Kirbie's Cravings

Red Velvet Cupcakes

This red velvet cupcake recipe doesn’t have buttermilk and is easy to make. The cupcakes come out a vibrant red. Dress them up with frosting or leave them plain – they’re delicious either way.

photo of three red velvet cupcakes

After watching an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay, where the challenge was red velvet cake, I suddenly had a craving for red velvet cake.  The only thing is that I didn’t have any buttermilk on hand, so I wondered how it would turn out without it.

Most recipes I’ve seen call for buttermilk but that’s an ingredient I don’t keep on hand – I hate buying a big carton of it for just one recipe so I did some searching and found a recipe for Magnolia red velvet cupcakes on the blog, Tasted by Two.

I ended up adapting it a bit and I was happy with how red the cupcakes looked when they came out of the oven.

photo of cupcakes in a pan


  • All-purpose flour
  • Softened unsalted butter
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Red food coloring
  • Unsweetened cocoa
  • Vanilla extract
  • Salt
  • Whole milk
  • Cider vinegar
  • Baking soda

As I was making the recipe, I realized that the milk and apple cider interact to create a DIY buttermilk. I have read before that you can mix milk with vinegar to create a “sour milk” that is similar, which is a good hack to know if you ever want to make a recipe that calls for buttermilk but you don’t have any.

Those two ingredients create that tangy flavor that red velvet has.

photo of one cupcake

Readers who have been following along know I don’t really like frosting. I like the way it looks, but most of the time I find it too sweet and end up scraping it off. So, I left these cupcakes plain although I think a whipped cream frosting or mascarpone frosting would work well.

I enjoyed these cupcakes, but I think using cake flour would make them lighter and fluffier. I might try that next time. I do think it’s a great recipe if you don’t have buttermilk – it’s nice to know you don’t have to use it.

close-up photo of three cupcakes

More Recipes to Try

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Servings: 24 cupcakes
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
These red velvet cupcakes are easy to make and taste great.


  • 3 1/4 cups of plain flour
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter softened
  • 2 1// cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 6 tbsp red food coloring
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour 2 cupcake pans.
  • In a small bowl, sift the flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
  • In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the milk. 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.
  • Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing.


Recipe slightly adapted from a Magnolia Bakery recipe found on Tasted by Two

The nutrition information provided are only estimates based on an online nutritional calculator. I am not a certified nutritionist. Please consult a professional nutritionist or doctor for accurate information and any dietary restrictions and concerns you may have.

Did you make this recipe?I'd love to see it! Mention @KirbieCravings and tag #kirbiecravings!

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8 comments on “Red Velvet Cupcakes”

  1. Hi Kirbie! I’ve tried several Red Velvet cake recipes and my favorite is still the one with buttermilk and cake flour. The cake texture is so light and not too crumbly. I only use about 1/2 to 3/4 bottle of red food coloring now instead of 1-2 oz. I don’t find any difference in the taste. I also put 2 tbsp of dutch processed cocoa powder (vs more on some recipes).
    The biggest thing I found was taking the cupcakes out a bit early (a bit of moist crumbs on the toothpick) gives the perfect cake taste and texture. Too long and it gets a slight bitter taste to it. Oh yeah, and I don’t like cream cheese frosting on these but a buttercream frosting. Most people who’ve tried it agreed.

  2. Thanks for the tips! I was trying to avoid having to buy buttermilk and cake flour, which I rarely use. But it looks like I will have to if I want to make really good red velvet cake!

  3. You can actually make both at home. Although I’ve never done this before, you can make your own buttermilk at home in about 5 minutes. Put 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice into a measuring cup. Add just enough whole milk to get 1 cup. Let it stand for 5 minutes and it’s ready to use. I think I’m going to try this the next time I make it because I hate buying all the buttermilk, too.
    As for cake flour, I’ve read that sometimes this substitution doesn’t always work. I think in Red Velvet, it might work. You’ll need cornstarch and do some sifting. I get too lazy and just keep store-bought cake flour on hand. I use up extra flour for cookies and other baked goods that requires low gluten flour.
    Sift a cup of all-purpose flour (bleached is preferred I believe). Then measure out 1 cup sifted flour, minus 2 tablespoons. Add in 2 tablespoons cornstarch and sift about 3-4 times to make sure the cornstarch is completely incorporated. If you try this, I’d be really interested to know how it turns out. 🙂

  4. Oh, one more thing I forgot to mention. Did you use bleached all purpose flour by chance? It’ll make a difference in the cake texture, too. Try unbleached flour and checking them at about 18 minute mark. I bet just doing that will give you a much better cake texture.
    I only buy unbleached all purpose flour now, and it works in just about everything I need flour for.

  5. Thanks for the information! I might give this a try, or I might just get lazy and go out and buy it ready made. heh. If I try either the buttermilk or the cake flour, I’ll let you know how it turns out. I should probably first try making the cake with real buttermilk and cake flour though just to see how it should turn out.

  6. I did use bleached flour. Darn. I didn’t realize it made a difference. Thanks for letting me know!

  7. They sell powdered buttermilk, where you put the powder in with the dry ingredients and add water into the wet (for 1 cup buttermilk it was 4 tbls of the powder and 1 cup water). My sister bakes a bit and I went to her house to have her make me red velvet cupcakes and that’s what she uses. It keeps for a long time and you don’t have to worry about the buttermilk!

  8. My mom was telling me this also. I might try using powdered next time!

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