Mom It Down: Red Velvet Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Icing

I took this recipe from Cupcakes Year-Round: 50 Recipes for Every Season and Celebration. The book gets mixed reviews on Amazon, mainly because of the way its designed (spiral bound, easel) but it does the trick, especially if you want something a little more decadent but not super difficult. Today’s recipe features red velvet cupcakes with a cream cheese icing.

What you will need

  • Cupcake baking papers
  • Muffin tin
  • Mixer

Ingredients (Cupcakes)

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • Red food coloring
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk

Ingredients (Icing)

  • 8 ounces cream cheese 
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2-4 cups of powdered sugar 

Mom it Down!

If you’re willing to make cupcakes, then you’re probably already aware of the fact that they’re a little more involved than making bread or muffins or even cookies. But I think it’s worth it. 

I have followed three recipes so far, and the red velvet were my favorite. (Although, the chocolate cupcakes I make which aren’t from this book are pretty great as well.) Cupcakes are cupcakes, even an average cupcake is delightful in my opinion. 

Let me begin by saying that I searched all over my neighborhood and 14 Street at Union Square for cake flour and wasn’t able to find any. Thankfully, my parents visited from New Jersey and brought me two boxes. I’m assuming that cake flour in most areas isn’t difficult to find. However, if you’re unable to find it, I’ll give you a substitution in the variations section below. (Thankfully, dozens of people came to my rescue when I wasn’t able to find cake flour.)


Preheat your oven to 350. 

Take the unsalted butter out of the fridge and let it warm to room temperature. This is important. So while that’s happening, do something else, like scrape Play-Doh off the floor. I always let my butter warm in the mixer itself. 

Add flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. Put that aside. (Normally, it’s best to sift your dry ingredients together. I normally do not. It’s all about simplification and time for me.)

Once your butter is at room temperature, cream the sugar and it together until fluffy. (3 minutes)

Add the vanilla.

Add enough red food coloring to the batter until it turns a deep red. Beat well.

Add one egg at a time beating well after each one.

Add your flour mixture to the mixer, alternating between the flour and the buttermilk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix that until it’s creamy. (You may need to add more food coloring. I found that my cheap stuff did the trick, but wasn’t nearly as red and velvety as I have seen come out of professional bakeries. I haven’t yet researched better food coloring options yet.)

Spoon the batter into each baking paper. (PLEASE NOTE: The recipe in the book said I would get 24 cupcakes out of this. I did not. I only got 18. I probably could have gotten 20, but no more that that. Still very confused as to why mine was so far off. Ideas?)

Bake them at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes. (My oven needed 25. Perhaps I filled mine up too much?) 

Wash your mixer.

You can make your icing while your cupcakes are in the oven or wait until you have more time. I waited. I waited until I had another 15 minutes to finish icing my cupcakes. 

To make your icing

Remove the cream cheese and butter from the refrigerator. Let both items warm in the mixer.

Once the cream cheese and butter is at room temperature, turn the mixer on its slowest speed. Let that go until it’s good and creamy. Add the powdered sugar slowly. The recipe calls for just under 4 cups—a 1-pound bag of powdered sugar. I feel that’s far too much sugar. I love icing, and have nothing against sugar, but I don’t like like my icing super sweet, so I cut down on the amount of sugar. I think I used a little over half the 1-pound bag. It’s up to you. I might suggest sampling it after each addition of powdered sugar. 

You’re done! Add your icing to COOLED cupcakes (never add icing to warm or hot cupcakes). Decorate with sprinkles, or however you please. 

Overcoming Obstacles

I am by no means a cupcake expert. In fact, I felt far outside my baking comfort zone on this one. I am certain there are others out there who are far better at this than I am. But here are a few suggestions I have at making things easier. 

