cheese frosting isn’t always the tradition.)

Now even though it is traditional in the South, rumor has it that the recipe was actually created at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. I’m going to add my two cents by saying I seriously doubt this. If that were true, then why wasn’t it popular in the North. I mean I only just heard of it recently. Sorry, not buying it. Even though I am a proud New Yorker, I’m giving the credit to the South for this one.

Revised June 22, 2014

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Yields 20 to 24 Cupcakes. Frosting for 24 cupcakes if using a pastry bag. Frosting for 48 cupcakes if using an icing spatula or butter knife.

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For the cupcakes:

Adapted from Bobby Flay’s Red Velvet Cake

Inspired by Sunny Anderson's Grandma's Red Velvet Cake

Inspired by America’s Test Kitchen’s The How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook

2 1/2 cups flour mix C

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons (2 ounces) red food coloring*

1 cup sour cream, at room temperature

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon white vinegar

* If you are using the liquid food coloring from the market, then the 2 ounces is fine. If you are using a food coloring paste, like from a craft or kitchen store, then use 1 tablespoon of the paste and 4 tablespoons of water.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

Adapted from Cakeman Raven’s Southern Red Velvet Cake

16 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

16 tablespoons salted butter (2 sticks), at room temperature

4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


    For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 muffin tins with cupcake liners. Tip: Use foil liners because the oil in this cake tends to bleed though the paper ones.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and baking powder.
  3. Sift the flour mixture. Sift it a second time with the sugar and set aside. Tip: Sift onto wax paper and then return the mixture to the bowl.
  4. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa, salt, and food coloring until all the cocoa dissolves. Tip: This takes a bit of stirring but I promise it will dissolve.
  5. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sour cream, oil, and melted butter until combined. Tip: If using an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment.
  6. Whisk in the eggs until combined.
  7. Add the cocoa mixture. Whisk until combined.
  8. Add in the vinegar. Whisk until combined.
  9. Add in the vanilla. Whisk until combined.
  10. Add the flour/sugar mixture to the batter and whisk until combined and smooth.
  11. Fill each liner 2/3 full. This will be about 1/4 cup of the batter.
  12. Place the pans on the center rack and bake for 18 to 22 minutes, until the tops spring back when you touch them or a toothpick comes out clean of batter. Tip: Be not sure not to “over” bake these cupcakes. Cupcakes continue to bake a bit when removed from the oven so as long as the cake springs back, it does not need to be hard.
  13. Remove the pans from the oven and place them on cooling racks. Cool the cupcakes in the pans for 15 minutes before removing them to cool completely.
  14. Frost the completely cooled cupcakes with the Cream Cheese Frosting and serve.
  15. For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
  16. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl.
  17. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the vanilla extract. Mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl.
  18. Gradually add the confectioner's sugar (1/2 cup at a time) and mix until combined. Scrape down the bowl.
  19. Turn the mixer to high speed and mix briefly until fluffy.
  20. Refrigerate the frosting for 20 to 30 minutes or until a spreadable consistency.

While red cupcakes are quite attractive, red food coloring all over your kitchen is not. I actually stained my stainless steel sink for a few days. (It went away eventually.) In order to avoid ruining your beautiful white marble counter tops, please follow my tips below and please add to the comments section any other tips you have.

Tips to survive red food coloring:

  • Cover all your working surfaces with wax paper. Honestly, you may want to do this all the time. It makes for easy clean up.
  • Do most of you whisking in the sink, if possible.
  • To rinse red dye from spoons, fill bowls with water and shake the spoons in there or make sure the facet is only running a slow stream of water. A strong gush causes the dye to splatter all over. I admit to doing this at least twice. However, I have black counters. Whew!
  • Rinse bowls and spoons promptly. Do not let items with red dye sit for hours.
  • Take a deep breath and do not rush.
    #RedVelvet #Cupcakes. Just in time for #ValentinesDay. Visit for the full #recipe. #dessert #baking #glutenfree
    The result is worth it. Don’t you agree?

    This post is part of the following link parties:
    Gluten-Free Recipe Fix

7 thoughts on “Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. I am fortunate to live in the same building with Ellen, and on occasion I chat with she and her husband. In no time I discovered there was ongoing red velvet activity in her home and readily signed up to be a taster.

    In short the fruits of Ellens labor are not to be missed. She works tirelessly like a chemist, redesigning the traditional red velvet and creates the finest gluten free I’ve tasted to date.

    And Ohhhhh, the creme cheese frosting…..

    and im not even a sugar girl.

  2. Ellen’s red velvet cupcakes are to die for! I, too thought that it was just yellow cake with red dye. The cocoa adds a moistness and the cream cheese frosting adds a luxuriousness that is more decadent that the traditional cupcake does not have! Yum!!

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