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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Disclosure: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post.
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, ½ a cup at a time, mixing between each addition to avoid any lumps in the batter.
- Fill each cupcake liner about ¾ 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.
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Cupcake recipe adapted from Kiss My Bundt. Frosting recipe adapted from Joy of Baking.
I was looking for a cream cheese icing recipe that could be piped as every other one I’d tried was too runny. With only a cup of icing sugar this was not very sweet so I added an extra cup (which is still way lower than the 3 to 4 cups in other recipes). It piped well and I was able to create flowers, although those were piped onto parchment then frozen so I could transfer them. The recipe made enough to cover and fill a two layer cake, with some left over to eat from the bowl
Awesome! I’m so thrilled you enjoyed the recipe, Karyn!
Can I make this as cake?
Hi Charlotte! This recipe will definitely work as a cake, however I’m not sure the size and the baking time.
Hi, how long would these cupcakes be good in an air tight container? I need to make 150 and I need to do it at least 3 days prior to my event so I can have time…
Hi Karen! This recipe is definitely best when prepared on the day of your event.
Can you use cake flour instead ap flour?
I’ve never tried this recipe with cake flour so I’m not sure!
I love the recipe for the icing! ( I have never made the cake yet)
Can I make the icing tonight, refrigerate and then pipe and serve tomorrow? Or would the icing get to hard?
Hi Sierra! That should work. You may just need to whip the icing a little bit after you remove it from the fridge.
I made these and my icing just came out too runny, I let it sit for about 15 minutes but it never hardened up!
Hi Lucy – If the frosting was too runny, it was likely overmixed. You may find this link to Joy of Cooking, which shows the frosting recipe being made, helpful:
http://www.joyofbaking.com/RedVelvetCupcakes.html Please note how slowly it’s also added to the bowl.
I hope this helps clarify the technique on the frosting recipe. :)
I gave putting it in the fridge overnight a shot! They do keep their shape, and are still very good the next day :) Love the icing, it’s not overly sweet unlike most cream cheese icings.
Awesome! Thank you so much for letting me know!
Hi. How long do you think the piped frosting shape would last in the fridge? Would like to make this for work, and I would have to make them the night before as I wouldn’t have time in the morning…
Hi there, Ihsan! I’ve never tested serving this frosting the next day, so I’m not certain how it’d hold up in the fridge. Would love to hear your results if you give it a shot!
Made for my son’s birthday at his request. Lovely little cakes and everyone enjoyed them! Thank you!
So glad to hear you enjoyed the recipe, Shannon!
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