Red Velvet Donuts and Cupcakes (Low Carb and Gluten Free)


As someone who grew up outside of the United States, there are certain things that to me seem quintessentially, and quaintly, American. High school marching bands come to mind, I suppose because it’s fall and I’ve seen the tryouts taking place at the local high school. We had school bands in Canada, but I don’t know of any that marched while they played. Tailgating is another of these things, particularly the huge tailgating parties organized for college sports. Canadian schools simply don’t pay enough attention to their sports teams to warrant this sort of intense devotion, and our university football “stadiums” are little more than fields surrounded by a few bleachers. And red velvet cake. The first time I ever heard of such a thing was in that classic American movie, Steel Magnolias. And the first time I tasted it was, well, never. Until now.

But those of you who know their red velvet cake are probably wondering at the rather lurid pinky-red colour of my red velvet cakes and donuts. Ah, well, there is a funny, and somewhat embarrassing, story to go along with that. See, this recipe was requested by a reader, Carla, when I opened the floor for requests. I saw her comment and thought to myself that it would be an easy one. I thought I knew what I was doing. It’s a classic case of baking hubris, I believe. I knew that my cake batter recipe from the Lemon Cream Cake would be perfect for modifying into red velvet. And I knew that it took cream cheese frosting, which I have perfected over the past year. And I thought I would get all fancy and inventive, and put some of the batter in my donut pan for fun. No problem, easy peasy.

I didn’t even really look at any conventional red velvet recipes, since I was so very certain I knew what I was doing. I made up my batter and added my red food colouring, and even then, it didn’t really occur to me that anything was wrong. It literally wasn’t until I was taking the cakes out of the oven that I thought “Gee, these are a really ugly colour”. And then it hit me that maybe, just maybe, red velvet was supposed to take some cocoa powder to give it a much deeper, darker red. I quickly ran to my computer and looked up a few red velvet recipes and yup, cocoa powder is a key ingredient. I looked at my pinky-red cupcakes and donuts in dismay. They were perfectly good little cakes and I wasn’t about to throw them out, so I decided to go ahead with them as planned and tell my readers the truth…I thought red velvet was simply white cake with food colouring and cream cheese frosting. I thought I knew what I was doing.

T he Results: I figure you will forgive me, given my foreign upbringing and all. I can’t be blamed for my ignorance! I will say that the cakes were delicious just as they were. This cake recipe is so very, very good and infinitely adaptable and as such, I am very confident that it would be just as good with a few tablespoons of cocoa added into the mix. So, for those of you who really want true red velvet, I am writing up the recipe to include the cocoa. The frosting was spot on, there were no complaints there! My pictures show some of the donuts with sprinkles…that was just to make them fun for the kids.

Since I did some as cupcakes and some as donuts, it’s hard to tell exactly how many these would make. My donut pan doesn’t hold much in each hole, so two donuts would probably be the equivalent of one cupcake. Which would amount to 9 cupcakes or 18 donuts, whichever you want to go with!

Red Velvet Donuts and Cupcakes

2 cups almond flour
1/4 cup granulated erythritol
1/4 cup whey protein powder
3 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 oz greek yogurt
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
10 drops stevia extract
1/4 cup almond milk
15 drops red gel food colouring (or 1 tbsp liquid food colouring)

4 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tbsp butter, softened
1/4 cup powdered erythritol
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp stevia extract
8 drops stevia extract

For the cake, preheat the oven to 325F and grease a donut pan and/or line a muffin tin with paper liners.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, erythritol, protein powder, cocoa powder, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda and salt, breaking up any clumps with the back of a fork. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat yogurt and butter together until smooth. Add eggs, vanilla and stevia and beat until just combined. Add half of almond flour mixture and beat until combined, then beat in almond milk. Beat in remaining flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Add food colouring and mix until colour is uniform.

Spoon batter into prepared donut pan and/or muffin tin. Bake donuts for 18 to 2o minutes, and cupcakes for 25 to 30 minutes. The tops should spring back when lightly touched and a tester inserted in the middle should come out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting, beat cream cheese and butter together until smooth. Beat in powdered erythritol, cream, vanilla and stevia until fully combined. Pipe or spread frosting on cooled cakes and donuts.

