15 April 2013

Red Velvet Cupcakes [Low Fat]

Once upon a time, in a convenient location on the route from the high street to Newcastle University's campus, there was a coffee shop called Luv Coffee. Though I was put off by the name at first, whilst traipsing past one day I happened to glance through the window, where I saw the biggest red velvet cupcakes I had ever seen. I'm talking large muffin, need-a-fork-to-eat-it sized. And only for £2.50.

One day, when I was feeling fatigued by wintry 4pm sunsets and endless lectures, I decided to buy one of these giants and eat it. I was not disappointed. The 'cupcake' was moist and decadent but not too rich. I quickly told my friends about it, and we all became hooked on the occasional giant red velvet cupcake fix from Luv Coffee.

Then, one blustery day in February, I was shocked to see that the shop wasn't open - closed for refurbishment perhaps? But alas, as the months rolled by, Luv Coffee never opened its doors again and every time I passed by the dismantling of the shop became more and more apparent.

Yes, I might have used my chemistry notes as a background in these photos...

Now it's April, and my friends and I have had to accept that those giant cupcakes which helped us get through tough days will never be seen again. In honour of my friend's recent birthday, I tried to recreate them with moderate success.

I based my recipe around the recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes in Xanthe Milton's Eat Me!, but used low fat ingredients and increased the amount of food colouring. I still have no clue about where one finds buttermilk in the UK and I've seen whispers of how to make it yourself, but I was in no mood to wait, so I just used plain milk instead. I had originally planned to half the recipe (since my housemates don't eat cake - I know, crazy - I have to offload cake onto my friends so don't make more than they'll take), but then realised that to make giant cupcakes what I really wanted to do was to double up the amount of batter per cupcake, so I left the quantities alone. This all worked out well until I forgot this decision when measuring out the milk, so although the batter was very wet the cupcakes still came out a little too dry for my liking. I can't blame Xanthe for this though, as it's clearly my fault.

I've rectified the milk issue in the recipe below. The only other alteration that I made was increasing the icing sugar ratio as without doing so the icing would be too runny to pipe. I'd encourage you to try these out, as there's nothing more comforting on a bad day than being able to come home to a huge cupcake. If you'd rather use full fat ingredients, go ahead, though personally I don't taste the difference.

Makes 7 Large Cupcakes or 12 Standard Cupcakes

  • 110g Light Butter
  • 110g Plain Flour
  • 1 Tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 Tsp Red Food Colouring Gel
  • 20g Cocoa Powder
  • 170g Caster Sugar
  • 55g Quark
  • 550g Icing Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Vinegar
  • 220mL Skimmed (Low Fat) Milk
  • 2 Eggs
  • 2 Tsp Vanilla Essence
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/180C and line a muffin tin (for large cupcakes) or cupcake tin (for standard sized ones).
  • Cream 55g of the butter and sugar together in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one at a time.
  • Sift the flour, cocoa and baking powder into the batter, folding in until well combined.
  • Fold in the milk, followed by 1 tsp of vanilla essence and the vinegar.
  • Add enough red food colouring to give the batter a deep red colour.
  • Divide the batter between the muffin/cupcake cases and  bake in the oven. If baking large cupcakes, bake for 25 minutes; if baking standard sized cupcakes, bake for 22 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.
  • Leave the cupcakes to cool while making the buttercream: beat the remaining butter and the quark together with an electric whisk until smooth. Slowly add the icing sugar whilst whisking the mixture until the icing holds its shape. Add the vanilla and whisk for a further 2 minutes.
  • Decorate the cupcakes as desired.


  1. There's definitely nothing better on a grim day than cupcakes! I must confess that I've never actually tried red velvet cupcakes (or cake), but these do look rather scrummy.
    It's super easy to make a cheat's version of buttermilk for baking (I use it whenever a recipe calls for buttermilk because I have no idea what I'd do with the rest of a carton of buttermilk!) – add 1 tbsp lemon juice per 225ml (1 cup) of milk, stir and let it stand for about 10 mins and it's ready to use. I always use full fat milk, so I'm not sure how well it would work with skim milk, but it could be worth experimenting to see if it makes a difference!

    1. Thanks for the tip, I'll give it a try!

  2. There is something about red velvet cupcakes that us Brits can't resist its just so American! These do look good and occasionally I too use lighter ingredients for cupcakes, hey it always helps to cut a calorie or two out :) I buy my buttermilk at Asda or Tescos, its usually around the cream isle. Good luck in finding it.

    1. Thanks Emma, I'll try and look more closely next time I'm in the supermarket/

  3. I love how you made the cuppies without full fat butter or oil. I am all for low fat, delicious tasting cupcakes x

    1. Thanks Caroline! I can't taste the difference personally, and it shaves off a few calories in the process.


Did you try this recipe? Let me know what you think! Comments are always appreciated. Unless they are spam.