Use an ice cream scoop to distribute the batter. Also, only fill your baking papers 1/3 of the way. I think that for a few I may have overfilled, which is why I only got 18 cupcakes out of the recipe. However, I really still can’t figure out how they got 24 out of it. That remains a mystery to me. The only thing I can think is that my eggs weren’t big enough. 

To make clean up easier, just toss everything all at once into the mixer when you’re finished and let that run under hot water. Cupcake batter isn’t at all sticky and washes away easily. The icing takes a bit more work, however.

It helps if your eggs are room temperature as well. This has to do with how well they bind to other ingredients. 

If your child is old enough, or if you’re OK with a mess, let Junior apply icing to a cupcake of his or her own. I promise you, this will allow for a toddler-free 15 minutes as you ice the remaining cupcakes. (A bath may be in your future, however.)

If the cupcakes are traveling, I might suggest using the tins they baked in to do so. 


If you don’t have cake flour, you can use all-purpose flour. Simply fill one cup with all-purpose flour, remove two tablespoons and add two tablespoons of cornstarch. I have not tried this personally but read that it was a fine substitution. (If you have ever done this, please let me know if it worked.)

Feel free to add lemon zest to the icing, orange, or lime. You can add food coloring as well. I made vanilla buttermilk cupcakes first and a buttercream icing to go along with them and turned the icing blue. 

That’s it! Let me know if you have any suggestions or hints, tricks, shortcuts that may make cupcake baking even easier.

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  1. Those look tasty!
    The only timesaver, really it is an energy-saver that I use is to use a second mixing bowl for the icing. I finally got one for Christmas last year, because I am too lazy to wash my batter bowl before making icing. I like to have a second kitchen-aid bowl in the cupboard for back-up. :)
    Then I can just toss both into the dishwasher at the end of the baking and ignore them.
    Laaaaazy me!


  2. Wilton’s food-color is what my mom uses. The red ‘no flavor’ is made for when you have to use a lot for a rich red, and don’t want the chalky flavor to seep in. Maybe get a dark-purple and add a touch of that to add a little depth to the color…?

    Just a few thoughts, and here is link to wilton’s site if you’re curious. The price might look a little high for one color, but if it is a color you use a lot, it is worth, and they last a while. (they are gel-like, so you want a toothpick or something to add the color to your batter).

    and here is another site, never tried their food coloring before:

    Sorry to babble, just like to share what I know! :)


  3. my input:

    – Make sure you use good quality and REAL vanilla extract. Also feel free to double or triple it in the icing and mix. Carrot cake cupcakes with 2x the vanilla is sooo good.

    – If you’re icing with whipped cream cheese , butter, or both: the cupcakes shoudn’t be cool… they should be cold. the slightest hint of warmth will melt the icing.

    – Neat stores, like Broadway Panhandler (which I <3 ) have muffin trays that will slide into a few sizes of standard ovens as shelves. aka: you can pull out the wire racks and stack a few trays in at once by just slipping them into the oven as shelves !


  4. Aisha! Thanks for the input. Babble away! That’s the point. I wanna learn shit! :]


  5. I have that book also…it rarely comes out of the bookshelf, I hate flipping though it.

    I second Wendy, if you bake a lot, another mixer bowl is awesome, or 2 or 3. :D

    Not very time saving, but I like to cream butter and sugar together for more like 10 minutes so the sugar dissolves more, unless it’s superfine stuff.


  6. OK, first of all this recipe seems to be a winner especially after trying 3 different recipes. Finding something that works at high altitude (CO) is a mission.

    I made vanilla ones (my cocoa was used on the choc chip cookies last week) and baked for 20min in my oven.

    I don’t know why (maybe the altitude thing again) but I got out 24 and there were enough left over for 12 mini ones. Even then it was over-filled because some of them come over the top! Huh???

    I need to get an ice cream scoop though to fill evenly next time.

    Thanks again for the great recipe(s). I like that you work with small amounts and that one doesn’t have to half a recipe while working since this is normally where my math fail me.


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