The best ever Red Velvet Cupcakes

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the best ever red velvet cupcakes

I’m always a bit sceptical when people claim a recipe to be ‘the best’, but as this is my blog, and these are all my opinions anyway, I claim these are the best red velvet cupcakes I have ever tasted, and I have tasted a lot.

I started the first online cupcake business in Cape Town called ‘The Cupcake Kitchen‘ in early 2008 and back when these small sweet treats were rising to iconic status (we are a little bit behind the times here in South Africa).

Few food items can elicit such delight and happiness as the cupcake can. It’s an emotional and visual thing. As well as the fact that they are small and designed for pure and individual indulgence. Without a doubt, the highlight of my business was the sheer sense of joy that these little cakes seemed to bring to people.

The Cupcake Kitchen has been laid to rest. I have moved onto other things, but my time spent, and lessons learnt from this endeavour, will forever remain very close to my heart.’

I tested dozens of recipes at the time, and the Magnolia Bakery- NYC recipe for red velvet cake is the best that I came across.

the best ever red velvet cupcakes

I am yet to make the ‘creamy vanilla frosting’ that they pair with their red velvet cake. It’s a complicated recipe that involves flour which I just can’t get my head around. I have been assured by a friend that it is indeed incredible, so it’s on my to-do list for the future.

I like pairing these silky cupcakes with a slightly tart cream cheese frosting, and I have included my recipe here.

When it comes to food colouring, I go straight for the real deal. A couple of tablespoons spread over 30 cupcakes is not going to have a negative impact if it would at all. I have seen and tasted versions using beetroot as a colouring agent, but the taste of the beetroot comes through too strongly for me, and really makes it less desirable. I use only 2 tablespoons of Moirs Crimson Red liquid food colouring vs the 6 tablespoons the original recipe calls for. It is more than enough to deliver a deep red colour. (PS – sadly this food colouring has been discontinued so I opt for gel food colouring which you need a lot less of. I reckon about 1 tsp but I haven’t tested it)

the best ever red velvet cupcakes

 You may also like my vanilla cupcakes with salted caramel and butter-cream frosting:

My best baking recipes

My best cake recipes

The very best red velvet cupcakes

Classic red velvet cupcake recipe from Magnolia Bakery in NYC.
Print Recipe
Prep Time:40 minutes
Cook Time:25 minutes
Total Time:1 hour 10 minutes



  • 3 1/3 cups cake flour
  • 175 g | 3/4 cup | 1 1/2 sticks of butter I use salted - but you could use unsalted if you prefer
  • 2 1/4 cups of sugar
  • 3 large eggs at room temp
  • 3 T cocoa powder
  • 3 Tbsp liquid red food colouring or 1-2 teaspoons red gel food colouring
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 t apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda bicarbonate of soda

Cream cheese Icing

  • 150 g butter room temperature
  • 190 g cream cheese
  • 4 1/2 cups of icing sugar
  • 2 - 3 tsp lemon juice


  • Preheat the oven to 180 C | 350 F and line a muffin pan with paper liners.
  • Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add each egg one at a time ensuring that it is well mixed before adding the next one.
  • Add the cocoa, vanilla and food colouring, and mix.
  • In a separate bowl sift the flour.
  • Mix the salt with the buttermilk (I just add it directly into the measuring cup).
  • Add the sifted flour and the buttermilk to the batter in 3 parts, allowing it to incorporate before adding the next part - do not overbeat.
  • In a small bowl mix the apple cider vinegar with the baking soda - this will fizz up add this right at the end to the batter and mix briefly.
  • Scrape down the bowl by hand using a spatula and ensure that everything is mixed in.
  • Using an ice cream scoop to ensure consistency, scoop out dollops of dough to about 3/4 of the way up the cupcake case. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until well risen-and springy to the touch.

To make the icing

  • Beat all of the above ingredients together using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the lemon juice at the end teaspoon at a time until it is the right consistency.
  • Decorate your cooled cupcakes with a swirl of frosting and a pretty decoration of your choice.


