Red Velvet Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing

Red Velvet cupcakes are becoming the Little Black Dress of the dessert world. Everyone sells them. Everyone eats them. A bakery isn’t quite complete without them.

Now here’s where I get deep: What exactly IS red velvet? Whoa. That’s like “what’s beyond heaven?” deep. Don’t be scared. We can figure this out.

It’s not chocolate. It’s not vanilla. Can red be a flavor? “Oh my god. This is the best red tasting cupcake I have ever had!” uhh… Sure, why not? Red is now a flavor.

I guess the only way to describe red velvet is DELICIOUSMOSTAMAZINGTASTINGCAKEEVER. Now THAT’S totally a flavor.

When I first heard of red velvet cake, I remember being in love with it before even tasting it. I mean, it was easy to fall in love with something that people were so passionate about. People were freaking out about this cake. I remember sitting back thinking “Well, I like cake.” So of course me and red velvet would get along. The only thing left to really do was try it. Kind of important, no?

So I did. And I figured if I’m going to try it for the first time, I might as well go somewhere special. I wasn’t going to Shop-Rite for my first red velvet cupcake tasting. No. I needed to have an “experience” with the cupcake flavor that I already loved, yet never tasted before.

Magnolia Bakery.

Oh Mags. How wonderful you were to me on that fateful day. After stepping into your store, I had completely forgotten how mortified Map Quest made me and my Aunt Nan when we punched in your address only to find we were 47 SECONDS away from your store. No kidding. So we stepped out of the car, and walked those 47 seconds.

Determined. Mortified. Hysterical.

And there you were. Open arms, inviting us in with your windows filled and filled with cupcakes, and cookies and cakes. Map Quest what? I could barely keep my eyes in one place for longer than 2 seconds. So many choices. But I needed to focus. I knew why I was here. Red velvet. So I composed myself and ordered that red velvet cupcake (and a chocolate…and a vanilla…and another chocolate). NO. SHAME.

Oh my heavens. Mystical. That’s how I would describe it. Mystical because you can’t quite put your finger on exactly what you’re eating. It’s light, vanilla-y with a hint of chocolate from the cocoa powder. Basically think of every great aspect of all different cupcakes. Now combine them. That’s what a red velvet cake is like. Plus, it’s red. How can you hate any food that is colored? (Except those creepy colored ketchup that Heinz created a couple years ago. Remember those?! Yeah….)

And thus became my love affair with a cake that I finally tried.

But there was a deep dark secret that I kept. One that I’m not too proud to share. But I will share it with you. Why? Because I like you. Yes, you. Sitting there..eyes wide with anticipation waiting for my deepest, darkest secret to be revealed. You. Ok, relax with the eyes. You’re becoming colored ketchup creepy.

Ok here it is: As much as I love red velvet cake, I don’t like cream cheese icing.

Oh my God. I said it. It’s done. I feel strangely liberated.

Yes, it’s true. I’m not a huge cream cheese lover. And I thought adding tons of powdered sugar to it would turn this girl into a cream cheese lover, but alas, it hasn’t.


Until I tried this Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing. I’m just going to allow that to sink in.






Sweet baby Jesus.

Remember that “I Love Lucy” episode where she is stomping on grapes making her own wine? Well, that’s what I feel like doing with this icing. Except, instead of wine barrels, it’s a bath tub. And instead of grapes, it’s this icing. And instead of stomping my feet in it, I’m bathing in it. Bathing in this wonderfully sweet icing. It’s totally the same thing.

It’s amazing what a little brown sugar can do. It’s the little super hero of baking ingredients. By simply adding this to cream cheese icing, it created an icing I might die for. And when it’s paired with red velvet cake, that extra sweetness that the brown sugar creates just works wonderfully.

So please, if you have never tried a red velvet cupcake before, DO IT. And please, please, please make this brown sugar cream cheese icing. It will change your life.

I’ve searched and searched and searched for a great red velvet cupcake recipe, and after some failed attempts (I once made cupcakes that came out flat. Flat. I have yet to find anything on this earth more depressing than a flat red velvet cupcake.), I finally found a great recipe.

Oh, you want to see it? Ok, ok, fine.


Recipe from: Brown Eyed Baker

Yields 12 Cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons red food coloring
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin/cupcake pan with liners.

2. Using an electric mixer, on medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

3. In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.

5. Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.

6. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.

7. Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cupcakes from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.


Recipe from Joy The Baker

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 8oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2-4 tablespoons milk
  • 4-6 cups powdered sugar


Cream the butter and cream cheese together in an electric mixer.  (Be sure that the two are at room temperature.  Cold cream cheese or butter can make your frosting lumpy.)  Add the brown sugar and vanilla extract, and beat for about 2 minutes.  Turn off mixer and add 2 cups of powdered sugar.  Turn the mixer on a low speed so the sugar doesn’t fly out of the bowl.  Slowly add more sugar alternately with the milk until you reach your desired consistency.

And yes, that is my dining room table. Get familiar with it. Love it. Imagine yourself seated at it. You will be seeing it a lot.


2 thoughts on “Red Velvet Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Icing

  1. Deanna: I love your baked goods…and this is from a baker’s wife! Also, you are a VERY talented writer. There may be a novel in your future!

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