real life test kitchen: amped up red velvet cupcakes

red velvet

redvelvet heaven

Couldn’t you just imagine a table towering with two dozen of these red white and blue sparklers at your Independence Day festivities? This was my first foray into baking red velvet; I made them at the request of my husband for his 40th birthday, and I’m glad he asked. I’ve always loved the texture of red velvet cake: silky and smooth, melting on your tongue like cotton candy. The flavor, however, has always left me wanting, so I decided to remedy that. I compared numerous red velvet recipes before deciding on a starting point: Magnolia Bakery’s version at Epicurious. I wanted to really kick up the cocoa flavor in this cake without losing that light, delicate quality, so I subbed out a 1/2 cup of the cake flour for cocoa, in addition to the three tablespoons suggested in the recipe. I also used both Dutch-process red cocoa and natural cocoa powder, since I wanted to ensure the correct chemical reaction between the acids in the batter and the cocoa (thanks, David Lebovitz).

The results were pretty freaking great: light and, dare I say, VELVETY, but with a more pronounced cocoa backbone that really came through when paired with my mom’s cream cheese frosting. The entire two dozen was gone in a flash — and, ashamedly, there were only five of us!! — Megan B. Click for Megan’s amped up red velvet cupcakes!

Megan’s Amped Up Red Velvet Cupcakes
(Adapted from a recipe by the Magnolia Bakery)
Makes 2 dozen cupcakes

3 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tbs liquid red food coloring (or 2 tbs food coloring paste and 4 tbs water )
1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons red cocoa
1/4 cup natural cocoa (like Hershey)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat oven to 375F.

Sift the cake flour into a small bowl; set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl until light and flufffy (with the mixer on medium speed), about five minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla (adding a bit of water if necessary to make a smooth paste). Add to the batter and beat well.

In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat.

In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.

Use two muffin pans, each with 12 muffin cups (1/2 cup each), and line each cup with a paper liner. Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Switch positions of the pans midway through baking. Bake about 20 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove and cool completely on a rack before icing. To ice, mound a generous spoon of cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake and use an icing spatula to make a swirl on top. If desired, decorate with sanding sugar.

Cupcake holder photo by Kletia Garies

From our partners

I am so glad to see this recipe! I, too, am a red velvet virgin and I can’t wait to try my hand at making them.
Your recipes are always so great, so I am sure this one will be another winner. Happy baking to me!

Mary T

Megan, my birthday’s coming up…


I love red velvet anything! these cupcakes look fantastic! I also found these really cool april fools day dessert recipes that i’ve been dying to try and these red velvet cupcakes may be a great base!

I am obsessed with red velvet so I simply can not wait to make these for the fourth of July!!

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