Make this into a 2 or 3 layer cake if you prefer.
Servings: 30 cupcakes or 1 large cake
Author: Sam Linsell




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  1. They look as beautiful as they tasted! Thanks Sam, will try make them this weekend as a treat for my friends in Hemel en Aarde!

  2. Excellent and thanks Lauren x

  3. My children love red velvet cupcakes and since you saying this is the best recipe I will just have to try it! Your pics are delicious! 🙂

  4. I have also been experimenting with various red velvet recipes, ones using real beetroot as well as many others. I have yet to find one that I deem ‘the best’, so can’t wait to give this one a try.

  5. Hey thanks for posting this in time for the birthday celebrations later this week Sam. Look forward to trying it out.

  6. Good luck Kim, I hope it turns out well. This makes a lot of batter.
    S x

  7. Hi Lezanne, please let me know what you think if you do make it. I am really not a fan of beetroot versions as the flavour is too dominant.

  8. Thanks Zirkie, would love to know what recipe you have been using up until now.

  9. These look absolutely gorgeous. I wish I could pipe frosting like that. I am one of the naysayers about colouring – don’t like it at all but I do understand that red velvet cakes can’t be made without it and that beetroot doesn’t work. Maybe we should just move on from this strange fashion for red cakes. It hasn’t really reached us here in New Zealand.
    But I would eat that vanilla, caramel one in a heartbeat. What a lovely job, having a cupcake shop. Such creativity. You must make the best cupcakes – I will have to try some of your recipes.

  10. Wow, these red velvet cupcakes look awesome, so elegantly done…
    Thanks for sharing the recipe and hope you have a wonderful week ahead Sam 🙂

  11. Woe is me! My cupcakes all came out looking like little moon craters. What happened?

  12. Hi Leonie, I have no idea. Perhaps you over mixed the batter (a common mistake when baking cakes)? This can result in hard cake as you beat the gluten in the flour too much. Otherwise I am not sure. I make it exactly as per my instructions.

  13. Hi Leonie, I have re checked the recipe and it is 100% correct. I’m sorry your didn’t turn out.

  14. Leonie Smit says:

    Thank you Sam. Just for future, how many grams in a third of a cup of flour? And how many grams are in 2 and a quarter cup of sugar. Perhaps that is where my baking went wrong.

  15. Hi Sam, Kim just shared link for your cookie recipe – they sound divine and I’m inspired to bake them today! Perfect time as this weather still really wintry & I’m waiting for our little girl to arrive, 40 weeks 4 days 🙂

  16. Hey Sam
    My cupcakes turned out deliciously and were a hit alike at our two-year-old birthday party (I think one little boy ate 4! Felt sorry for his parents after that sugar hit that night). See One thing: your text says you used 2T Moir’s crimson red food colouring, and your recipe suggest 3T. I used 2T in the cake mixture. Looked lovely.

  17. Hi Kim, so glad the recipe worked out for you and was enjoyed. Doesn’t matter too much 2 – 3 T of food colouring. I find it such an impressive looking cake, and also enjoy it as a whole cake vs cupcakes.
    S x

  18. Dear Sam, I am so happy to have found these beautiful cakes, since they’re my daughter’s favourite and now I have a trustworthy recipe. As always, your beautiful photographs and exquisite layout of your blog is a tonic for the soul. thanks for sharing your hard work and talent with us, it is a great, great joy to visit your blog.

  19. Hi.

    Just wanted to ask you how do i get a bright red colour instead of a maroon colour. Thanks. Josh

  20. Hi Josh, these look quite dark on the outside (maroon) but are actually quite red on the inside. This recipe has cocoa in it (essential for the flavour) – so that is why it is a dark red. If you were colouring a white cake batter, it would be brighter.
    I hope this helps.

  21. Thanks.

  22. how long do you cook the recipe if you making the cake…looks very delicious!!