Serves 9. Each cupcake (or 2 donuts) has 8.3g of carbs and 3.1g of fiber. Total NET carbs = 5.2g.

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  1. Jill Colonna says

    Wow. Your photos are beautiful and I would definitely go for the 18 donuts rather than just 9 cupcakes ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I'm also in awe of the new look on the website. Congratulations. It looks fabulous!

  2. Lauren at Keep It Sweet says

    The cupcakes and donuts look wonderful even if they aren't the classic red velvet recipe! My favorite part is the cream cheese icing, anyway:-)

  3. Kim Bee says

    I lol'd at this post. Also a fellow Canuck and I know they just weren't popular here until the food network came on tv. Even now finding red velvet here can be a pain. I have trouble getting the true red even when using cocoa. Some people use vinegar which is somehow suppose to make the red correct. I've done them with and without vinegar. I love them as they're chocolate and you can't go wrong with that, ever. But the last time I made them I forgot we all don't like cream cheese frosting so we ended up giving most of them away. So there you go. Mistakes happen. Yours look gorgeous.

  4. Stephanie @ Eat. Drink. Love. says

    There is nothing wrong with making that error! I think a lot of people probably think the same thing! Now, these still look fantastic and as someone who is trying to eat low-carb and low-sugar, these sound perfect for me. Bookmarking this one!

  5. Parsley Sage says

    This post made me giggle! You're adorable. And I think your red velvet donuts sound lovely, who needs cocoa powder!? Buzzed :)

  6. RavieNomNoms says

    I will be tailgating this weekend! I cannot wait…tailgating at PSU (the college I went to) is HUGE on it.

    While these might not by traditional red velvet cupcakes or donuts they still look great and I love the recipe. Going to try it!

  7. Valerie says

    I think the traditional red velvet cake has buttermilk in it, as the acid in buttermilk is supposed to react with the cocoa powder and give the cake a natural red tinge. The cakes we see with lots of red coloring obviously have red coloring added, but originally I don't think it did. Either way, I've never made one, but I'd like to try.

  8. thelittleloaf says

    Loved reading this…I do that kind of thing ALL the time :-) Or assume I know better than a recipe. Sometimes works, sometimes massively fails! Your cupcakes and doughnuts both look gorgeous though – I've made red velvet in the past and its come out a little rubbery so you have to be quite careful with the recipe. Bet these are as delicious, if not more so :-)

  9. Foodness Gracious says

    Haha, too funny but your forgiven, Like Valerie said the traditional recipe way back in the day had buttermilk and it reacted witht he cocoa. I bet yours was still delicious, you know they were :)
    Thanks and take care…

  10. Carla says

    That's awesome! And thank you so much for trying this out! I will definitely be making these for the holidays now that I have a recipe! Love your blog!

  11. Erin says

    These are amazing! So pretty too! Love the color! I am full fledged American, but I have never really had Red Velvet cake before! Want to try these!

  12. Lizzy says

    Wow, these are both stunning!!! I just got my first donut pan and can't wait to try these…but first, the plain cake donuts with chocolate glaze as requested by the hubby. Then all sorts of wild and fun flavors like yours!!!

  13. Lynn @ I'll Have What She's Having says

    Baking hubris gets the best of us all sometimes!
    The doughnuts and cupcakes look really cute though, and I bet they taste amazing!

  14. says

    I've never heard of a red velvet donut, but it sure sounds incredible! Great idea & beautiful photo!

  15. Margaret Murphy Tripp says

    OMG! I love red velvet and those look fantastic. My Aunt needs GF only, so now I have a treat I can make next time she visits. Thanks! BUZZ!!!!

  16. Becky says

    Your Red Velvet doughnuts/cupcakes are gorgeous. Who would guess that they are low carb/gluten free? I need to revise my Red Velvet cake recipe.

