Christmas Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

by cakeduchess on December 6, 2010 · 53 comments

Red Velvet Cake is a cake whose origins is full of mystery. I like a good mystery. I like a good cake! Was it invented at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City? Was it invented in the South? Was it invented in Canada? (YES, maybe in Canada!No offense to my Canadian friend;) When was it invented?

The cake shows up in newspaper recipes from at least 1959. In 1961, one Canadian newspaper advertised the “new” Red Velvet Cake available at Eaton’s.
Some have doubted that New York’s Waldorf-Astoria ever served the cake. The red cake was associated with the Waldorf in 1959. An urban myth (similar to the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe myth),  states that the Waldorf had charged hundreds of dollars for the recipe, so a customer took on her own revenge and distributed the recipe via chain mail.
The famous annual Pillsbury Bake-Off cooking contests were held at the Waldorf in the 1950s, and it’s possible that the Red Velvet Cake was popularized at one of these contests. Waldorf-Astoria Cake recipes appeared in newspapers in the early 1950s, but this cake was different from the Red Velvet Cake. All red velvet cakes have specific ingredients in common: white vinegar, buttermilk and baking soda. The reaction of the vinegar to the buttermilk is said to bring out the red in the cocoa powder.
The New York Times did an article on the cake titled, So Naughty, So Nice. This is how they describe the cake: “It’s a cake that can stop traffic. The layers are an improbable red that can vary from a fluorescent pink to a dark ruddy mahogany. The color, often enhanced by buckets of food coloring, becomes even more eye-catching set against clouds of snowy icing, like a slash of glossy lipstick framed by platinum blond curls. Even the name has a vampy allure: red velvet.”

A red velvet cake was featured in the 1989 film Steel Magnolias, which led to a great resurgence of Southerners recreating the recipe for themselves. The armadillo-shaped red velvet cake served as a groom’s cake for one of the film’s main character. In 2002, the Red Velvet cake became even more popular when Jessica Simpson served a towering hexagonal version at her wedding to Nick Lachey. I admit it…I cried when they broke up!! Did you?

The color is stunning! The deep red color of the cake contrasting with a fluffy, snowy white icing is a little naughty… and oh so nice!

I made these cupcakes this weekend with my daughter. We stained the kitchen. Just a little bit. We forgot to wear our cute French country chicken aprons again!
Then we shared a few with my neighbors. They were REALLY excited. And those greedy neighbors asked for more! The crushed candy canes on top make it, “Taste like Christmas.” I agree with my daughter. These Red Velvet Cupcakes taste like Christmas.

Christmas Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
yields approx: 2 1/2 dozen 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*
  • 2 tablespoons of Dutch-processed 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 of red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar

Frosting ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
  • 8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
  • 2 – 3 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1-2 regular sized candy canes, crushed
  • colored sprinkles (optional)

**You can make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to milk and letting it stand for about 10 minutes.


The cupcakes
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 *(it will fizz!).
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 (I use an ice-cream scoop), about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes of baking to ensure even baking.
6 Allow to cool for one minute in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cupcakes.
The Frosting
1 Cream the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
2 Add the vanilla extract and mix.
3 Add the powdered sugar, continually taste to get to desired sweetness. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

Recipe adapted from Saveur

*Recipe Notes

To sift or not to sift the flour?  Rose Levy Beranbaum (author of The Cake Bible) says that the main reason for sifting is to separate and aerate the flour particles to make them absorb liquids better. Sometimes I sift. And sometimes I whisk with my handy-dandy whisk. It’s up to you . Tell me, do you prefer sifting?

You should definitely be aware that it will be messy! I mean, messy red batter kind of messy! It may splatter. If you like your clothes you have on that day: wear an apron!  Be sure to keep scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula while you mix. Since all ovens are different, make sure you check the cupcakes a little early.  Mine were ready in under 20 minutes. Yours may be done sooner, or a minute or two longer.
Enjoy the cupcakes with your sweetheart. Your neighbor. Your cute kid. By yourselfWinking smile!

I am linking my Christmas Red Velvet Cupcakes to Cupcake Tuesday. Check out Liz’s adorable Gingerbread Pop Cupcakes. :)

{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

foodwanderings December 6, 2010 at 5:07 am

Nice Lora!! So pretty!! You are still up girl? :)


Jeannie December 6, 2010 at 5:56 am

Looks festive alright! I have made velvet cupcakes once and my boys said they were delicious!


veggietestkitchen December 6, 2010 at 7:29 am

Oh, THAT’s why I’m seeing so many red velvet cupcake postings. Good to know =) These look fantastic. What a nice way to enjoy the weekend with your daughter. What does sifting the cake flour do?


