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The Hummingbird Bakery's Red Velvet Cupcakes Recipe from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

yield: 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


  • Preheat the oven to 325 (F).
  • Put the butter and the 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 (approximately 5 minutes).
  • When everything is well mixed, turn the mixer up to high speed and slowly add the egg. Beat until everything is well incorporated.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa, red food coloring, and vanilla to make a thick, dark paste.
  • Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and colored, scraping any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
  • Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Beat until well mixed, but be careful not to overmix.
  • Add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added, making sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • When all the buttermilk and flour have been added, turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even batter.
  • Turn the mixer down to a lower speed and add the salt, baking soda, and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.
  • Spoon the batter into cupcake cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. When ready, the cake tops should bounce back when touched and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake should come out clean. Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.


The red velvet recipe differs slightly from the vanilla/chocolate cupcakes in that it adds the flour into the liquid sugar/butter/egg mixture as opposed to the vanilla chocolate cupcakes, where liquid (whole milk) is added into the flour mixture. Maybe that makes a difference in taste or affects the structure somehow, thus earning the 'velvet' title to describe its texture?
Eitherway, my boyfriend Erlend described the cake as a "very mild chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting." Kiron, a good friend, supplied another answer: "Red sponge cake with a hint of chocolate. Most of the flavor comes from the icing."
That seems a little bit more accurate. Though I would never have thought of calling red velvet as a "sponge" cake -- this appears to be a British term. Hummingbird Bakery's cookbook and website also toss the term "sponge" around a lot. But it's interesting that both Erlend and Kiron mentioned frosting in their descriptions. It really does seem as if the cake's cream cheese frosting lends a lot of flavor to the cake itself. This weekend, for instance, I whipped up a batch of red velvet cupcakes for my co-worker's SuperBowl party. Because I forgot to buy cream cheese, I substituted the regular cream cheese frosting for Hummingbird Bakery vanilla frosting. To my surprise, the cake was distinctly different. Not bad -- just different. It tasted like I was eating a Hummingbird Bakery vanilla cupcake as opposed to a red velvet one. Hm.
Which reminds me -- yes, you did read that right. I did make Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcakes this weekend. Using the unaltered, sea-level recipe I listed above. So how did those turn out?
They turned out quite perfectly.
Kinda puts me to shame, especially with all my preaching about the differences in baking at sea-level versus high-altitude, and how much harder it is to bake in higher elevations.
I had been putting off making this recipe for a long time -- after seeing how the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook's vanilla cupcakes had turned out (remember the puddles of goop?), I didn't have the heart to see my favorite recipe in the same sorry state. But it turns out I was wrong. There was nothing to worry about after all.