Quick Red Velvet Cake, Cream Cheese Frosting, Lemon Bars

Although I bake very infrequently, I recently participated in a bake sale for my daughter’s dance studio. In a separate article, I wrote about tips and ideas for busy parents who decide to participate. This article provides the best recipes for frosted red velvet cupcakes and lemon bars, which I took to the bake sale. With the help of my mother-in-law, these baked items were hits.

Why These Recipes

I chose these recipes because I’ve tasted them before and they are all very good.  Second, these recipes could be made ahead of time and frozen for later defrosting.  

Also, the recipes gave me the biggest bang for my buck in terms of time and money.  These were all very manageable and delivered superb results despite my limited baking experience. Each recipe has a reasonable number of familiar ingredients, most of which I already had in my pantry or refrigerator. When I had to buy items, like the baking powder and food coloring, they were not terribly expensive.  In fact, the most complicated thing is that you’ll need to find an electric mixer.

Quick Tip for Viewing Your Recipes

If you have an iPad, an easy way to access these recipes is to use your iPad when baking. Simply slip your iPad into a gallon-sized zip top bag to protect it from splatters.  

Best Cupcake Recipe - Quick Red Velvet Cake

(Adapted from the Cake Mix Doctor cookbook)

This is a great cupcake recipe with “from scratch” taste even after it’s been frozen.

1 box Duncan Hines German Chocolate Cake mix (yes, it needs to be Duncan Hines)
1 cup sour cream
½ cup water
¼ cup canola oil (canola oil is recommended)
1 (1 oz.) bottle of red food coloring (yes, the whole bottle)
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Place rack in the center of the oven and pre-heat to 350 degrees.

This recipe makes 24 cupcakes. Line muffin tins with cupcake liners.  

Put all ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop the machine and scrape down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer to medium speed and beat 2-3 additional minutes, scraping down the sides if needed.  The batter should look well blended.

Pour the cake batter into the muffin pan that's already lined with the cupcake liners.  Bake until the cake springs back lightly when pressed with your finger – about 28-30 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

  • You can store these cupcakes in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Or wrap the cupcakes in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 6 weeks.  If frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator before frosting.  
  • The prep time is about 10 minutes. Actual baking time 28-30 minutes.

Red Velvet Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8-oz. package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 block of butter, at room temperature
3 ¾ cups powdered sugar, use strainer to sift.  You might also use ultra-fine sugar if you can find it at your supermarket.
1 tsp vanilla

Place cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with a mixer on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Stop the machine. Add the powdered sugar, a little at time, blending with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated.

This frosting freezes very well.


  • Be sure your frosting is soft before you attempt to frost the cupcakes.  You can always use a butter knife to frost your cupcake. But if you want to top your cupcakes with a frosting swirl, you can use a Ziploc bag to pipe the frosting.

  • Be sure the frosting is soft so that it is easy to work with.  To practice, pipe frosting swirls on a plate or the back of a large spoon before frosting the cupcakes. (Although making mistakes when frosting your cupcakes does provide you with a great excuse to eat your own treats.  Quality control is important, after all.)

  • The best way to individually wrap frosted cupcakes to sell at a bake sale is to put each cupcake in a clear plastic 9 oz. cup and then wrap the cup in a small plastic bag. Read this article for the details.

  • Be careful if the bake sale is held out in the hot sun. The frosting will melt.

Easy Lemon Bar Recipe

This recipe is for an 8 x 8 inch square pan. Double the recipe if you will be using a 9 x 13 inch pan (recommended if you are baking for a bake sale).

Grease the bottom and sides of the pan.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  You will assemble and bake the crust first.  You will then add the filling and bake again.

½ cup butter (one stick), softened
¼ cup powdered sugar
1 cup flour

Cream all the ingredients and press the mix into the pan. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until the crust is light brown. Remove from the oven.  Add the lemon filling mixture.

Lemon Filling

2 eggs
1 cup sugar
2 T. flour
½ tsp. baking powder
2 T. lemon juice (fresh is best)

Mix all the ingredients.  Pour the lemon mixture over the baked crust. Bake at 350 for another 25 minutes or until light brown.  Cool completely.  Dust with powdered sugar.


  • Use a sharp knife to cut the lemon bars into squares or rectangles. Then to pack for a bake sale, place each lemon bar in a cupcake liner and then into a small plastic bag.

  • The lemon bars do not need refrigeration, although they do taste delicious cold.  Try them frozen, too. To freeze, separate the cut lemon bars in a single layer. Once frozen, you can stack them with waxed paper between the layers and wrap in foil.


By pacing yourself and preparing these delicious baked items well ahead of time, you'll enjoy participating in your next bake sale

Related Article

Surviving a Bake Sale -- Ideas and Tips for Busy Parents