Small Batch Red Velvet Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are moist and delicious homemade cupcakes for two without a cake mix. Recipe makes 6 cupcakes.

Red Velvet Cupcake unwrapped

Every January I take time off from work, but honestly I wish I was more mentally rested. Usually I’d travel somewhere, but this year all I wanted to do was stay home and relax.

And let me tell you – it’s tough to not work while staying home. Especially when you’re so far behind on cleaning your apartment.

Plus there’s never enough time to make all the fun recipes from my various cookbooks. Most of them take several hours to prep and cook, so they’re definitely not quick, lazy recipes.

Last week my Mini Lava Cakes were my first, never-before-published recipe this year.

These Small Batch Red Velvet Cupcakes are not new to the blog, but I like to refresh popular recipes every now and then, just to make sure they’re the best they can be.

And this 6 cupcake recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting is one of the best.

Inspired by my Small Red Velvet Cake recipe, they’re deliciously moist easy red velvet cupcakes with a subtle chocolate taste.

The Small Batch Cream Cheese Frosting adds tanginess to balance the sweetness of the cake.

Of course this red velvet cupcake recipe isn’t restricted to only Valentine’s Day, but it’s often popular in February due to its red color.

You can also make red velvet Christmas cupcakes or all year round for a special birthday or anniversary dessert.

6 Red Velvet Cupcakes on mini cupcake stands

What is red velvet cake?

If you were to google homemade red velvet cupcakes, you’ll notice not every recipe is the same.

Some used only butter. Some used only oil. Some used both butter and oil. Some used a lot of cocoa. Some only used a tablespoon. One recipe even used only egg whites.

So what exactly is it?

Red velvet cake is a subtle chocolate cake flavored with buttermilk and vinegar then enhanced in color with red food coloring.

It’s not a vanilla cake with red food coloring, yet it’s not just a small chocolate cake with such a small amount of cocoa powder.

What is the difference between chocolate cake and red velvet cake?

The difference between chocolate cupcakes and red velvet cupcakes is the amount of chocolate used.

Chocolate cupcakes have a deep rich chocolate flavor, thanks to melted chocolate and cocoa powder. The brown color is also too dark for red food coloring to shine through.

Red velvet cupcakes use a small amount of cocoa powder, allowing the red to shine through. It’s not meant to be a rich chocolate cake.

Can’t get enough red velvet recipes? Check out my Red Velvet Oreo Cheesecake, Red Velvet Sugar Cookies, and Red Velvet Bars.

3 Red Velvet Cupcakes in a row

Ingredients For Small Batch Red Velvet Cupcakes

You’ll need the following ingredients for your homemade red velvet cupcakes:

  • All-Purpose Flour: I opted for all-purpose flour instead of cake flour because it’s more common in pantries. Make sure you know how to measure flour by using the spoon and level method.
  • Cornstarch: Cornstarch makes up for the gluten difference since we’re not using cake flour. If you do use cake flour, swap this for additional cake flour.
  • Cocoa powder: As mentioned earlier, cocoa powder is what gives red velvet cupcakes their subtle chocolate flavor. Use natural unsweetened cocoa.
  • Baking soda: Helps the cake rise as it reacts with the acidic buttermilk.
  • Salt: Used so your cupcakes aren’t bland.
  • Granulated sugar: Needed to sweeten the batter.
  • Vegetable oil: Using a neutral oil means the tangy buttermilk flavor will shine while also making moist red velvet cupcakes. Butter would overpower the flavor.
  • Egg: Use a standard large egg at room temperature.
  • Red food coloring: Use liquid food coloring, the kind you add by the drop. You can use gel or paste, but the amount will vary. The color will bake out, so make your batter brighter than what you want.
  • Vanilla: Really enhances the other flavors
  • Buttermilk: Because buttermilk is acidic, it’ll activate the baking soda, which is what causes your cake to rise properly. Only have regular milk? Add lemon juice or vinegar then wait 5 minutes or until curdled.

The chemical reaction among cocoa powder, buttermilk, vinegar, and baking soda help give red velvet a natural deep maroon color, which is often enhanced with food coloring.

If you’re ever reading an easy red velvet cupcake recipe without those ingredients, run. Don’t make it.

