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Jun 27, 2009 08:53 AM

Red Velvet Cupcakes, recipe, pix

For a Father's Day barbecue I made Red Velvet Cupcakes with a traditional boiled white icing. A huge hit to say the least. The cupcakes were moist and the icing tasted like whipped cream and didn't need refrigeration.

I chose recipes that used butter in lieu of oil or shortening and was very pleased with them. Since I got several requests at the party for the recipes, I thought I would share them and a couple pix with you.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with traditional Red Velvet Icing

Red Velvet Cupcakes


* 1 1/2 cups of sugar
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
* 2 eggs, room temperature
* 2 1/3 cups of cake flour
* 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
* 1 teaspoon of baking soda
* 1 teaspoon of baking powder
* 1/2 teaspoon of salt
* 1 cup of buttermilk
* 1 1/2 tablespoons (a one ounce bottle) of red food coloring
* 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
* 1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar


1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.

2 Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

3 In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring.

4 Add a fourth of the dry ingredients and mix, then add a third of the wet. Continue adding in a dry, wet, dry pattern, ending with the dry ingredients.

5. Scoop into cupcake papers, about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

6 Allow to cool for one minute in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 24 to 30 cupcakes depending on size.

Traditional Red Velvet Icing

(I needed almost a double batch of this frosting for 30 cupcakes. It depends how much you use.):

* 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
* 1 cup whole milk
* 1 cup unsalted butter (softened at room temp.)
* 1 cup confectioners' sugar
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


1. Over medium heat, cook the flour and milk until it comes to a low boil and thickens. Remove from heat, place in a bowl and cover with wax paper, pressing so the paper covers the entire surface. Let cool until the mixture reaches room temperature, approximately 30 minutes. (Can speed this up by refrigerating until it reaches room temp.)

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour mixture. Chill for 10 to 15 minutes if necessary to firm, otherwise can be used immediately.

NOTES; I think the key to the velvety texture is the buttermilk and cake flour. Don’t use substitutions. The key to the red color is not overdosing on the cocoa powder otherwise the cakes comes out brown.

For the frosting, the temperature is important for the milk/flour mixture. It needs to be room temp, not hot, when mixing it into the butter. I made the frosting while the cupcakes were cooking. It took about a half hour before the flour/milk mixture had cooled sufficiently. You can speed it up if you want by chilling in fridge. Just make sure to keep it covered with the wax paper.

I use butter in both the cupcakes and frosting. Some recipes call for the use of shortening. I wanted to try all butter and was very pleased with the cake and icing. Some recipes also call for a cream cheese icing which I personally do not care for. Your mileage may vary.

To decorate the cupcakes I used a size 1M decorators’s tip attached to a pastry bag and whirled it around the cupcakes in circles. I have no decorating skills whatsoever, and this was very easy.

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  1. Trish they turned out beautiful!
    You had me until step 4 of the cupcake recipe- I will gracefully bow out of baking these but you have my respect & admiration.
    (I lost my patience back in the 80's - if I have to be careful when I'm making something to actually measure stuff and fluff and loses it's sparkle and becomes work!)
    Oh and my pastry bag HATES me, as does my Wilton cookie press (they conspire against me)

    You don't like cream cheese icing on this or in general? I need it on my carrot cake.

    1. Hi Boccone, your post brought a smile to my face, because I see myself in it.

      Try this - Make these with a friend or child, and agree to split the bounty. Then it doesn't seem like work!

      Icing the cupcakes was as easy as drawing a circle. That's all you have to do. Make a circle of icing on the outside of the cupcake, and then another and another. Really. Years ago I bought a box of 12 disposable Wilton pastry bags, and to ice these I used one. I think I still have 8 or so left.

      As for cream cheese icing, I just hate it. I don't use any icing on carrot cake or I use a non-cook butter cream. But now I think this Red Velvet Icing might be very nice on carrot cake. I'll have to try it.

      1. Great job!
        Just one small correct. This is not a "boiled icing."
        A boiled icing is based on an Italian meringue, made by pouring a hot sugar syrup in a steady stream over beaten egg whites. It contains no butter or other fats.
        The traditional icing used on Red Velvet Cake has been called names like "Gravy Icing" or white sauce icing. It has been referred to as German butter cream but that seems to be a misnomer.
        But it's not boiled icing.