  17. scratch-made wife says

    The donuts are such a cute, original idea. I love 'em! Someday soon I really do need to try red velvet. It's embarrassing that I live in the South and still have never had it!

  18. The Mom Chef says

    Those are a someone unique color, but it's just color, right? And personally, I would prefer it without the cocoa powder. :) I say bravo! I love hearing about what confounds you about the U.S. I guess in some ways I had the same feeling just from moving from the north to the south. We're one weird country.

    Thanks for sharing a fantastic recipe, even if it did bloop a little. If you'd not told us, we'd have never guessed.

  19. Kari says

    Chocolate or not, these look great – and a nice change from the traditional cocoa containing versions.

    I didn't even know there were marching bands in US high schools! Wow.

  20. Tiffany says

    Yeah, I think red velvet is definitely more southern than American. I had never actually heard of it until I left Mass. Anyhow, details smeeeetails! These donuts and cupcakes have got my mouth watering! ๐Ÿ˜€

  21. Audra says

    Even without the cocoa powder ๐Ÿ˜‰ ps- thanks for your honesty- it is hard to post that stuff- i have an "oops" post coming soon too :)

  22. Foodiva says

    Your 'pink' velvet story had me smiling, I didn't grow up on red velvet so I wouldn't even know it contained cocoa either if I hadn't looked it up! These look so, so cool.

  23. Shirley says

    Even if they're not officially Southern, they're beautiful! I've never heard of red velvet donuts, but I like the sound of it.

  24. Terra says

    What a fun idea, and unique! I don't believe I have ever seen a red velvet dounut:-) You are on to something! They look gorgeous, I will take a dozen:-) Hugs, Terra

  25. Roxana GreenGirl says

    And I was thinking i'm the only one left that has never tried red velvet cake…
    I love the pinkish color, although I see them bright red. I think I'd pick one donut and one cupcake. They both look great, hard to decide between the two

  26. The Culinary Lens says

    How very "male" of you to decide you already knew to make something before reading the recipe, that's the kind of thing I do LOL.
    I love the idea of using the donut pans

  27. Cassie @ Bake Your Day says

    Hi Carolyn, I love this post! I agree with you that red velvet is pretty American. I love Steel Magnolias, on of my favorite movies ever! I love your donuts too, they look delicious!

  28. Cookin' Canuck says

    I can completely relate to your post, Carolyn. Tailgating, marching bands and homecoming were all new things to me when I moved to the U.S. I love the look of these pretty donuts!

  29. SweetSugarBelle says

    LOL, how funny!!! I used to think the same! But nevertheless, they sound WONDERFUL! YOu invented something! PINK velvet!

  30. Priscilla - She's Cookin' says

    Congrats on the Top 9, with your beautiful red velvet donuts and cupcakes! Pretty good for a mistake ๐Ÿ˜‰ We love the hot red color!

  31. Claire @ The Realistic Nutritionist says

    These look great, the ingredients are what scare me. Are these easy to get? I'd love to make them!!

  32. Nami | Just One Cookbook says

    Absolutely must have donuts if this was one of choices…. looks so delicious and I will forget about calorie just for this one. It's okay life is short and this is too beautiful and delicious to pass!

  33. Tabby Lamb says

    The presentation is great, no doubt about it. I think the frosting just made the cupcake complete. Good job on the recipe and the photography.

  34. *Jen* says

    Gluten Free AND Low Carb?!?!! This recipe is perfect for my husband and I. And these loom delish!! Thanks for posting!!

  35. JT says

    I'm pretty new at this low carbing thing, so I have a question about granulated erythritol. I'm having the hardest time finding it in any form other than powdered. I wanted to make the red velvet cupcakes and the lemon cream cake for Mother's Day, but I don't know if I can substitute powdered for granulated and what the conversion rate might be. Thoughts? Thanks!

  36. Carolyn says

    Where are you shopping? I get the granulated online, usually from Amazon. But if you can only find the powdered, go ahead and use it in the same amount for this cake.