K o r i December 6, 2010 at 7:31 am

These sound delicious, and I just love the crushed candy canes on top! Thanks for sharing such a cute idea :)


Roxan December 6, 2010 at 7:53 am

Red velvet is mysterious indeed. I read somewhere that the cream cheese frosting that we see paired with it so often not is actually not the traditional frosting for red velvet! supposedly it’s just regular good ol’ vanilla buttercream.


Amy Bakes Everything December 6, 2010 at 11:32 am

Love the peppermint candies on top! These are so pretty and would look lovely on a holiday table!


Mardi @eatlivetravelwrite December 6, 2010 at 11:43 am

THANK you for posting this. I just ate my first ever red velvet cake (it was part of a cheesecake) yesterday and my friends and I were debating the origin and the flavours etc.. Now I know :-) So easy there’s no excuse to not make these myself!


Lizzy December 6, 2010 at 11:53 am

You are killing me with all the gorgeous photos and recipes!! Marvelous job!


Carolyn December 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Hey, we Canadians invented basketball, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we were the driving force behind these treats too! We will take over the world someday! ;)
They look gorgeous, my dear. Just gorgeous!


Pretend Chef December 6, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Maybe not the first blog I should have read this morning with wanting to get back on track with eating healthier to take off these couple of pounds I’ve put back on, haha! Your photos are amazing! Makes me want to reach out and grab one and punish myself on the treadmill!


briarrose December 6, 2010 at 1:52 pm

These look soooo beautiful. Lovely job. I adore the toppers of sprinkles and candy canes….everything is better with sprinkles.


Luna's Recipes December 6, 2010 at 1:53 pm

These cupcakes are beautiful!.. Luna


Jamie December 6, 2010 at 1:54 pm

How gorgeous! Beautiful! Your pictures are romantic and festive and the cupcakes are perfect. I’ve only made one red velvet cake from the recipe my brother used and he used beet juice instead of red food coloring. Gotta try your recipe now.


Lindsey @ Gingerbread Bagels December 6, 2010 at 3:01 pm

I didn’t know the whole story behind the origin of the red velvet cake recipe, thanks so much for sharing. (I only knew about the Waldorf-Astoria part) Lora, you’re such a fantastic writer! The cupcakes look soooo good and I love the addition of the crushed candy canes on top! Definitely perfect for Christmas. I now I have a HUGE craving for red velvet cake. :)


claire December 6, 2010 at 3:47 pm

those look AMAZING- such gorgeous photos!


Kita December 6, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I love red velvet cake! I cant wait to mke these for my holiday party :D


sara @ CaffeIna December 6, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Lora, for me red velvet cake was invented last year, when I first discovered it :) And for what matter red velvet cupcakes could be invented by you with this post because they look like the most beautiful cupcakes I’ve ever seen. I should put the on top of my to-make-soon list


A SPICY PERSPECTIVE December 6, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Ha–we’ve made red velvet cake before and STAINED as kitchen! These sounds AMAZING!


Monet December 6, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I would love to enjoy one of these beauties with my sweetheart. Maybe we will make cupcakes tonight! Red Velvet is one of my favorite treats, and I loved learning a bit more about their history. Thank you for sharing such a great recipe. Have a wonderful Monday!


Stef at December 6, 2010 at 6:23 pm

I fell in love with Red Velvet Cake the first time I tasted it. I only sampled it because I was told it had cocoa in it and I can’t have chocolate, but when I read a recipe I learned that there is only 2 T and I was elated.

I love your variation… I agree it sounds like Christmas… the thought of peppermint on the frosting is a wonderful seasonal idea!

Stef at


Angie's Recipes December 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm

These are a true beauty and even very Christmas-y!


Rachel December 6, 2010 at 8:31 pm

Thanks for sharing your historical research! I love knowing about food origins and it seems like Red Velvet cake has quite a history!
It looks Christmasy and, with candy canes, I’m sure it tastes that way too.


Sandra December 6, 2010 at 9:15 pm

These look great and hats off to the baker who came up with the Red Velvet idea. And, I’m a sifter.


The Mom Chef December 6, 2010 at 11:30 pm

As always, it’s fantastic. It’s an odd phenomenon, that red velvet thing. :)


Liana @ femme fraiche December 7, 2010 at 12:45 am

I absolutely LOVE this post!! What a great background history…so interesting…and your cupcakes looks stunning


Ilke December 7, 2010 at 1:17 am

I like to learn the background information, that is great! I never bought into that cookie story before!

Glad you had a nice day baking with your daughter!


