Red Velvet Birthday (Cup) cakes

The story with this cake- it all started in school when I used one of these - a Red Velvet cake mix (OK, I'll admit, I was 14, so this is how far I got). I had no clue what a red velvet cake was. I had been given the cake mix recently and I treated it like any other cake. Eggs, mix, oil, beat, put it in the tin, bake as directed. I gave very little thought to the fact that it was a red cake. I did not even bother to note what flavour the cake was. But the cake was (and I am really trying hard to not sound cliched) dreamy. A lovely, delicate, airy, moist, red cake which other people actually ate, and liked. ( but this is not a in-praise-of-box-mixes; my 14 year old self did not know the difference)  I was in awe. And then I forgot about the cake. Completely.

It was a couple of years back, when I (should have been researching an assignment) stumbled upon this cake. And I remembered. I had to go make this cake. I took out my note pad, pen and immediately wrote the recipe down. And it was by no means an easy recipe. It had so many different stages, that I read the recipe at least 10 times, divided it into parts and then made it over the weekend. All because at 14, someone said that they had liked the cake (from a box).

That is not the recipe I am giving you today. That's for anothe time. But see my first attempt results here (and I am really sorry, if the images aren't as clear) Today's recipe is another find from this book because the bookstore lady at  Selfridges recommended it, and I had luckily witnessed (but not had the courage to) the long line outside of the bakery. I have altered the recipe a little, especially the sugar component, because we like cakes that are just sweet, not over the top, and I altered the frosting a lot.

They say it's a chocolate 'flavoured' cake. But to me, its always been a version of a good chocolate cake - not rich and chocolaty, but still chocolate. I almost always increase the amount of chocolate given. Contrary to popular likes, I want my Red Velvet Cake to be both red and chocolaty. And I was making this in lieu of a birthday cake. We all love chocolate cakes, and I wanted to go off the beaten track (and my cake icing is really nothing to talk about. Yet.) so I made these instead. I  If you want a recipe that's more authentic, try this one. Its got lesser amounts of cocoa.

Another note on the food colour. I have tried using Red food colouring, but for some reason I was not happy with the results (maybe I used less or maybe the colour was not right, I don't know). The second time I made the cake, red food colouring wasn't available at the store and I got artificial cochineal instead. I have to confess something though; I didn’t know what colour cochineal was (just so you know, it's the colour sometimes used for Tandoori Chicken marinade. OK so that should be fine!). Cochineal is a variation of crimson red and I found it gave a much stronger, darker colour. The contrast with the cream cheese frosting therefore was also good.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

You need

For the cake:

60gm unsalted butter, at room temperature
150 gm powdered/caster sugar
2 tbsp cocoa powder
150 gm plain flour (maida)
½ tsp salt
½ tsp soda bicarb
1 egg
¾ or 1 full bottle (20ml) of Cochineal / Red Food Colouring* (I used this one)
½ tsp Vanilla extract or essence
120 ml buttermilk (I used a combination of 60 ml natural yogurt+60 ml water – works just as well)
1 ½ tsp white vinegar

For the Frosting –

100 gms cream cheese – use Britannia or Philadelphia or anything you have tried before/prefer.
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 ½ tbsp icing sugar

To make the cupcakes

1. Preheat the oven to 170 C. Line a muffin tray with cupcake liners.
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together – with a spatula or a handheld electric mixer, whichever you prefer – until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and continue mixing.

3. Sift the flour and keep aside.

4. In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa and food colouring into a thick paste.  If you are not using ready made buttermilk, in another small bowl, mix the yogurt and water thoroughly until you get a smooth liquid. Set aside.

5. Add the cocoa paste to the egg-butter-sugar mix and whisk it until the batter is an even red colour. Then add ½ the buttermilk and mix until combined. Next add the flour, and again mix until combined. Repeat this process once more, so that the entire, buttermilk and flour are combined.

6. Add the soda bicarb and vinegar to the mixture and with a spatula, stir it in. Now fold this mixture gently for another minute or so, making sure everything is combined and there are no lumps.

7. Using an ice-cream scoop, spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tray. Using the scoop means even sized cupcakes.

8. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until done. A toothpick/skewer inserted comes out clean

9. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting by beating together cream cheese, butter and sugar. Add vanilla or other flavourings if you don’t want the frosting plain.

10. Once the cupcakes have cooled, spread the frosting using a butter knife, and decorate with coloured sugar crystals, or bits of cake.


  1. Kshitija I totally love your recipes and your writing. I was actually kind of introduced to your blog by Janhavi. I'm going to try this recipe and see the results. Keep up the good work!


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