Red Velvet Cupcakes (Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)

Count them yourself if you please. There are a total of fifteen different cup cake recipes in the The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. That’s hours of fun and sugar highs right there before you even get into the carrot cake recipe and key lime pie. If you are a fan of the Hummingbird Bakery or of American style, super sweet and frosting heavy baking then you will be a fan of this cookbook. I am a fan. Such a fan that I broke my self imposed cookbook ban (I have way too many) to purchase this book. I figure it is justifiable as a money saving move as I will save money by baking Hummingbird bakery goodies rather than hot footing it down to Portobello road to buy them. It is a very girly book with a pale pink and chocolate colour scheme and lots of gratuitous glossy photos of swirls of thick frosting. The chef behind the Hummingbird Bakery, ex journo Tarek Malouf, certainly knows his target market.

The recipes are fairly straightforward and of the two I tested both worked perfectly (although perhaps my frosting technique needs to be a bit more heavy handed in order to reach the decadent heights of the Hummingbird Bakery itself). The most important thing to remember when baking cupcakes Hummingbird Bakery style is to use muffin cases to line a muffin tin rather than cupcake cases as these are super size American style cupcakes. If you are UK based you can get muffin cases from Waitrose and this trip will save you the ignominy of squashed looking cupcakes which will result from using cupcake cases. I have tweaked the recipe slightly to reduce the quantity of food colouring as I am not such a fan of additives like food colouring. Given this recipe uses red food colouring there is an inherent danger that your kitchen will look like a blood bath has occurred in it. This adds a little frisson to the whole baking experience. I should also note that the cookbook calls for an electric mixer but I don’t have one and it is not necessary if you don’t mind working off those cupcakes while you are creaming the butter and sugar by hand.

60g butter at room temperature
1 egg
150g caster sugar
10g cocoa
10ml red food colouring
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
120ml buttermilk
150g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar
300g icing sugar, sifted

50g butter at room temperature
125g cream cheese, chilled
1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
2. Cream the butter, egg and sugar until light and fluffy.
3. In a separate bowl mix the cocoa powder, food colouring and vanilla extract. Once mixed add to the creamed mixture.
4. Mix carefully until combined and then add half the buttermilk, mix further and add half the flour and the baking powder. Mix thoroughly before adding the remainder of the buttermilk and flour and mixing further.
5. Add the white wine vinegar, bicarbonate of soda and salt and mix thoroughly for at least 5 mins.
6. Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases and bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins or until the cupcakes spring back slightly when touched.
7. Allow the cupcakes to cool slightly before turning out onto a wire cooling rack.
8. In the meantime, to make the frosting cream the icing sugar and butter together until well mixed.
9. Add the cream cheese and mix until it is incorporated. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy for at least 5 mins.
10. Use a spatula to layer the frosting on top of the cupcakes.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of Hummingbird Bakery itself on Portobello road in Notting Hill. Or you can try out the recipe for Hummingbird Bakery’s vanilla cupcakes.


  1. ooh, these look divine! Like you I have way too many cookery books but I was given this book as a birthday gift and have tried out a couple of recipes. I’m most excited about the marshmallow ones, not any colouring in those I believe.

    I’ve made some with UK size cases and they worked just as well, and there were more of them! I did have to do them in 2 batches though.

  2. Bought this book but yet to try recipes, I’ve heard mixed reviews about it.

  3. Boo – I have also earmarked the marshmallow recipe – haven’t tried those at Hummingbird itself but they sound good.

    Heavenly Housewife – for cupcakes I think it is a great book but it is fairly limited – there are not heaps of recipes in there just cupcakes, cakes and a few brownies. I agree there could be more baking included.

  4. this may be a silly question, for which I apologise in advance, but… I think I saw the recipe, and I thought it called for an egg, to be added to the butter and sugar after they have been creamed and “worked” for about 5 minutes?
    anyway, tried them (with egg) and am relatively pleased – although the sponge doesn’t seem as ‘chocolatey’ nor as red as the one in the shop (it may be because I used a different coloring than the brand suggested)… what did you think? I didn’t have the muffin tin, so used just the muffin cases – but used a pair for each cupcake, and it was ok.

  5. Hi – I think you were right – there should be an egg.

    Original recipe here

  6. There is an egg and I have added it in – my sincere apologies!

  7. HI….first time here…im such a fan of Hummingbird that i got really excited seeing this recipe and have decided to try it right away. Will tell u how it turned out

  8. Ummmmm when does the baking powder go in?? its called for in the ingredients but not in the instructions.

    going to make these for my husband for valentines day. we discovered them in america on our honeymoon in july!

