Nicole of Pinch My Salt has a great recipe. Even better, she's written two separate posts: one specifically for red velvet cake and the other for cupcakes. The first time I made these, I used her cream cheese frosting recipe. While it was delicious and piped nicely, I have since fallen in love with another cream cheese frosting recipe, so now I use that as my go-to recipe. The frosting recipes have the same basic ingredients, but the proportions are vastly different, so I'll post Nicole's recipe here.
These are perfect for Valentine's Day or really any old time you want a treat!
A couple of other notes. This recipe calls for sifting the cake flour once before measuring, and then again with the other dry ingredients. It also has a few methods I've never used before. First, while the baking powder is mixed in with the dry ingredients, the baking soda is stirred together with the vinegar until it fizzes, and then mixed in at the end. Second, it calls for mixing the cocoa and food coloring together into a paste. I mainly stick with Nicole's method, though since I reduce the amount of food coloring, it's not really enough liquid to form a paste. Below, I'll write it the way I usually do it.
For what it's worth, we do it differently at the bakery and it works perfectly: beat the wet ingredients well (eggs, sugar, vanilla, oil, vinegar, and food coloring); sift the dry ingredients; add dry ingredients, alternately with buttermilk, to oil/sugar/egg mixture. I imagine it would be just fine to use the same method with this recipe, but as previously noted, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 ounces red food coloring (I usually use 1/2 ounce to 1 ounce and it's plenty)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups (10.5 ounces) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two cupcake pans with papers.
Sift cake flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder, and set aside. Beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, and then beat in the food coloring. Scrape down the sides. Beat in a third of the flour mixture, then half the buttermilk, then another third of the flour, the rest of the buttermilk, and the rest of the flour. Scrape down the sides and beat for another few seconds to make sure everything is well incorporated. In a small bowl, stir together vinegar and baking soda. It will fizz! Stir it into the batter.
Scoop the batter into the cupcake tins. An ice cream scoop works great. Each should be 2/3 to 3/4 full. I usually get 22-24 cupcakes. Bake 20-22 minutes. The cupcakes are done when they spring back when pressed lightly with a finger. Check them early and don't overbake them. Cool for five minutes in the pans, and then remove the cupcakes to cool completely on wire racks. Frost with your favorite cream cheese frosting and decorate with red sprinkles to make them extra cute.
Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups (10 ounces) powdered sugar, sifted (sometimes it has lumps, so this helps!)*
pinch of salt
Beat cream cheese and butter until smooth. Turn mixer to low speed and beat in powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Increase speed to high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately, or else refrigerate the frosting until you're ready to use it. You may need to let it sit at room temp for a few minutes to warm up. You can also re-beat it briefly to make sure it's nice and smooth.
*If you like your frosting sweeter, like I do, you can use as much as 4 cups (16 ounces) powdered sugar.