  23. I made a batch of these this weekend (also using 2T Moirs Crimson Cake Colouring). They came out too beautifully – a rich red. However, we all had red tongues and mouths afterwards – ROFL. Perhaps next time I will only use 1T of the colouring as I am sure it will still be nice and red. Did anyone else have this “problem”.

  24. Hi Sandra, I get a red tongue and lips when I lick the uncooked batter (lol) – but haven’t noticed a problem once they are baked. Also red fingers when baking :-). I sure 1 T will be enough too.

  25. Lisa Bosman says:

    Hi there Sam,

    I am very curious and excited to try this -“the best” recipe.
    Can I half the batter though? Is it possible?
    Thank you

  26. HI Lisa, I have never halved it and think it will be very difficult because it has 3 eggs. Unless you weigh 3 eggs, and then halve that accurately, and then halve everything else it would work. My advice is to make it all and freeze the leftovers.

  27. Hi,

    Does it have to be Moirs crimson red food coloring for this recipe?
    I have gone to a few stores and cant seem to find it.

  28. Hi Linda, I have subsequently established (after contacting Moirs) that they have discontinued crimson red, but crimson Pink is the exact same colour as the old crimson red. I should amend my blog post. Thanks for the comment.

  29. Hi I cannot find that brand of food coloring at all. Does it have to be that brand?

  30. Hi Linda, no it can be any red food colouring.

  31. Hello! im just wondering how did you do the rose? and if moirs food coloring is not available in my country do you have any alternatives? By the way i like what you did with your cupcakes, instead of using sprinkles you used a rose. hope you can give me some advice because me and my friends are planning to do a small cupcake business and since were still minors we dont really know a lot of stuff in baking. actually i’ve never baked my entire life. thank you!

  32. by the way, can you give me the approximate spendings in your red velvet? pardon me if I have the wrong grammar. thank you

  33. HI Jeanica, I’m sorry I have not costed it recently

  34. Hi Jeanica, you will need to source a red food colouring available in your country. I bought the roses already made here.

  35. Hi Sam. Just a quick (or blond hehehe) question, when you say 3Tdoes that mean tablespoon or teaspoon?

  36. HI Rozel – 3 T = tablesoons and t = teaspoons. Sorry for the confusion.

  37. Hi there – can you please clarify what ‘cake flour’ is? In the UK we have either plain or self-raising. Thanks – really looking forward to trying these out 🙂

  38. HI Leo, Cake flour is just ordinary all purpose flour and not self raising flour. Enjoy and I hope they turn out.

  39. Christine says:

    Can you post how many mL there are in your cup, tablespoon, and teaspoon measures, please?
    I have recently found out these vary between countries, which can influence the outcome of the recipe. Thanks.

  40. Christine says:

    Nearly the same as here in Oz… except our tablespoons are 20mL. Thanks, Sam.

  41. Hi,

    Not sure if this question was asked (I’m from SA) which cream cheese do you find to be the best?

  42. HI Jessica, I do love Philly but its expensive so use Lancewood as the texture is nice and dense. I like the flavour of Simonsberg a lot but find the texture a bit light sometimes for icing / baking.

  43. Thank you for the reply,
    I’m going to make ur cupcakes over the weekend.
    Have a good evening 🙂

  44. Hi Sam.
    If I wanted to make a smaller batch of these cupcakes, could I use half of each ingredient? Would the cupcakes still work? I don’t want to make 30 cupcakes as that’s too many just to have around the house.
    Many thanks.

  45. Hi Kim, I have never made a smaller batch because it has 3 eggs and this is difficult to split in half, but I would suggest lightly beating 3 eggs, weighing this and then dividing it accurately into 2 parts. you could eat the other 1 1/2 eggs on toast 🙂

  46. These really are the best red velvet cake/cupcakes. My friend who has been to Magnolia bakery even went so far as to say that this recipe tasted even better 🙂 Thanks for it!

  47. Hi Bianca, thanks for the comment and certainly high praise as it is their recipe (or slightly tweaked version) and my own frosting. I really like cream cheese frosting with it.