Paula - bell'alimento December 7, 2010 at 1:46 am

Red Velvet Cake is my FAVORITE!My nonna always made it for my birthday! & Of course it was invented in the South ; ) {love that I can see you peeking in the christmas ornament in the foto too ; }


Karen December 7, 2010 at 4:09 am

I love these! So festive. The garnish on top of the frosting is adorable. Great yummy treat!


whatsfordinneracrossstatelines December 7, 2010 at 4:57 am

Lora, you’ve been on my mind! I love red velvet, been making them for years, one time, I put the red food coloring in while the mixer was running! Don’t ask! It looked like a crime scene in my kitchen! Love the candy cane on top.


Trish December 7, 2010 at 5:37 am

Wow, sounds like a great recipe. I love red velvet. Yet, I’ve never made it at home. Never knew it was made with buttermilk. Sounds delish!


Lisa {Authentic Suburban Gourmet } December 7, 2010 at 6:33 am

I adore the red velvet cupcake – such a classic! Yours look supreme and the red sprinkles make it so festive for the holidays! Nice job!


SMITH BITES December 7, 2010 at 1:02 pm

beautiful job as always Lora – it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!


Julie @ The Party Blog December 7, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Wow – these look so festive and yummy! I love your presentation ~ the snowflake table is so adorable!!!


happywhennothungry December 7, 2010 at 2:18 pm

These cupcakes look so festive and delicious. Thanks for the info about the background behind red velvet cake too!


MyMansBelly December 7, 2010 at 5:57 pm

These are so pretty. I love reading that you endow your neighbors with sweets too. I occasionally get put on a moratorium when they gain too much weight. LOL


Kim - Liv Life December 7, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Oohh!!! So beautiful! I’m not really a cupcake fan, but I really want one of those! My daughter loves red velvet, really liking the deep red color. Really nice!


Chef Dennis December 7, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Even though I am from the south, I have never made a red velvet cake…you did such a wonderful job with those gorgeous cupcakes, you make me want to go right into the kitchen and bake!
but I would eat them all….sigh


thespicegarden December 7, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Seriously beautiful photos of a classic cup cake! These look so moist and TOTALLY edible! Perhaps I will make these for my family’s weekend Yankee Swap party! Thanks for the inspiration!


scrambledhenfruit December 8, 2010 at 12:26 am

Red Velvet is so festive for the holidays! Your cupcakes are gorgeous! :)


claire December 8, 2010 at 1:23 am

i know i already commented on these, but I wanted to let you know that we are hosting another Merry Monday next monday- the theme is mint if you are interested!

here are more details! the more the… merrier!


HoosierHomemade December 8, 2010 at 1:33 am

Love Red Velvet Cake…especially in cupcake form!:-)
Thanks for sharing on Cupcake Tuesday!


baking.serendipity December 8, 2010 at 2:05 am

I love red velvet cakes! The peppermint garnish on yours is the perfect addition for the holidays :)


Pacheco Patty December 8, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Thanks for sharing this recipe! I do love red velvet cupcakes and they are perfect for the holidays, yum-love the peppermint candies crushed on top:)


Dana Wright December 8, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Love the presentation! I posted this on my blog and am a new follower. Cupcakes are kind of my thing. :)


Dana @ Bookgirl in the Kitchen


Evan @swEEts December 8, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Oh red velvet cake.. my friends wanted red velvet for some of their wedding cupcakes and I tried 3 different recipes until I decided on one! It’s a tricky little cake! Your cupcakes turned out beautifully :) And I love all the little history you gave about the mystery behind the velvety cake!


Cristina - TeenieCakes December 8, 2010 at 11:48 pm

Thanks for sharing all those interesting tidbits about the mythis and stories around the red velvet cake. I luved Steel Magnolias and think of the movie everytime I see or hear mention of “red velvet cake”

Your frosting turned out so fluffy and snowy looking. Beautiful, festive cupcakes with the crushed candy canes on top! Wish I was one of those neighbors that got a taste. :)


Aggie December 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Love the crushed candy canes on top! My husband is always asking for red velvet, and I will admit, not sure if I’ve ever even had it before! These look so good!


Magic of Spice December 9, 2010 at 8:45 pm

These are so perfect for the Holidays…Gorgeous!


Sara@OneTribeGourmet December 9, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Lovely cupcakes, they look so decadent! :)Love the crushed candy canes! :)



Camala - CC Recipe December 10, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Red Velvet has such a sweet place in my heart and these look great, I want to enjoy a Christmas Red Velvet Cupcake:) Great idea with the crushed candy cane on top!


Val December 10, 2010 at 7:00 pm

These look divine!!!!!!!


FoodChowDown December 18, 2010 at 9:03 pm

great photos. Love the birds eyes on view. Cupcakes look very yummy!


Chrish November 15, 2013 at 7:38 am

These sounds like Yummy..!!
This Christmas Red velvet CupCake looks delicious and adorable.
I love Cupcake most.I read your recipe really unique and easy to make.
Thanks For Sharing….


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