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This recipe is classed as easy

Rating 3.40 / 5 (168 votes)

Prep time:
15 min
Cook time:
20 min
makes 12 cupcakes

Rachel Allen’s red velvet cupcakes are a classic American bake of ruby red sponge cakes topped with snowy white frosting


1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4 and line the muffin tray with the paper cases.

2. Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is pale and fluffy, then add the vanilla extract and the egg yolks, and beat again.

3. Mix the buttermilk together with the food colouring – it should be very red, so add more if you need to.

4. Sift the flour, cornflour, baking powder and cocoa powder into the butter and egg mixture and add the red buttermilk. Fold everything together gently but thoroughly.

5. Whisk the egg whites and a pinch of salt in a large, spotlessly clean bowl until stiff peaks form. Add one-quarter to the batter and mix in.

6. Add the remaining egg whites in two stages, folding them in gently with a spatula until just incorporated and retaining as much air in the mixture as possible.

7. In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and bicarbonate of soda until the mixture bubbles up, then gently fold this into the batter. Quickly divide between the muffin cases, filling each case two-thirds full, then bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes or until the cupcakes are well risen and springy to the touch.

8. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes, then remove the cupcakes and place on a wire rack to cool down while you make the frosting. Make sure the cupcakes are ready before you start, as this icing begins to set very quickly.

9. For the frosting: Place all the ingredients with a pinch of salt in a heatproof bowl, add 2 tablespoons of cold water and set over a saucepan of simmering water. The bowl should sit snugly over the pan with its base high enough above the water that it does not come into contact with it.

10. Whisk slowly, using a balloon whisk, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture is foamy. Continue to heat and whisk until the mixture reaches 60°C (140°F) when measured with a sugar thermometer – this will take about 4 minutes.

11. Quickly remove the bowl from the pan and pour the mixture into the bowl of an electric food mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Alternatively, whisk in the original bowl using a handheld electric beater. Whisk on a high speed for about 3-5 minutes or until the frosting is very thick, glossy and has cooled.

12. Use immediately to spread quickly over the cupcakes with a palette knife and use the back of a teaspoon to shape them, regularly dipping the spoon into a bowl of boiling hot water. Or the icing could be quickly placed in the piping bag or freezer bag, if you prefer, and piped over the cupcakes. The icing sets very quickly at this stage, so speed is essential.

13. Once the icing has set, sift a little sugar over each cake.

See more cakes from Rachel Allen's Cake Diaries

Text © Rachel Allen 2012. Photography © Philip Webb 2012.
Recipe from:


For the frosting

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 250 g caster sugar

Tips and suggestions

If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, you can gauge whether the frosting mixture is ready by how it feels and looks: it should be hot to the touch, glossy white in appearance and starting to thicken.

To make crystalised rose petals as a decoration, coat each petal in whisked egg white, toss them in caster sugar, shake off the excess sugar and out on a tray lined baking parchment. Leave them to dry out next to a radiator until they become crisp.

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Latest Comment


These were delicious! Struggled icing mine but that's just me as new to piping with a bag :-)

TracyL58040 TracyL58040  Posted 15 Oct 2013 8:16 AM

just viewing this recipe and wanted to see other peoples comments. Cant seem to get into them. just keep being asked for mine. ?

janiceG54937 janiceG54937  Posted 26 Nov 2012 4:54 PM

janiceG54937 janiceG54937  Posted 26 Nov 2012 4:51 PM