    1. In the book this recipe does not list baking powder as an igredient

  9. Yes could you please let us know about the baking powder? xxx

  10. An Open Book – Good luck and enjoy

    Mrs Parker and Christina – the baking powder goes in at the flour stage, it will just add a little extra oomph to your cupcakes.

  11. I gotta tell ya these came out great! Thanks for the recipe. I’m still waiting for my Hummingbird book to get delivered and couldn’t wait to try making them.

    I did struggle to measure out 10 grams of cocoa powder though. My old fashioned scale doesn’t have enough little lines for that! Had to guess at a couple of tablespoons but think it could’ve done with a tad more as it’s not very chocolatey tasting – my sister said they taste like sherbet though so it’s not all bad!

    I did use a different fondant recipe as I have such a sweet tooth and am not a huge fan of cream cheese. But these muffins are great, the rich red colour is very impressive and they’re so easy to make!

  12. i made red velvet cakes today – i used beetroot to colour them, though they did turn out more bron than yours! but if you wanna check out another recipe then here you go:


  13. How many cupckaes does this make?

  14. Made them this afternoon using muffin cases & tin and got 10 cakes. Needs more cocoa to make them more chocolatey. Enough icing for a full dozen, although a little too sweet and runny at the end. Also, you’ll need to cream the icing sugar, cream cheese and butter all together.

    Will let you know families opinion later…

  15. can anyone help. i keep making these – totally to the recipe and they keep coming out brown!
    i use dr oetker’s red food colouring as advised.
    should i reduce the amount of cocoa? (i used 10g)
    the cocoa seems to take over any red.

    any advise would be appreciated.

    thank you

    1. If you use Dr Oetker NATURAL food colouring they come out brown. If you use the one that doesn’t say natural on it, they come out red. Sadly this is almost impossible to find now. However, there are some good gel food colourings out there and it’s just trial and error until you find the one you like.

  16. Jillian,
    20ml of Red food colouring is normally suffecient, but dont hesitate to add more colouring. And dont forget to mix the red food colouring, cocoa and vanilla extract together in a seperate bowl before adding to the main mix.
    Check my red mixture.

  17. Bought this book though I’ve read about the mixed reviews about it. I tried the red velvet cake today and was really scared…Actually they turned out fantastic…scrumptiously delicious! I can’t understand why some people said the taste was disgusting and threw the batch in the bin…

  18. I tried this recipe exactly as in the book, however my cupcakes have come out very dense and heavy with very little rise. And the taste of the cake is below par. It’s rather perplexing as I’ve had great success with a few of the other recipes. Would love to know how to correct this.

  19. I made these following it the the letter and they were wet and heavy! I wasn’t sure about using bi soda and baking powder as they are both raising agents and too much has a reverse effect. I cooked them again last night with out baking powder and mixed the Bi soda and vinegar together in a cup and they came out lovely. I also need 30 minutes in the oven as I am making cup cakes in muffin cases not in fairy cake cases. Also don’t use half fat cream cheese or spreadable butter as its too wet and you will have very runny icing!
    Am making 24 of these for my friends Birthday tomorrow 🙂

  20. Nic – glad it worked well for you

    Zuzazak – that is a great idea as a natural alternative to food colouring

    Anon – for me it made 12

    Richjohn – hope the family liked them!

    Jillian – try adding more food colouring and make sure you are not overcooking the cupcakes as well

    Darrens cakes – yours look great!

    Anon – glad to hear it worked well for you

    Anon – Not sure what the problem is there. Try and make sure you are very precise with your measurements as a little difference can make a big difference in baking!

    Anon – Interesting that minusing one of the baking agents helped you here. I agree that reduced fat cream cheese can make the frosting runnier as well. Glad they turned out for you in the end.

  21. Thanks for sharing the recipe. You can see my results here:

    They were ‘nice’ but not ‘great’ – I am blaming operator error and will definitely try them again at some point!

  22. Kate – Those look great! Hope they taste even better next time

  23. The hummingbird book shows something red sprinkled on top of the red velvet cupcakes. Does anyone know what this is as I can’t find any reference to it in the book and am making them this Thursday (4th Nov)?

  24. loulabelle I think it is cake “dust” from the cupcakes – chop a bit off the top of one of the cupcakes before icing and then sprinkle bits of it over the icing to get the effect in the photo.

