These red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting are gonna change your notion of red velvet because rest assured, these are smoooooooth. Here’s how to make them.
Julia Child is quoted as saying, “I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking.” That explains this red velvet cupcakes recipe. The addition of red wine gives this chocolate cupcake a more complex depth of flavor, as well as a boozy kick. Feel free to bake these cupcakes with a glass of red wine in hand.
[Editor’s note: When we asked the question “WHY DID NO ONE THINK OF PUTTING RED WINE IN RED VELVET CUPCAKES UNTIL NOW?!” on social media, one of our dear readers, bless her, responded, “Actually, some of us washed ’em down with red wine…does that count?” Yes! Yes it does, wise lady!]–Alison Riede
Can you actually taste the wine in these cupcakes?
A question we hear a lot is can you actually taste the wine in these cupcakes? Some of us thought we could, some of us thought we couldn’t. Maybe that’s just the wine talking. Our only disappointment with this rich, deeply flavored chocolate cupcakes recipe is the food coloring in the ingredients list. We’d been secretly hoping the red wine contained within would somehow be sufficient to lend them a splash of racing car red. But nope. For that you’ll need food coloring—we opt for natural food coloring so as to avoid the unnatural dyes. And mind you, the recipe calls for just 1/2 cup red wine. As one of our recipe testers said, “Best either be prepared to drink the rest of the bottle or buy a small bottle. (I didn’t get a small bottle.)”
Red Velvet Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting
For the red velvet cupcakes
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup dry red wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons red food coloring preferably natural food coloring
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup self-rising flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 cup cocoa powder
For the cream cheese frosting
- 1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 4 ounces (about 1/2 cup) cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
Make the red velvet cupcakes
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a standard cupcake tin with 12 paper liners.
- Using a stand mixer or electric handheld mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar and butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, at least 2 minutes. Slowly add the eggs, 1 at a time, and mix on medium speed just until combined. Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla extract, red wine, and food coloring.
- In a separate bowl, combine both types of flours, the baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on medium speed until smooth, about 2 minutes.
☞TESTER TIP: Be careful to not overmix the batter after the dry ingredients are added.
- Using a spoon, divvy the batter evenly among the 12 cupcake liners and bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool at least 20 minutes.
Make the cream cheese frosting
- Using a stand mixer or handheld mixer on medium speed, beat the butter and cream cheese together for 3 minutes. (You want to be certain to get all the little lumps out of the cream cheese or they'll end up in your frosting.) Add the vanilla and mix on medium speed until thoroughly combined.
- Slowly add the confectioners’ sugar while beating on low for 1 minute. Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes.
Assemble the cupcakes
- Gently pipe or slather frosting onto each cooled cupcake. (The frosting is pretty sweet, so you may wish to take a lick before deciding just how much or how little you want to spread on the cupcakes.)
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
This red velvet cupcakes recipe sounds sexy and irresistible…and it is. You can definitely taste the red wine. I used a California Cabernet Sauvignon and because you are just using 1/2 cup, either be prepared to drink the rest of the bottle or you can just buy a small bottle. (I didn’t get a small bottle.)
I used 1/2 teaspoon red food coloring, but it didn’t really make the cupcakes look red, so if that deep red color is important to you, you need to use more coloring. The icing is sweet, so the cupcakes don’t really need a lot. It really is a quick and easy recipe and makes exactly 12 cupcakes.
I didn’t think it was possible to improve upon red velvet cupcakes, but this easy, delicious recipe definitely benefits from the addition of red wine (but really, what doesn’t?). The red wine adds just enough flavor without detracting from the cocoa. I used a very affordable Cabernet Sauvignon with a flavor profile that included blackberry, dark cherry, and “hints of toast and spice.”
I think my favorite part of this recipe is the frosting. I can’t stand cloyingly sweet, thickly smeared frosting, and thankfully the cream cheese frosting was neither of those things. Instead, it was perfectly fluffy and a great complement to the cupcake.
I used conventional food coloring because I’m a sucker for the “red” part of red velvet cupcakes, and I had it on hand. I was a little concerned that I had overbeaten the wet ingredients because the batter looked very thin, and the butter seemed to have separated into tiny pieces without fully emulsifying, but I don’t think it mattered, as the final batter was fine, and the cupcakes were just the right texture.
Don’t skimp on beating the frosting for the full 3 minutes, as that’s what makes it delightfully fluffy! This recipe yielded a dozen cupcakes, which was perfect for our household of two—we can each enjoy one a day for 6 days! Or, if we’re feeling generous, I guess we could share.
These are excellent cupcakes. I’m not sure what the wine does for them, as they weren’t significantly different from other red velvet cupcakes I’ve made without wine, and the wine wasn’t really discernible in the baked cupcakes. I will say, however, that the raw batter smelled really wonderful!
The cream cheese frosting was a very good complement to the red velvet and is the classic topping for these cupcakes.
My yield was 15 cupcakes, and the baking time was 18 minutes. If using a stand mixer, the paddle attachment should be used rather than the whisk.
This red velvet cupcakes recipe was easy to make. I did not add red food coloring and used a reasonably priced Cabernet Sauvignon. I used a cookie scoop to fill the cupcake liners. The frosting was the perfect consistency for decorating, so I used a baggie with the corner cut out to make designs. The end result was a cupcake that was easy to eat and did not stick to the paper liner.
The frosting was definitely needed, as the taste of the cupcakes was unusual—a sort of wine-flavored chocolate. There was even a lingering aftertaste of wine. The sweetness of the frosting was a good balance.
The recipe worked well, and the final cupcakes were very tasty. The frosting sets in the fridge to a good consistency—hard enough not to run but soft enough to eat straight from the fridge. The red wine I used was Pinotage.
I didn’t use food coloring, and my cupcakes were brown with a creamy white topping. The red wine may have given the cupcakes extra depth but it was not particularly evident in the final cupcake.
Originally published February 10, 2021