Almost-from-Scratch Red Velvet Cupcakes

If you asked me as a child what I was bringing to the bake sale, it would have been Red Velvet Cupcakes. Red velvet cupcakes have always been my favorite treat. I think as a child, what first intrigued me the most about them was the bright crimson color. When I got to help my mom make them, I was so excited to be able use the red food coloring and watch the bland colored batter turn into something so vibrant.

Now, although the color is eye catching, the flavor of the cupcakes is even better. The moistness and texture of the red velvet cupcakes are out of this world delicious and the smooth cream cheese frosting sets off every bite perfectly. It can be a bit time consuming to make red velvet cupcakes from scratch. If you are not an avid baker, it can be a bit stressful as well. Thankfully, I figured out a hack to make these cupcakes (that are not made completely from scratch) taste like they are homemade.

Almost-from-Scratch Red Velvet Cupcakes

Recipe by Madison
3.9 from 66 votes
Course: DessertDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time




  • Red Velvet Cupcake Batter
  • 1 (2-layer size) box chocolate cake mix

  • 1 cup buttermilk

  • 3 eggs

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil

  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

  • 1 1-ounce bottle red food coloring

  • Cream Cheese Frosting:
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese


  • For the Cupcakes:
  • Preheat the oven to 350° F (177 °C) and line cupcake pans with cupcake liners.
  • In a large bowl, combine eggs, sour cream, vegetable oil, buttermilk and vanilla extract until smooth.
  • Stir in chocolate cake mix and mix in food coloring.
  • Fill cupcake liners about 1/2 of the way full.
  • Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when stuck in the center. 
  • Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  • For the Frosting:
  • In a medium sized bowl, beat together cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract until smooth.


  • It is important to use the block cream cheese instead of cream cheese from a container so it is not runny.
  • To make 1 cup of buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of either lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Stir and allow to sit for 5 minutes before using.

When I crave a red velvet cupcake, I want it almost immediately. Therefore, it has to be rather quick with minimal measuring. I like to use a box of chocolate cake mix and build upon it with my own additional ingredients. For instance, using buttermilk and sour cream adds moisture to the cupcake batter. Buttermilk is not a common household staple, so if you do not have buttermilk, you can make some yourself. To make 1 cup of buttermilk, add 1 tablespoon of either lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Stir it up and allow it to sit and rest for 5 minutes. There you have it. Congratulations! You have now made your first cup of buttermilk.

The cream cheese frosting comes together so nicely. It is simply cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla extract. It is rather simple, but so creamy and delicious. These cupcakes store in the refrigerator for 72 hours, although I doubt they will last that long!

Red Velvet Cupcakes cooling.

It is also extremely important to allow the cupcakes to cool before frosting or else the frosting will not adhere properly. After frosting and decorating them, I place them in the refrigerator to set. I find that red velvet cupcakes taste the best when they are chilled. If you would like to serve these cupcakes at room temperature, then take them out of the refrigerator an hour or two beforehand so they have time to come to room temperature.

These Red Velvet Cupcakes are perfect for any holiday or birthday and they can be decorated in any way you want. Sometimes, I use festive Christmas sprinkles, or a simple red velvet crumb. I like to take one of the baked cupcakes (this means I will only have 23 left)  and crumble it up in a bowl to make a crumb topping for the rest of the cupcakes. It is almost effortless, but it makes the cupcakes look so pretty. I hope you enjoy this recipe and are not only captivated by the bright crimson color, like I was as a child, but the taste as well.

Happy Baking and Eating!


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