  25. Hi

    I really want to try these cup cakes but what can I use as a Substitute to white wine vinegar?

  26. I use apple cider vinegar.

  27. Loulabelle – I have no idea what it is but I am happy to go along with Anon’s suggestion of chopped up cake crumbs.

    Anon – Thanks for that.

    Anne – Plain white vinegar would be too acidic I think, I would go with Darren’s suggestion or just substitute the white wine vinegar with plain water. Your cupcakes will lack a certain kick but it will not be the end of the world!

    Darren – Great suggestion thanks – does it give them a certain apple taste?

  28. I made these last night – didn’t have buttermilk so added white vinegar to milk… and didn’t have white wine vinegar so also used apple cider vinegar.

    i used muffin cases… made 12.

    mine collapsed after i took them from the oven, but i figure once they’re frosted no-one’ll know – and next time i make them i wont beat them quite so much!

    i’ll let you know what the outcome is later once they’re frosted & eaten.

    thanks for sharing the recipe (it was the googling the topping recipe that brought me here!)

  29. Am going to prepare a batch and use them as ‘favours’ for my guest at my baby shower – I bought some cute sugar decorations (a blue bottle, booties and blue vest – yes it’s a boy!). I think I will add a little more colouring and a little more cocoa than in the recipe, since even useing the ‘right’ colouring (Dr Oetker) and good quality cocoa (Green & Black) they still come out a little ‘pale’ to me. Will let you know how they turn out!

  30. Anon – Interesting to hear that your substitutions worked out ok – that will be helpful for other readers who might not have all the ingredients. Agree overbeating could be an issue in the collapse or maybe opening the oven door? Hope you liked them.

    Ilaria – That sounds fabulous I hope your baby shower guests enjoy them!

  31. If your food colouring doesnt work, check it is artificial dr oetker as they also do a natural red version of the colouring which turns brown when cooked!

    Also the vinegar is not ther for the flavour, it reacts with the bicarb to produce carbon dioxide bubbles, switching it with water will not work.

    Made these last week, they were brown (used the natural food colouring!) but tasted lovely! Tried again this week with the right colouring! Beautiful!

  32. Anon – Thanks for the feedback that is all really helpful. Beware of the natural red food colouring by the sounds of it!

  33. Hi just reading through this blog and I would like to say that I have been cooking the cupcakes out of this book for about 18months mainly the vanilla cupcakes friends & family love them. Just a few weeks ago I tried out the red velvet ones & they looked just like red velvet & tasted lovely. I never use English fairy cake cases I always use cup cake cases & find that for every one of their recipes you have to double up the quantities to get a decent size cake & normally get about 15 cakes out of the mixture. More red velvets o be made this weekend but think I am going to try with vanilla frosting. Happy baking.

  34. Would I be able to substitute the plain flour and baking powder with self-raising? I have quite a lot of self-raising flour that needs using up and wondered if anyone had already tried it and what the results were like.

  35. Joanna – Great to hear that they have worked out for you and hope the vanilla frosting went well.

    Rachel – Yes you can substitute it.

  36. Yes, I tried it with Self Raising flour. not a problem. Im not sure if I should have added the cider vinegar / baking soda portion. But all was good.

    1. Good to hear it worked out Darren

  37. I’ve seen an online recipe that specifies Dr Oetker Red GEL colouring, as opposed to the natural red that they generally sell. I think it’s artificial, so I guess less likely to go brown during baking?

    Mine went orange 😀

    1. Yes Dr Oetker is a good one to use but I have used a few different brands all with success. I think the ones to stray away from are the natural food colouring as sadly they just make it brown.

  38. hi
    can u make the cupcakes without buttermilk and salt
    please reply x 🙂

    1. Is the issue that you can’t get buttermilk (as I can suggest a substitute for it) or that you are allergic or something like that? As for salt you can leave that out but obviously it will change the taste of the cupcakes.

    2. no i just wondered if you could make them without them ingredence

  39. Ok so I made a batch of these and they were vile – I should have read the comments and realised my food colouring was natural red – fine for making icing / frosting but NOT for baking, it came out brown and tasted like mouldy carrots. It also had a dense texture and was not well risen. Straight into the bin 🙁

    So on my second attempt (with Silver Spoon red colouring – so full of e-numbers that when I had a taste to make sure I wasn’t getting any more mouldy carrots it was awfully bitter, like ground up aspirin – yippee), I took Anonymous’s (from Sep 17th’s) advice and OMITTED THE BAKING POWDER (using plain flour, not self raising). I mixed the bicarb and vinegar in a cup and added it to the mixture last thing. (thank you, Anonymous!) NB I checked some other posts of this recipe and a few (based on Joy of Baking) don’t list the baking powder – perhaps this is an error somewhere along the way? I read that bicarb and not baking powder will make the sponge redder.

