Hummingbird Bakery Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe (Adapted for High-Altitude)

March 4, 2012



For the Red Velvet Cupcakes:
(makes 12-14 cupcakes)

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

(enough for 12 cupcakes)
  • 2 1/3 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, cold

photo by kimothy from kimothyjoyeats


The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe
(For All Altitudes)

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 (F).

  2. Put the butter and sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed. This creaming process should take about 5 minutes at sea-level, and around 3 minutes at high-altitude.

  3. Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg, and beat until everything is well incorporated. Do not overbeat -- this should only take about a minute.

  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa, red food coloring, and vanilla to make a thick dark, paste.

  5. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until the batter just becomes evenly combined and colored, scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Do not mix any longer than necessary.

  6. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until just mixed, and then add half the flour (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) and continue mixing until the flour is just incorporated.

  7. Scrape down the side of the bowl and repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added.

  8. Add the salt, baking soda, and vinegar one at a time. Turn the speed up to medium-high speed, and beat for about a minute.

  9. Use a measuring spoon to dole out about 1 3/4 - 2 tablespoons of batter into cupcake cases in your muffin tin. The cases should be around two-thirds full.

  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 - 25 minutes, or until the cupcake top bounces back when touched. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before removing them onto a wire rack to cool completely.

  11. When the cupcakes are cold, measure out approximately 1 tablespoon of cream cheese frosting on top of each cupcake and decorate accordingly.

The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
(For All Altitudes)
  1. Beat the confectioner's sugar and butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed.

  2. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat until it is completely incorporated.

  3. Once the cream cheese has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to medium-high speed and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy. This should take about 5 minutes. Be careful not to overbeat, as the frosting can quickly become runny.


Tips & Addendums
  • All spoon measurements are level and unsifted, unless otherwise specified. To level the ingredients, take the back of a knife and run it across the top of the measuring cup until the excess ingredients are scraped off.

  • Liquid and dry ingredients require different measuring cups; please make sure you use the appropriate measuring cup for each ingredient.

  • After adding flour to the mixture, do not overbeat the batter as this will overwork the flour and make the cake dense. Simply beat or stir until the flour is just incorporated. In my opinion, making sure you don't overbeat the batter is one of the hardest parts about baking.

  • Do not open your oven until at least the minimum time recommended has passed. Too much cold air coming from a frequently opened oven door causes irregular oven temperatures that affect the baking process.

  • Do not substitute the buttermilk and cream cheese for reduced fat versions; if you want less fat, simply eat less of the baked good! Substituting these ingredients will affect the flavor; for instance, your cream cheese frosting will be in danger of being too runny if you use a reduced fat cream cheese.

  • I like to prep my cocoa powder and food coloring paste before I start creaming the butter and sugar together; that way, I can just go ahead and add it to the batter without having to stop my mixer. I also like to prep my flour beforehand by dividing the flour into two separate bowls each containing 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon of flour.

  • At higher altitudes, the Hummingbird Bakery's recipe for cream cheese frosting can be too stiff. I like to use an extra tablespoon of butter of butter to soften the frosting. I also throw in a couple drops of vanilla extract to give the frosting a hint of vanilla flavor.

  • I like to use a cookie scoop to measure out frosting onto my cupcakes; that way, each cupcake will receive an equal amount of frosting.

  • Add your extra decorations (e.g. sprinkles, nonpareils) immediately after frosting the cupcake; if you wait to decorate the cupcake, the frosting will harden and the decorations will not stay on the cake.



  1. I AM SO HAPPY THAT I FOUND YOUR BLOG! I am adjusting to baking at high altitude and really needed a blog to help me out. I will be making these soon. I will let you know how they turn out. Thank you :)

    1. Hi Keri,

      Yep! Most of my cupcake recipes are adapted for high altitude -- I spent the last year in Denver after living at sea-level for most of my life, and it was definitely a challenge getting pretty baked goods up in the mountains. Watch out though -- my more recent recipes are not adapted for high altitude since I moved back to Portland in June. Just let me know if you have any questions, and I'm happy to help out if I can!

  2. I tried out this red velvet recipe today (at normal altitude) and it's fantastic! Just moist enough without being gummy and it tastes great too. Thanks so much for posting the recipe

  3. I used a mini muffin tin and baked for 11 minutes. Just tried one and it's perfection - I love that the cupcake itself isn't too sweet. Since it's long after midnight here, I used skim milk in place of buttermilk and it turned out just fine. Next time, I'll make an extra trip to the grocery store.

    Thanks for such a great recipe!

  4. Found the best app for sharing recipes ever! It’s called Heirloom Recipes my Mother just got it today and emailed me a recipe and I got the free version to try it and OMG I imported the recipe right into the app no typing or anything! The email had the link to the free one: I’m going to put this recipe in it and send it back to her. My younger sister's birthday is coming up and her favorite is red velvet. Thank you so much!!!

  5. Hi there, I have made this recipe twice and the cupcakes did not puff up in the middle. I live a 7200 feet. Any thoughts why this would happen? I'd love to solve the problem because my kids love red velvet.


    1. Hm, this recipe at it's best at around 5000ft — an extra 2000ft in altitude definitely affects the recipe. Unfortunately, I need more information in order to help you — were the cupcakes flat/tasted dense/were still sticky in the middle? If so, you might need to cook it at a slightly higher temperature or add another tablespoon of flour.

  6. Thanks for getting back to me! The cupcakes sank in the middle ... otherwise they were great. Let em know what you think.

    1. Try baking them at 350(F). Let me know how that works for you.


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