Who doesn’t love a good red velvet cupcake? An oh-so-fashionable American bakery import, it ticks all the right boxes: with a rich chocolate flavour, light sponge, and deliciously tangy cream cheese icing, they’re also easy to make, and really rather pretty.

Plus, red velvet is another cake that’s very simple to get right gluten free, seeing as it uses a lot of buttermilk and is a nice, moist sponge to start with. I honestly believe that you’d have a hard time telling the difference between this gluten-free cupcake and the real thing, and I made a lot of red velvet cake in my pre-coeliac days! The rise on these gluten-free versions remains a thing of beauty; the crumb is deliciously light; and that chocolate flavour is just as rich.

With all this in mind, these struck me as perfect when I was thinking of what I could bake in aid of Red Nose Day this Friday (for the uninitiated, Red Nose Day is a fundraising event run by Comic Relief every two years, wherein everyone dons comedy red noses for a day and gets raising money for charity!). A delicious red velvet cupcake is guaranteed to get people spending their money, while the addition of cute RND-appropriate red M&Ms is the icing on the cake (ahem).

I’ve given the classic Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcake recipe a bit of a twist as well, with the addition of some chopped M&Ms in the sponge for extra deliciousness, as well as the red M&Ms for decoration. A good thing to remember is that, while Smarties have wheat in them and are no good for coeliacs, M&Ms are gluten-free and great for jazzing up your GF bakes! ^^

Red Velvet Red Nose Day Gluten-Free Cupcakes (with bonus M&Ms! :D)

Makes 12 large cupcakes


For the cakes:

  • 90g butter, at room temperature
  • 225g golden caster sugar (regular caster sugar is fine if you don’t have golden)
  • 2 medium-sized eggs (at room temperature)
  • 40g cocoa powder
  • 40ml red food colouring (I use Sugarflair’s gel colouring in Christmas Red, mixed with a little water – regular liquid colourings are not up to the job!)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 225g gluten-free plain flour (use a mix with xantham gum already mixed in – I used Dove’s Farm)
  • 180ml buttermilk
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 165g pouch of regular chocolate M&Ms, with the reds separated out

For the cream cheese icing:

  • 50g butter, very soft
  • 300g icing sugar
  • 125g full-fat cream cheese (Philadelphia is best!), cold from the fridge


  1. Preheat your oven to 175 degrees C and line a twelve-hole muffin tin with paper cases. (For extra Red Nose Day panache, style your cupcakes in red muffin cases!)
  2. Keep aside your red M&Ms, as you’ll be using them to decorate later. Take the rest of your multi-coloured M&Ms and roughly chop them up into small pieces. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric whisk or stand mixer, mix the butter and sugar together for a couple of minutes until well-incorporated and fluffy. Add the eggs one at time, adding a spoonful of the flour with each one so as to prevent curdling.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract and then sift in the cocoa. Mix until just combined. Then, take your red food colouring and add it in gradually while your mixer is running on a slow speed until you are satisfied that the cake mixture is a vibrant, bright red.
  5. Sift in half the flour and add in half the buttermilk. Mix on a slow speed and then add the rest of the flour and buttermilk, along with your chopped M&Ms (don’t add the red ones!). Remember to scrape round the bowl if using a stand mixer to make sure that everything is combined!
  6. Add the bicarbonate of soda and the white wine vinegar, and give everything a final mix in.
  7. The mixture is now ready to be baked! Spoon it into your pre-prepared paper cases, making sure each one is about two-thirds full. Pop the tray in the oven and bake for around 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for about five minutes, and then pop them out on to a wire rack to cool fully.
Red Velvet Gluten-Free Cupcakes, with M&Ms!
It’s so satisfying to watch them bake! ^^

While the cakes are cooling, it’s time to make the icing.

  1. Take your very soft butter and icing sugar, and mix them on a high speed using an electric whisk or stand mixer for a couple of minutes. The mixture should look like very fine powder at the end – it needs to be very well combined or you’ll get lumpy icing at the end!
  2. Next, add your cream cheese and mix in on a slow speed. Once it has combined nicely and there are no lumps, turn up the speed to medium and keep going for a couple of minutes until the icing is pale and fluffy – this will improve the texture!
  3. When the cakes are fully cooled, either spoon the cream cheese icing on top and smooth it round with a palette knife (as I’ve done here!) or pipe the icing on in swirls using a piping bag.
  4. Decorate each cupcake with your reserved red M&Ms and you are good to go! A deliciously indulgent treat that’s fun to make and in aid of a fabulous cause.

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