My first introduction to red velvet cake as a child was that scene in Steel Magnolias where folks are hacking into the red velvet groom’s cake shaped like an armadillo.  The cake looks like the blood red innards of the hideous creature when exposed.  Here’s a screen shot for those of you who missed the movie (though you should certainly go watch):

The Red Velvet Armadillo from Steel Magnolias

Thankfully, I’ve had better red velvet experiences since then! As you may have read in the About Willow Bird Baking page, Paula Deen’s delicious, fluffy red velvet cupcakes with decadent cream cheese frosting are what ignited my baking spark!  My boyfriend, Mike, is absolutely in love with them, and for good reason.  Mrs. Deen knows when to splurge on the fats, and this recipe definitely uses its fair share of oil and butter.  The result is heavenly.

A family friend, Wanda, had a birthday this week and agreed to be my “taste tester” (I’m always looking for folks to eat my cupcakes — let me know if you’re a hungry Charlottean!), so I baked her up Paula’s fantastic cupcakes as a birthday surprise. Check out the recipe below!

I bought a cute little gift box at Target, lined it with tissue paper, and popped in some cupcakes. Michael’s also makes great little cupcake holders if you’re thinking of baking up a food gift.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
The gift box! What’s inside?

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Lots of cupcake goodness!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I wanted to add a little something special, so I used a chocolate candy melt to create some decorations. This is a simple and fun way to add a personal touch to cakes or cupcakes. I use chocolate CandiQuik that I buy at Super Target. I like the consistency and taste better than Wilton’s candy melts (found at Michael’s), but you could use those too. Simply melt a hunk of the candy melt per the package instructions, spoon it into a ziplock bag with a tiny bit of the corner cut off, and start piping designs onto wax paper.

Want to pipe out some letters, but having trouble making them look nice? A great trick I tried this time around is to print words out in your favorite font to place under the wax paper and “trace.” There’s only one issue: we’ll want to flip the letters over when dry to use the smooth side, but they’ll be backwards! To solve this issue, I typed my letters out in Microsoft Word (make sure to leave space between each letter!) and took a screenshot of them (easy instructions on how to take a screenshot: Windows / Mac). I then opened my screenshot in a photo program and selected “flip horizontally.”  This created a mirror image of the letters to trace.  Then I piped on my candy melt, let it dry, and flipped the letters — VOILA!  Smooth and beautiful. Here are some pictures of the process:

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Ready to trace!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Doesn’t look like much here, on the “bumpy side.”

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ta da! Okay, maybe I got carried away! But there are a LOT of cupcakes to decorate! Love the font idea for Wanda’s name — it worked so well!

Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Recipe By: Paula Deen
Yields: 24 cupcakes (see note)

Cupcake Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries (or chocolate decorations!), for garnish


Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
BRIGHT red and fresh from the oven. The kitchen smelled great!

Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip (I used star tip 1M.) Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry (or chocolate decorations).

Frosting the cupcakes!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
All finished and frosted.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

NOTE: The frosting recipe makes a TON of frosting! I made 1.5x the original recipe of cupcakes, which yielded 39 total, and this frosting recipe frosted all of them.

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31 Comments on Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

  1. Vivian
    June 21, 2009 at 1:46 am (13 years ago)

    They are very beautiful! The letter idea works for quilting, too! (Choose a font, etc.) Very nice of you to take Wanda some for her Birthday. I am sure she will enjoy them. Can’t go wrong with Paula Dean!

    That Armadillo cake is still famous for the groom’s cake at weddings. It is just too funny to forget, I guess!

  2. Willow Bird Baking
    June 23, 2009 at 5:27 am (13 years ago)

    Thank you! I know, that armadillo cake was such a trip — I sort of want one! Wonder if Mike would go for that at our wedding, should we ever have one??

  3. sweetie
    July 6, 2009 at 11:25 pm (13 years ago)

    the elegant font looks so nice on the cupcakes. great job!

    • Willow Bird Baking
      July 6, 2009 at 11:26 pm (13 years ago)

      Thank you!! 🙂

  4. Heidi Namba
    August 28, 2009 at 12:36 am (13 years ago)


    I’m always on the lookout for a perfect red velvet cake recipe. Yours looks wonderful from the photos. The cupcakes aren’t flat – they don’t look greasy and they are a nice bright red color. Thanks for posting. That photo of the armadillo cake freaks me out. Yuck!


