1 1/3 cups cake flour (sub plain / all purpose flour, Note 1)
1 tbsp cocoa powder , unsweetened (Note 2)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder (not baking soda, Note 3)
Pinch of salt


60g / 4 tbsp unsalted butter , softened (Note 4)
2/3 cup caster sugar (superfine sugar)
2 large eggs , at room temperature (Note 5)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (or canola)
1/2 cup buttermilk , at room temperature (Note 6)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp white vinegar (Note 7)
1 tbsp red food colouring (yes, 1 whole tablespoon!)


1/3 cup unsalted butter , softened (Note 4)
170g / 6oz Philadelphia block cream cheese , softened (Note 8)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups soft icing sugar mixture (powdered sugar) 



Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F (160°C fan). Line a standard 12 hole muffin tin with cupcake liners.

Sift Dry ingredients together into a bowl.

Cream butter: 

Put the butter in a separate bowl and beat on speed 2 for 1 minute with an electric mixer or stand mixer (paddle attachment).

Cream sugar: 

Add sugar then beat for a further 2 minutes, same speed, until the butter is very pale yellow, almost white.

Beat in eggs: 

Add the eggs one at a time beating for 30 seconds on speed 1 after each addition.

Add remaining Wet ingredients: 

Add oil, buttermilk, vanilla and red food colouring then beat on Speed 1 until incorporated and the batter is smooth.

Beat in flour: 

Sprinkle the Dry ingredients across the surface and mix on Speed 1 for just 20 seconds. Scrape down sides of the bowl, then mix again for 10 seconds. The batter should now be smooth – few small lumps is ok. Do not keep beating – overworks batter = cupcakes not as soft!

Fill pan: 

Divide the batter between the 12 cupcake liners – it should fill 3/4 of the way, but it depends on the size of the cupcake liners you use.

Bake for 20 minutes

 or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the middle cupcake comes out clean.


Immediately remove cupcakes onto a wire rack. Cool completely before frosting with cream cheese frosting.


Cream butter:

Place butter in a bowl and beat for 1 minute until it’s smooth and starts to become paler in colour – speed 6 on stand mixer, speed 9 for electric beater.

Cream cream cheese: 

Add cream cheese then beat for a further 1 minute on the same speed until smooth.

Add icing sugar: 

Add icing sugar in 4 batches, beating in between until incorporated, starting on speed 1 so you don’t get a dust storm in your face!

Beat until fluffy: 

Add vanilla and salt, then beat for 2 minutes until fluffy – speed 6 with stand mixer, speed 9 with electric beater. It should be creamy but still hold its shape in a peak (see video). If it’s too sloppy, place in fridge for 30 minutes, then beat again.


Transfer into piping bag with desired piping tip. Pipe onto cupcakes – makes enough to generously frost 12 cupcakes as pictured in post.

Recipe Notes:

1. Cake flour

makes the cupcakes a little more tender and “velvety” (true to its name!) and gives it a sweet shaped dome. Plain / all purpose flour works fine too but the crumb is not quite as tender and the dome will have a slight peak shape (which isn’t a big deal if hidden under mound of frosting!)

2. Cocoa powder

Use unsweetened, ordinary cocoa powder. No need to use the more expensive dutch processed, though it works if that’s all you’ve got.

3. Baking powder

gives these cupcakes a nicer shaped dome than baking soda (which is what I use for Red Velvet Cake, need stronger leavening agent for larger cake).

4. Butter

Don’t let the butter get too soft. This is a common error with baking recipes that call for butter to be creamed. Target 18°C/64°F for the butter – colder than you think! This is soft enough to be whipped, but you should not be left with a thick, shiny slick of grease on your finger when you poke it. If you get greasy fingers, this means the butter is too soft which will make the cupcake greasier than ideal and it will not rise as well. For the frosting, it will make the frosting too soft to pipe properly.

If the butter is >20C/68F, I would chill the butter a bit before using.

5. Eggs

Need to be at room temperature and not fridge-cold, to ensure it incorporates easily. Quick way to warm up fridge-cold eggs: Place eggs in a large bowl, cover with warm tap water (just warm, not hot) and leave for 5 min. Wipe dry, then use per recipe.

Egg size (“large eggs”): 50 – 55g / 2 oz per egg is the industry standard of sizes sold as “large eggs” in Australia and the US. 

6. Buttermilk

For baked goods, you get the best result using buttermilk rather than making your own substitute. But making your own is still quite good (better than just using plain milk): Mix 1/2 cup of full fat mil with 3/4 tsp white vinegar or lemon juice. Leave for 15 minutes – it will congeal. Use in place of buttermilk in recipe (lumps and all!).

7. Vinegar

This makes the cupcake crumb slightly more tender and “velvety” as well as preserving the red colour. Read in post for more background information in the “ingredients” section.

8. Cream Cheese

Use block, not the soft spreadable cream cheese that comes in tubs (too soft, frosting gets too sloppy). Australia – no need to leave out until softened, our Philadelphia is soft enough straight out of the fridge.

UK cream cheese

only tub spreadable is available still, to my knowledge. So use HALF the amount of spreadable cream cheese ie 90g/3oz for one batch, AND add about 1/2 tsp lemon zest (to up the tang slightly).

9. Soft icing sugar

Australia, this is not to be confused with PURE icing sugar which is used for hard set icing like royal icing. Soft icing sugar is a sugar blend intended for fluffy creamy frostings like this cream cheese on.