When it comes to red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, three things are certain:
- The only reason anyone eats red velvet cupcakes is for the cream cheese frosting.
- Cream cheese frosting can, in and of itself, be a meal. (See Exhibit A.)
- Tiny slathers of frosting are out. Luscious swirls are in.
Number 3 is perhaps of the most importance, as I’ve recently been on a mission to discover a cream cheese frosting with enough body to hold its piped shape way longer than it takes to polish off a dozen or two of these red velvet beauties. Today, I’m happy to report that my mission went from impossible to accomplished. So what’s the secret?
Kick the butter to the curb and stock up on heavy cream.
After much research and several test batches, I came across Joy of Cooking‘s tutorial for a cream cheese frosting that can be easily piped into swirls, flowers, stars and more. I gave the recipe a spin, adjusted a few elements and voilà! A sturdy, yet fluffy cream cheese frosting that pipes like a dream.
To pipe the frosting above, I used an Ateco #828 star-shaped pastry tip. And despite all of the fawning over the frosting, I’d be remiss not to draw your attention to the extra-moist red velvet cupcake that sits below the swirl. Read on for my tips on how to achieve this rich red velvet color without using an entire bottle of food coloring or a whole bag of beets.
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Red Velvet Cupcakes with Piped Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: About 2 dozen cupcakes
Prep Time: 20 min
Cook Time: 20 min
For the cupcakes:
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Red food coloring (See Kelly's Notes)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
For the frosting:
2 (8-oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups cold heavy whipping cream (See Kelly's Notes)
Make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Line a cupcake pan with liners.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, white vinegar, vanilla extract and enough red food coloring until the mixture is well combined and reaches your desired color.
In a separate medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, 1/2 a cup at a time, mixing between each addition to avoid any lumps in the batter.
Fill each cupcake liner about 3/4 full with batter and bake for 18 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer the cupcakes to a cooling rack to cool completely while you make the frosting.
Make the frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Sift the powdered sugar into the bowl, beating to combine, then add the vanilla extract.
Remove the paddle attachment and attach the whisk attachment. Scrape down any cream cheese from the sides of the bowl, and then with the whisk beating at medium-high speed, stream in the cold heavy cream until the frosting is thick enough to pipe. Please watch this video from Joy of Baking, which features the frosting recipe and addresses potential issues to prevent the frosting from being too thin.
Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with your desired pastry tip. Pipe the frosting onto the cooled cupcakes and serve immediately.
To get the deep, dark red color in the photos, I use a gel-based food coloring. Regular water-based food colorings are less concentrated and thus require more to achieve the same rich color. If you are using the water-based food coloring in this recipe, you'll need about 3 tablespoons to achieve a good color. If you're using the gel-based food coloring, start with 4 to 5 drops and add more as needed.
This frosting recipe makes enough to pipe tall, thick swirls onto the cupcakes. If you'd rather slather the cupcakes using less frosting, divide the frosting recipe in half.
You must use a brand of heavy cream that whips easily into stiff peaks. If you're uncertain your heavy cream whips easily, whip the heavy cream separate from the cream cheese (until it reaches stiff peaks) and then fold it into the cream cheese. View the video of this frosting recipe being made on Joy of Baking.
Disclosure: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post.