Red Velvet Cupcakes on mini cupcake stands

How To Make Small Batch Red Velvet Cupcakes

Here’s how to make the best red velvet cupcake recipe with buttermilk:

  1. Sift together your flour and cornstarch then stir in cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  2. Beat oil and sugar until smooth.
  3. Beat in egg, food coloring, and vanilla, scraping down your bowl if necessary.
  4. Add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the flour in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions (begin and end with dry ingredients).
  5. Fill your cupcake liners about 2/3 of the way full. They will rise a good bit, so you don’t want them too full.
  6. Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs (but not wet batter).

Why did my red velvet cupcakes not turn red? I used food coloring!

Some of my international readers outside of the U.S. have mentioned they use red food coloring, but their mini red velvet cupcakes turned out brown.

I don’t know the answer without studying the colorings they used, but for comparison purposes I use McCormick red food coloring.

The ingredients are Water, Propylene Glycol, FD&C Reds 40 and 3, and 0.1% Propylparaben (Preservative).

Make sure your food coloring doesn’t use natural colorings such as beetroot, which will dull during baking.

Why are my red velvet cupcakes overflowing?

The most challenging part about baking small batch cupcakes is making sure you don’t overfill (or underfill) the paper liners before baking.

Too much batter and they’re overflow, flatten, and sometimes even sink in the middle after cooling.

Too little batter and they won’t rise to the top of the liner.

I find with this small batch red velvet cupcake recipe, you want to fill the liners about 2/3 full.

What I do is measure a one big scoop into the bottom of 6 liners then I go back and finish filling each one with the remaining batter.

This helps me distribute the batter more evenly so the last cupcake has just as much batter at the first. I hate when you get to the end and realize you don’t have enough batter left.

Small Batch Red Velvet Cupcakes with mini cake stands

How To Decorate Small Batch Red Velvet Cupcakes

Traditionally you frost red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.

Although not traditional, you can also make Small Batch Buttercream or even Small Batch Chocolate Frosting.

Don’t want to use cream cheese? Check out my full list of small batch frosting recipes to mix and match.

How To Store Homemade Red Velvet Cupcakes

To store cupcakes, place them in an airtight container (deep enough so you don’t mess up the frosting) for up to 1 week.

You don’t need to refrigerate unfrosted red velvet cupcakes. However, once you add cream cheese frosting you do need to refrigerate them.

Let sit at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes before serving to get rid of the chill.

Can you freeze red velvet cupcakes?

To freeze unfrosted cupcakes, place them on a cookie sheet and freeze for an hour. Once firm, wrap each one in plastic wrap then stick in a freeze-safe plastic bag. Freeze for up to 3 months.

If you’re worried they’ll get squashed in the freezer, you can put the plastic bag in a container to maintain their shape.

How To Freeze Frosted Cupcakes

Although I recommend freezing unfrosted cupcakes, you can also freeze frosted cupcakes.

Place them on a cookie sheet and freeze for an hour. Once firm, place each one in a deep enough container that won’t squash the frosting. Freeze for up to 3 months.

How To Thaw Frozen Cupcakes

To thaw frozen cupcakes, place them on a wire rack and let them come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

More Small Batch Cupcake Recipes

Looking for more recipes for small batch cupcakes? You can check out my full list of small batch cupcake recipes.

Some of my favorites are:

Don’t want to make cupcakes? Check out my full list of 6 Inch Cake Recipes.

Red Velvet Cupcake unwrapped

Small Batch Red Velvet Cupcakes

Yield: 6 cupcakes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes

Small Batch Red Velvet Cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are moist and delicious homemade cupcakes for two without a cake mix.


  • 1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons liquid red food coloring (I used McCormick brand)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature (or substitute whole milk with 1 teaspoon lemon juice added)
  • Small Batch Cream Cheese Frosting (get recipe here)


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cupcake pan with 6 paper liners.
  2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, and cocoa powder then whisk in baking soda and salt.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar and oil until moistened, about 1 minute.
  4. Beat in the egg, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar.
  5. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, adding the flour in 3 additions and the milk in 2 additions (begin and end with dry ingredients).
  6. Transfer the batter to the cupcake liners, filling them no more than 2/3 full. Bake 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle is clean (few crumbs ok but no wet batter). Cool for about 15 minutes then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.
  7. Decorate with cream cheese frosting. Refrigerate frosted cupcakes in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes before serving.


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First published January 21, 2021