        I've made this cake and the icing with butter, margarine and Crisco. It came out great with all three fats. It's a very forgiving recipe.
        The original, dating back to the Depression or probably before, seems to have used margarine, probably because of WWII rationing and/or the expense of butter.
        It was often made with Crisco because butter was not as easily available in rural Southern homes before they had electricity for refrigeration.
        No reason not to make it with butter now.

        I share your dislike of cream cheese icing. This icing is so much lighter and less sweet that I don't understand why people have begun to substitute cream cheese frosting for it on RVC. It's perfect for RVC and on many other cakes as well.

        1. Thanks for the correction, I thought it was called a boiled icing because of the milk/flour combo, whatever, this makes a nice icing.

          5 Replies
          1. re: TrishUntrapped

            You're very welcome.
            Now that you're expanding your horizons beyond the ubiquitous cream cheese icing, and you like this old traditional RVC favorite, why don't you try a real boiled icing sometimes? There's a simple recipe in Joy of Cooking.
            They're a bit challenging at first. But they were a serious staple of American baking for a couple of generations. The icing of choice for church suppers and bake sales. Of course, the must-have for coconut cake. No woman ever earned her stripes as a baker until she conquered boiled icing.

            So glad that you and your guests liked the RVC cupcakes. It's my older daughter's favorite for her birthday cake and we always have it at Christmas.

            1. re: MakingSense

              do you know that i have been making this icing for YEARS. my grammy calls it "italian icing" but i have never ever never used confectioners sugar, only granulated. interesting.

              1. re: raygunclan

                I started using Mama's recipe in the 1960s. No idea where she got it or how long she had had it. She wasn't a baker so none of us has any way of knowing.
                It calls for granulated sugar - not confectioners - and that's what I've always used too.

                The recipes for RVC and the icing to go with it are all pretty similar. Slight variations in proportions. Not a lot. One of thecommon differences is that granulated/confectioners.

                I wonder if some people changed to confectioners because they had trouble dissolving the granulated?
                Mama's recipe says to "beat the icing for 10 minutes," and the sugar does stay grainy for a long time before it finally melts into the icing. That was hell with a hand mixer when we were kids. Now it's a snap with the KA.
                If people got impatient, or had problems, they might have switched to confectioners as a solution or shortcut.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  I've seen recipes that call for granulated sugar as well.
                  The confectioner's works great, and there is no fear of graininess.

                  Most Red Velvet Cake and traditional icing recipes are similar. The primary variations are fat - butter, oil, crisco, type of flour and amount of cocoa powder. For the icing, the differences are the fat - butter, crisco, and the type of sugar.

                  If using butter as I did, it's important to make sure it is quite soft (but not melted). I microwaved mine about 10 seconds to get it just right.

                  1. re: TrishUntrapped

                    There's been an explosion of recipes for RVC in the past 20 years. It was pretty well confined to the South and Southern ex-pats until it showed up in the 1989 movie Steel Magnolias, and then everybody wanted it.
                    Pretty soon, cream cheese icing started showing up in popular renditions and respect for tradition went out the window. Some people whined about food coloring but they've never been able to make the cake successfully without it. Of course, some folks simply don't get it and can't see the value of RVC. To each his own.

                    Yeah, there is a good deal of variation in recipes, but the older the recipes are the closer together they get.
                    There was a long thread some time ago on CH started by Axalady who posted her family recipe which is pretty close to the original 1930s Depression and WWII version. It's close to the one that you ultimately decided on.
                    The most frequent modern change is the use of butter as a fat rather than the Depression and War era margarine or Crisco. With so many people looking to cut grocery expenses right now, being able to use less expensive fats may be a welcome option.
                    The thread includes lots of interesting tips and discussions, and it gets revived on a regular basis as new CHs look for advice on this grand old Southern cake.

          2. Thanks for the detailed instructions!

            1 Reply
            1. re: Laura D.

              Thanks Laura,

              I hope you and others will give this one a go and share photos!