The Scourge of Red Velvet

The crunchy, sweet crumble; the tangy cream cheese frosting; the moist and tender red velvet cake: these are cupcakes that make me question my hatred of Red Velvet.

As someone who spends much of his baking time focusing on cupcakes, I keep coming up to the unnatural red brick wall that is Red Velvet. It’s hard for me to get behind a treat whose distinguishing ingredient is food dye.

However, I’ve learned that this is a battle not worth fighting. The popularity of Red Velvet makes it a requirement for most any baker, and here you will find a recipe that produces a deep red color and a tender crumb. For the topping, I decided to play off the idea of torn up red velvet cake (which seems to be a common way to decorate the cake): I make a Red Velvet Cake Crumble.

Classic Cream Cheese Frosting is the only way to top this cupcake (and this may be the best cream cheese frosting ever). It frosts beautifully and is perfectly tangy against the sweet tender cake and crunchy crumble.

So buckle up, kiddos, and get ready to have red fingers and tongues.


Red Velvet Cake Crumble yield: far too much for a dozen cupcakes, so feel free to snack on it all you like because you’re an adult and this is your life now.

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 6 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 5 tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 tsp red food coloring
  • 1 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the butter, food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla until the cocoa is dissolved. Using a silicone spatula, stream in the liquid over the dry and fold together until mostly dry crumbs form. Spread crumbs out over baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. About halfway through, use a spatula to stir the crumbs around to ensure even baking. Remove from oven and let cool completely on baking sheet. Store in an airtight container. Cake Crumble can be made a few days in advance.

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Red Velvet Cupcakes yield: about 1 dozen cupcakes or about enough to make your dishwater red with food dye

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tbsp red food coloring
  • 6 tbsp butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and line one muffin tin with 12 cupcake liners. Set aside.

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. In another bowl – or a mason jar works well too – mix together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla, and egg. In a small bowl, combine the food coloring and cocoa to make a paste.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes on medium-high speed. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk mixture in a 3:2 ratio, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down the bowl and add in the red, cocoa paste, mixing until thoroughly incorporated, about 30 seconds. Divide the batter among the cupcake tin, about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-18 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool in their pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Cream Cheese Frosting yield: 3 cups of frosting

  • 8 tbsp butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch salt
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 8oz cream cheese

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter until light in color, about 2 minutes. Add in the vanilla and salt, mixing to combine. Add in all of the confectioner’s sugar, and begin mixing on low speed. Increase speed to medium and cream for an additional 2 minutes.

With the mixer on medium, add in the cream cheese about 2 oz at a time, waiting a few seconds between additions to allow the cream cheese to incorporate. Cream for an additional 30 seconds after the final bit of cream cheese has been added. You can frost the cooled cupcakes immediately or refrigerate for later use.

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