  48. Maria da Silva says:

    I made the cupcakes over the weekend but used 4 eggs (smallish) instead of three, and used less flour. I first measured out the flour and then started incorporating it in stages, alternating with the liquid, and realised that at about 2 1/2 cups the batter looked right. They came out very well. The batter would definitely have been too stiff if I has added all the flour.
    I prefer weighing dry ingredients as I think they’re more accurate that way.
    Will definitely make again.

  49. Hi Maria, I agree, weighing is much better, but cup measures are preferred in the USA and they are more convenient. I make sure when I use a cup measure for flour, I do not shake the flour in and rather scoop quite lightly so as to just fill the cup (must do so out of a large bag of flour) and then even off with the back of a knife. This batter is fairly stiff, but i like that as it makes it easier to scoop (I use an ice cream scoop). I have made it so many times and it has always been such a success. :-). Im glad your worked out well too.

  50. Hi Sam,

    Made the cupcakes over the weekend,
    They came out a little dry, and the icing was a little runny, and very sweet.
    What could I have done wrong?

  51. Hi Jessica, it is really difficult for me based on the limited info you have here, to determine what could have gone wrong with your baking. I was not there. Did you follow the recipe to the T? did you overbake them? I cant understand how they can be dry. This recipe is particularly moist and velvety. The icing should not be runny – unless your butter was too soft and the cream cheese not cold? I have made this recipe a dozen times as have many people and it has always worked out perfectly. It is based on one of the most famous cupcake bakeries in America recipe, thus it is a total winner. I’m sorry it didn’t work out. It is a little tricky and needs to be followed quite precisely (when you measure your flour, dot shake it into the cup measure, simply scoop a cup out lightly, level off and use in the recipe).

  52. Hi Sam,

    Thank you for your reply, I’m going to try it again.

  53. hi the flavor was much better than another I tried. we used a new red food color that is for red velvet and says adds a good flavor. My question is how do I make it a lighter cake. not so heavy?

  54. Hi me, this particular recipe is for a velvety slightly denser cake mix. If you wanted a lighter one, take a lighter sponge mix (that you know) and adapt that. make it red. Remember the chocolate flavor.

  55. rizwana patel says:

    hi n thanku for sharing this beautiful looking recipe with us,im gonna try baking them today,so pls wish me luck.

  56. ‘Hi I tried so many red velvet cakes and cup cakes. This one was the best.
    I used a powder coloring from The Baker Bin and it was amazing.
    The cupcakes has a lovely chocolate flavor, not like any other red
    Velvet , not just the red colour and no taste.
    My big question, how can I make it a bit more moist. Can I ad a little more oil .
    My daughter want a red Velvet wedding cake and cupcakes as part of it.
    Would love to do it myself .

  57. Hi Pat, Im glad they worked out. Personally I find them extermely moist and wouldnt mess with any of the ingredient ratios. I would say perhaps they are over baked slightly. As soon as cake is baked it should be removed from the oven. Anything past that is just moisture loss and hardening. Even 5 minutes can make a big difference in moisture levels. Its a fine balance to work out.

  58. Hi, Sam!

    I’ve been using your recipe for over a year and it is always a huge hit! Everyone loves it. Red velvet isn’t all that popular here in Venezuela so people are always surprised and delighted when they try my cupcakes and some have even told me they have had a few in other places and mine have been the best, so thank you for that!

    I was wondering, I’m making a layer cake for my boyfriend’s birthday and I want each layer to have a different color, sort of like a rainbow cake. So I have two questions:

    1. Does this recipe work the same if I want to make green, blue and purple velvet as well?

    2. Considering I want it to be a surprise and need to bake in advance, can I freeze the layers for a month? Thank you so much!

  59. Hi Mariann – that is great to hear and I do get that a lot. YOu canuse any food colouring instead of the red, just adjust the quantity if you are doing it in seperate layers. I have seen blue velvet before. It will tur nout quite dark as the cocoa powder is in the mix. You can also very easily freeze cake, just wrap it well. (cake freezes perfectly). thaw at room temperature.

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