Red Velvet Cupcakes: A lesson in baking with buttermilk

I found this recipe for Red Velvet cupcakes in the All You magazine, Issue 10, October 2015. Red Velvet cupcakes are so delicious. You know what is even more delicious? Fluffy, moist cupcakes. 

For this cupcake, I think the secret is the buttermilk.  It uses one cup of buttermilk which makes the cupcakes so moist and fluffy. 

Even though buttermilk has the word butter in it, buttermilk does not contain butter. It is the liquid left behind after churning the butter out of the cream. The way that buttermilk is made these days is by heating milk with active cultures. These cultures convert some of the lactose in the milk into lactic acid. Under these acidic conditions, the milk proteins are not very soluble… so they clabber. Clabbering is when milk thickens or curdles into a yogurt-like substance with a strong, sour flavor (AKA a tangy flavor). 

The tangy flavor in buttermilk is actually quite pleasing in most baked goods, especially cupcakes.

In addition, the acid in the buttermilk aids in the baking process.  

The acid in the buttermilk keeps the cupcake moist and tender by breaking down the long, tough strands of gluten. This also gives the cupcake a softer and more fluffy texture. The acid in the buttermilk is also responsible for the batter’s thick consistency. This thick consistency gives whatever you are baking a moist texture.  The fluffy texture occurs because the acid in the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda to create bubbles of carbon dioxide. The bubbles create air which gives the cupcakes more volume and fluff.

So enough food science and onto the recipe!

Here’s what you will need to make this delicious batch of cupcakes:

Red velvet cupcakes  

2 ½ cups of all purpose flour

¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder

1 ½ tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 cup of buttermilk

2 tbsp. red liquid food coloring

1 tbsp. white vinegar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

½ cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter at room temperature

1 ½ cups of sugar

2 large eggs


1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place paper liners in cupcake tins (makes 24 cupcakes).

2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, red food coloring, vinegar and vanilla extract.

4. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speech for about 3 minutes until fluffy.

5. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition.

6. Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat until incorporated.

7. Divide the batter evenly among the paper liners, filling each halfway.

8. Bake for about 25 minutes- until toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean. Let cupcakes cool before putting on frosting.

On a side note, I made these cupcakes for a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” themed baby shower. I didn’t use the frosting recipe that goes with the cupcakes. Instead, I used store bought cream cheese frosting and I added 4 drops of blue gel food coloring. My goal was to make the color look as similar as possible to the Tiffany blue color. I mixed the frosting and the food dye well. Once the cupcakes were completely cooled, I frosted them. To keep with the theme, I used white cupcake liners and I added white sugar pearls on top.

Baking is fun. Learning the science of baking is even more fun! Enjoy making these delicious buttermilk cupcakes.

“Let’s face it, a nice creamy chocolate cake does a lot for a lot of people; it does for me”.

Audrey Hepburn



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