Baker’s Recipe: Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

“I’m going to kill Adem,” Thaxus spat over the singed corpse of the final owlbear. All he wanted was a couple of the best eggs so he could finally make his favorite childhood treat. Why wouldn’t you ask the druid about the best and freshest eggs? Then again, Adem was a terrible druid. Next time he needed cooking advice, Thaxus was just going to ask Nievah.

Thaxus swore under his breath – his pendant of teleportation was cracked. It was going to be a long walk back to the shores of Nolorth. Maybe the otter-penguins actually lay eggs.

Many seem to think that Red Velvet cake is just yellow cake dyed red or is somehow a chocolate cake, but those are sweeping generalizations and wrong. What makes Red Velvet so unique in texture is the use of baking powder and vinegar as a leveling agent in the cake. The chocolate is used to simply counter-act the flavor of the vinegar, while allowing it to still be present for the chemical reaction. And lately the trend has been to make the cake as bright red as possible. The first recipe I ever used called for an OUNCE of red dye – that’s six times as much as I use in my recipe.

One thing about this recipe as a whole is that it calls for one ingredient that most people don’t have on hand: buttermilk. In many localities, buttermilk is only sold in quarts, which means you end up with a bunch of extra buttermilk. If you’re looking for a good way to use it, try it in waffles or pancakes as a substitute for regular milk!

Red Velvet Cake
Makes enough for two 9 inch round cakes, 24 cupcakes or 48 mini-cupcakes

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Baking pan or trays
Muffin liners
Two mixing bowls
Measuring tools

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and either coat the cake pans with oil or line your cupcake trays.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: the flour, baking soda, cocoa, and sugar. Many bakers just toss everything into a single bowl and mix as they go: DO NOT DO THIS. Failure to heed this warning can result in a makeshift volcano erupting in your kitchen.

Whisk together all of the wet ingredients in the other large bowl: the eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil, food dye, vanilla extract and vinegar. Make sure to really mix it all together – an electric mixer will work wonders here but it can be done by hand.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet and beat it into a batter. The batter should bubble every so slightly from the chemical reaction of the baking soda and vinegar. Once the batter is smooth, divide it evenly.

Bake times vary depending on what you’re making. For large cupcakes, bake for 18-22 minutes. For minis, bake for 15-18. For two round cakes, bake for 30 minutes while a single sheet cake takes about 35. Check to see if it is done baking by sticking a clean toothpick into the center of the cake, if it comes out clean then it’s done.

Allow time for cooling before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
This makes more than enough for cupcakes, but those making an actual cake may want more.

8 ounces of cream cheese, softened
2-3 cups of powder sugar
1 stick of butter (8 ounces), softened

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Large mixing bowl
Measuring tools
Electric mixer
Piping Bag


Let the cream cheese and butter soften, an easy way to do this is just by leaving them in the same bowl on top of the oven while it preheats.

Once softened, cream together the butter, cream cheese and vanilla extract until fully incorporated together.

Add the powdered sugar a half cup at a time until the frosting is light and fluffy. Add less or more depending on how sweet you want it to be.