  37. Heather says

    You do know that when you are subtracting the fiber from your carbohydrates to get your net carbs you only subtract DIETARY fiber correct? Regular fiber does not affect carbohydrates…..just noticed that and figured I would pass it along incase you weren’t aware. Can’t wait to make these!

  38. JA says

    i think to achieve the red-velvet look the traditional way, you need to buy alkaline “dutch processed” cocoa.

    from wiki…..”the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk tends to better reveal the red anthocyanin in the cocoa”

  39. Belenda says

    I have been posting and sending this recipe to everyone that will read or listen to me!! THIS IS THE MOST AWESOME RECIPE AND RED VELVET RECIPE EVER!! You have given me hope that I can now live in a low carb, sugar free, flour free world. As long as I can make red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing – I will survive! Now, as for the recipe – WOW! This is my 2nd batch in less than 5 days. They are moist, they have the perfect cocoa taste (I used Penzy’s dutch cocoa), the icing is perfect, not too cream cheesey – just perfect. There is no almond flour typical taste – just perfect deliciousness in every single bite. I made 6 doughnuts and a tray of mini-cupcakes from one recipe. I did double the icing recipe and added 6 drops of liquid vanilla cream stevia drops too. The mini-cupcakes were done in 14 minutes and the doughnuts were done in 18 minutes. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to work thru this recipe to make it perfect. I’m a long time baker and have been trying all the other red velvet recipes to only throw them in the trash. Nothing was comparable to the real thing – until now. You are my hero!!!

  40. m0b1us says

    Hi, firstly, this website looks awesome – can’t wait to try your recipes. I have a few questions, though.

    1. Why do I see so many low carb recipes that use a sugar alcohol for a sweetener, but also include another type of sweetener like Stevia? For instance, in this recipe – why not just add a little more erythritol?

    2. Why do recipes which include flour also call for whey protein powder? What does this do? Couldn’t I just add more flour?

    3. On this recipe, can I substitute heavy cream for the yogurt?

    Thanks again – can’t wait to try these and like 10 other recipes I have bookmarked so far!

    • Carolyn says

      1. Erythritol is on the expensive side so combining with stevia helps keep my readers costs down. I’ve also found that the two enhance each other’s sweetness and some people are very sensitive to the cooling effect of erythritol so it helps there too. Swerve has much less cooling sensation, but some people still feel it.

      2. Gluten is a protein so gluten-free baked goods need a little additional protein to help them rise and maintain their shape. That’s why the whey is in there. More flour will make your batter heavy and dense, but won’t help it rise.

      3. Greek yogurt has far more protein and is far thicker than cream. You can try it and it will probably taste great…but it might not rise and it might be overly moist. If you’re going to do this, I’d go with about 2/3 the cream and I might up the whey protein powder. You have to get the protein in there somehow!

      • m0b1us says

        Great, thanks! I have some Optimum Chocolate Whey Protein, so I’ll use that. And 4oz of heavy cream is what you recommend? Should I whip it? Also, I have some Kal Stevia Pure Extract, do you know how much I need to use to equate to 10 drops? Thanks again for the help!

        • m0b1us says

          For the frosting – I think you meant 1/2 tsp of Vanilla Extract – you put Stevia twice.

          1/2 tsp stevia extract
          8 drops stevia extract

  41. m0b1us says

    Well, I just made some and they turned out perfect. However, apparently I’m allergic to erythritol! This is the first time I’ve ever tried it… I bought some Zsweets and after tasting the batter and frosting, which were both delicious – I put the cupcakes in the oven – and then ate a little more frosting while I waited, hehe – and my throat started itching and my chest felt heavy and I sneezed a couple times. I’ve never had an allergic reaction to anything in my life, I can’t believe this! :(

  42. Teresa says

    Carolyn you are awesome! I too am a Canadian supplanted in the USA as a hockey wife and a fellow low-carb baking fanatic. I just love reading your posts with Canadian sentiments, especially this one. I feel like I have spoken everything you have written at one time or another! I had never heard of red velvet until we moved to the midwest and have been too scared to try it til now (ie., What is “red” supposed taste like?…weird…), but…if you can do it…so can I! The only thing I must say is missing from this post is shout-out to Tim Hortons…you know, being donut related and all ๐Ÿ˜‰

  43. Angela says

    Ever try using Red Velvet Emulsion in the recipe? I bought some online for something else which I still haven’t tried so was just wondering. I’m not sure what the red velvet emulsion does or is really but just wondered….