    I also only used my electric beater for beating the butter and sugar (actually I used Stork margarine, which my mother and grandmother swear by and does seem to have magical cake making properties) and FOLDED IN THE FLOUR AND BUTTERMILK with a large metal spoon (my cake guru mother’s other commandment). This means the mixture is hardly worked at all.

    The batter was light, creamy and thick (unlike the previous attempt, which was so runny I couldn’t spoon it into the cases) and has come out of the oven looking just amazing – beautifully risen to fill muffin cases and no collapse. I just broke a piece off one and the sponge is perfectly tender. 25 minutes for muffin sized cases and I split it between 9, not 12, which was just right (if you want them to come to the top of the cases).

    Also, for British bakers, Sainsburys sell 300ml pots of fresh buttermilk for 75p. They keep it with the cream in the fridge. Am sure other major supermarkets will have it too.

    Hope that helps others avoid disaster…….. So happy I have my perfect red velvet!

    1. Helena – Sorry to hear it did not work out for you on the first attempt and glad to hear second time around it was better. Yes using natural food colouring seems to be an issue with baking it comes out looking browner. Sadly you have to go for the ones with all the preservatives and E numbers. Dr Oetker is good as other commentators have noted.

  40. Helena, how much bicarbonate did you use instead of bicarbonate and baking powder?

  41. We made these using the original Hummingbird recipe and had to throw them away. The weird taste of the food colouring completely overpowered them, I think in the same way as Helena says above. This was using 40ml of Dr Oetker natural red, which is the amount in the original recipe (which seems a lot).

    A shame!

  42. i have bought some really cute extra small paper patty pans and wanted to use them for mothers day with assorted vanilla cupcakes and red velvet cupcakes. But after reading comments its probably not going to work so well in small cases? I would cook them for less time, but maybe they wont work very well at all. Dont want to risk it.

  43. Sam R – Did you try this version instead which has less food colouring? Let me know how you go…

    Anon – They should work as long as you have an extra small patty pan tray to bake them in as otherwise the mixture is likely to make the cases look mishapen. Good luck.

  44. doesn’t the book say 20mls of food colouring for the cupcakes – thats what i have always used and it has turned out okay. 40mls – if you are doubling up

  45. This is a really good.recipe I made a two layer cake for my friends . I made it last Thursday they came round on Friday. There wae leftover which I too to my family .on sat it was still moist. They loved it. Planning to make a 3 layer tonight for my cousins birthday tomorrow – Hannah

  46. hi,this isnt to do with the recipe but i really need help! im baking cupcakes for some friends and im adding food colouring to white chocolate but for this to work you have to use powder or oil based food colouring so i want to know if the Dr.Oetker blue food colouring is water, powder or oil based?- Thanks, Siobhan

  47. Hi,

    I just wanted to add a few things since i noticed this is not how the book does it.

    1) The Humming bird cookbook specifies that you make a sand out of the butter sugar and flour. This is not normally how you would do it but it does make a big difference.

    2) As many have stated you find recipes with colouring Gel. This is really important as a 1/2tsp of this stuff will be a lot less liquid and therefore make the cakes better (hobbycraft is a good place to get this).

    3) Baking powder is also not in the recipes. The idea of mixing the vinegar and bicarb is to give the same effect and needs to be done at the last second to help improve the results.

    There are few other things i wanted to add.

    1) Some of helena’s tips are awesome. 🙂 Real baking know how which i have herd from many a chef.

    2) It states muffin cases above. Be careful these are not always Cupcake cases(you defiantly don’t want fairycake cases). Many of the muffin cases have gradually sloped sides which do not keep the dumpy cupcake shape and can cause the cupcakes to rise too much. Hobbycraft sell some perfect heavy duty white cases. Honestly they are worth the extra 50p.

    3) I am shocked no one has brought this up. Apart from not using half fat, do not over mix your cream cheese icing. That will also make it go runny, the problem being is that more icing sugar will exacerbate the problem.

    Hope the above can help you all. Happy baking.

  48. This comment has been removed by the author.

  49. We have baked these cupcakes about 4-5 times now and they are absolutely deelish!

  50. How much sugarflair paste should I use? Very nervous about making these.

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