    • Julie
      August 28, 2009 at 12:37 am (13 years ago)

      We LOVE this red velvet recipe, Heidi — hope it works well for you! And I have to admit . . . I love the armadillo, too! HA!

      Thanks 🙂

  5. Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella
    October 9, 2009 at 3:59 am (13 years ago)

    Gorgeous cupcakes! 😀 LOL I love that Armadillo picture! That’s why I fell in love with red velvet.. We had it for our wedding cake.

  6. betty
    March 10, 2010 at 11:47 pm (12 years ago)

    i love your icing job – ive always wanted to try and make red velvet cupcakes (or a cake even) but when the weekend comes around i forget about it or other things get in the way first!

    & what a fantastic way to produce beautiful letters
    knowing me i probably wouldn’t of flipped the letters around – and end up with backwards letters on my cupcakes hehehhehe

  7. Julia
    June 22, 2010 at 4:46 am (12 years ago)

    Update only use 1/2 cup of vegetable oil, per Paula Deen’s site, it was corrected by her food editor Libbie, Feb 2010

    • Julie
      June 22, 2010 at 10:57 am (12 years ago)

      Thanks for letting me know, Julia, but I’m torn. I’ve made these exactly as they are here several times and they’re literally the perfect red velvet flavor and texture. I’ll have to try with only a 1/2 cup and see how it affects the texture of the cake.

  8. jamiesunny
    February 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm (11 years ago)

    I live for cupcakes! I also live for Paula Deen…mostly for her edible son Bobby;) As a hungry Charlottean, I would be happy to sample your cupcakes anytime! Love your blog!

      • jamiesunny
        February 21, 2011 at 9:42 am (11 years ago)

        Many congrats on the Observer piece!


  9. Sabrina
    June 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm (11 years ago)

    These are a great hit at work, I ran out of red food colouring when I was making them the second time and used blue (They turn out greenish on the outside and blue in the middle). They are now known as blue cakes by my colleagues!

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      June 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm (11 years ago)

      Yay, so glad you enjoyed them, Sabrina, and that your coworkers had fun with them too 🙂

  10. gemma
    June 24, 2011 at 7:35 am (11 years ago)

    Thanks so much. There’s a baking contest on my school and I have used this recipe….I got second place…which is awesome

  11. Sarina Harmon
    February 13, 2012 at 11:36 am (10 years ago)

    Everytime someone asks about a red velvet cake the vision of that armadillo pops into my mind, thanks for the visual reminder, lol lol lol.

  12. Kortney
    September 4, 2012 at 9:22 am (10 years ago)

    This recipe looks amazing! Red velvet is my favorite :] I think I want to try this, but I only want to make half. Is that ohkay or would I have to tweak the recipe any? I’m also a hungry fellow Charlottean. lol

    • Julie @ Willow Bird Baking
      September 4, 2012 at 11:48 am (10 years ago)

      That will be just fine! I’d just decrease the frosting — it makes a ton! Stay sane with the DNC in town this week! I’m feelin’ the craziness all the way up here in Cornelius 😉

  13. Tiffany
    February 4, 2014 at 10:52 pm (8 years ago)

    Hi!! I’m a big fan of red velvet everything, but have never made it from scratch. I found this recipe from food network, and I decided to try it out. The amount of oil for me was surprising, but I went with it. I couldn’t load the reviews so I couldn’t see the helpful tips. My batter was greasy, but I trust Paula Deen recipes so I continued. Cupcakes were far too oily for me. I’ll try again tomorrow, and use half the oil.

  14. Nancy
    September 26, 2016 at 1:59 pm (6 years ago)

    I just saw the comment about lessoning the amount of oil….too bad mine are in the oven already!!!! Let’s see how they come out! Also…the batter was quite thick, is that normal?

  15. Sharon
    October 30, 2018 at 12:40 pm (4 years ago)

    I have made these cupcakes many times and they are always the hit of the party! I always use chopped pecans for the garnish and they make the cupcakes extra special!


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