  44. Diana says

    Love how these look. I’m such a visual person when it comes to food and these are so pretty!

    I’m going to make them next week but turn them blue instead of red for a gender reveal party on the 4th. I’m “team blue” and think I should support my team with some low carb sugar free blue velvet cupcakes.

  45. says

    Carolyn I made these today and they are just lovely. The cake especially is the best “low-carb” cake I’ve ever tasted.

    The batter was thick, as you describe above. When the cupcakes rose, their tops stayed pretty irregular and bumpy — which is not a bad thing at all! — but if I wanted nice serene smooth-topped cupcakes to frost, would it help if I thinned out the batter with more almond milk?

    Best wishes,

    • Carolyn says

      You can thin it out, but you will need to add more protein powder to make it rise properly. I’ve gotten better results lately as I’ve developed newer recipes.

  46. Sandy says

    I just made these and the cakes smell divine! The frosting was a flop, though :( It is super runny. Any chance I was supposed to whip the cream before adding it into the frosting? Thank you!

  47. Sandy says

    My husband wanted yellow cake with chocolate frosting for his birthday so I substituted the cocoa powder with coconut flour, added an extra splash of almond milk, omitted the food coloring and topped with a double batch of your chocolate buttercream frosting… delish! Thank you for making my husband’s birthday low carb special!

  48. Belenda says

    I still love this recipe! I made the mini cupcakes a few months ago and froze them. I’ve been on a cream cheese icing kick on red juicy strawberries, but remembered I had the red velvet mini-cupcakes in the freezer! Thawed them in fridge overnight and slathered cream cheese icing on 3 of them w/coffee & cream, for breakfast! Wow! So moist, and dreamy! I love this recipe….did I mention that???

    • Carolyn says

      People do it and say it works but I think you will have some remaining grittiness. It’s worth a try, though, when Swerve is out of confectioners!

  49. Mindy says

    I must make these asap! You have a link for a lemon cream cake above but it doesn’t go anywhere! I’m a sucker for any cake with lemon, sounds lovely for Easter, is there somewhere I can find it??

  50. Eva Mattox says

    I made these today and it yielded 6 donuts and 10 cupcakes. They tasted AMAZING! Super glad I tried this recipe.
    Note: I put the frosting in the freezer while the donuts/cupcakes cooled so it wasn’t quite so ‘melty’ when applying.
    Also, does anyone know if these need to be refrigerated?

  51. Holli says

    Hi Carolyn, I am wondering if you might know of another sweetener to use in your recipes besides erythitol, swerve, or splenda. I don’t like swerve, sorry I just don’t. I don’t want to use splenda anymore and regular sugars are out. What about stevia powder or whatever that is? Have any ideas? Have you heard of any other sweeteners used in your recipes? Thanks for your time!

    • Carolyn says

      Sure, lots of people use xylitol or stevia powder. The issue with stevia powder is that I don’t know what the amounts would be, it’s really concentrated. And there are some recipes which really rely on the structure of erythritol so those might not work.

  52. Liz says

    These certainly so look wonderful even with the small slipped detail of cocoa powder. ;). Thank you for posting such lovely recipes for everyone to use!

    Just wanted to point out there might be an error in the frosting ingredients it says there 1/2 tsp stevia extract–do you mean vanilla extract?

    Again thank you for all the hard work and hours put in to updating the site and trying out different recipes for everyone!!

  53. Charlotte says

    I’ve been searching for a tasty low carb baked treat ever since I started low carb. And thanks to you, I believe I’ve found it!! The texture on these cupcakes is better than some traditional recipes! I’ve tried so many other low carb baking recipes and yours are always perfect. So thank you for all of the time you spend in the kitchen creating these wonderful recipes and then sharing them with the world!


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