There’s something fascinating to me about the idea of red velvet cake. It might be the fact that most baking seems to fall within a pretty predictable colour palette, or maybe the mystery of ‘what does it taste like? RED? Does it taste like red!?” (For the record, it does not taste like red. But it does taste like amazing)

Either way, lately I’ve been feeling a little bit blah, and a lot like doing some baking. I might have discussed before how baking is very much like therapy for me, but the combination of viciously cracking eggs, whisking and the repetitive, nearly mindless tasks of measuring and pouring are extremely cathartic for me. So when I felt blah this morning, and it just so happened that we had some leftover buttermilk from last week’s banana cupcakes, I thought that maybe the time had finally come to experience red velvet cake in reality and not just through a computer screen.

Of course, immediately on looking up recipes I realised that my family doesn’t really eat a lot of cakes. Most nights we sit down to eat together, but we usually save dessert for special occasions or 11pm cravings for something sweet. What we do like however, are 5pm snacks. So turning the red velvet cake into little cupcakes that could be eaten on the fly (with a sneaky glass of wine) after getting home from work was the logical choice.

The recipe I ultimately settled on is from Ming Makes Cupcakes, and we love her. I have yet to try one of her recipes that hasn’t been delicious – if you’re looking for a reliable cupcake recipe she has 30 of the best all neatly situated on one website. My favourite thing was the frosting. Instead of what seems to be standard cream cheese frosting, the recipe calls for a vanilla almond buttercream and in all seriousness… I could just put my face in the bowl and lick. It is amazing. If you don’t like almond essence then you could substitute for just vanilla buttercream or even cream cheese frosting, but I really think that the almond plays off the only just there kiss of cocoa powder and the tiny hint of sourness from the buttermilk so that it all melds together to be better than the parts alone.

After trying them, I can definitely say that these are the best cupcakes I have ever made or eaten. They’re light, moist, sweet but not cloying, ever-so-faintly chocolately and have a hint of floral coming from the almost extract. My mother, who is not really a sweets woman, loved these so much that she sneakily ate three in a row while we watched The Help. It took pretty much all of my willpower not to do the same. So possibly the only bad thing about these delicious little morsels is that they’re dangerous for your willpower.

I couldn’t resist… while I was photographing I had to have a bite

And then… another one

And then suddenly it was all gone.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Vanilla Almond Buttercream

1  1/4 cup flour
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 T cocoa powder
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1 T red food colouring
1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp vanilla paste

Preheat the oven to 180 c fan bake and line a cupcake or muffin tray with cupcake liners. Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder. In a seperate bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, egg, food colouring, vinegar and vanilla paste. While mixing the wet ingrediants at a medium speed – gradually add in the dry mixture until combined.

Fill the cupcake liners 2/3 of the way up and bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Let the cupcakes cool on a baking rack – if you want to hurry things up you can put them in the freezer for twenty minutes, but I prefer the texture of the cupcakes if you let them cool completely at air temperature.


1/2 cup room temperature butter
2 1/2 cups icing sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
a dash of almond extract

Beat the butter and sugar together until smooth. Add the milk, vanilla and almond extract and beat until at a spreadable consistency. If needed you can add more sugar. I prefer to refrigerate the icing while the cupcakes cool so that it’s a little easier to play with while icing.