Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Red Velvet is something that has always been a mystery to me. I never choose red velvet when we go for cupcakes with my girls. I didn’t choose red velvet cake at my brother or my many girlfriends wedding dessert spreads. I never choose red velvet. I realize that I may be alone in this! The rest of my family loves it, so I thought I would investigate the hoopla and make something festive for the fourth of July.
This was one of those rare times when I didn’t really know where to start with a recipe- I mean I don’t even know what it is?! I knew that it had a tiny bit of cocoa in it, but it isn’t chocolate? I don’t get it. But as everyone I asked sang the praises of Red Velvet, I decided to start digging. I have maybe a million cake recipes up my sleeve, but this wasn’t one of them. I hit the Internet and my cookbooks and discovered something really funny. They all use the exact same recipe. Most claim an old family recipe- I think all of their great grandmothers were reading the same cookbook! Realizing that this one recipe seemed to be “it”- I went for “it”.
There are a few slight adaptations, (like I used a tiny bit more baking soda to keep the cupcakes from falling), and I added an extra ¼ cup of buttermilk for tenderness. I also used less food coloring- not because I was trying to object to my insides being painted red- but literally because I could not get my hands on the full amount called for! Every store around was sold out of red food coloring! Is it possible that everyone in Seattle has had the same epiphany as I? That these red velvet cupcakes would look really cool for the 4th of July? I had to scrounge for .25 oz containers in the multi-packs and piece meal them together with the .75 oz of natural food coloring that I had at home. Anyways- I would say that it was plenty in the end. (People who feel freaky about all of the red dye- there is a brand of excellent natural food coloring out there: India tree. The same brand that makes all of the gorgeous sprinkles and sugars I use for baking. Indiatree.com)
I also used the preparation and techniques from the Joy of Baking website. It seemed to be the most thorough in making sure that the batter was light and fluffy.
OK- my verdict is that they were actually really good- especially when they were fresh from the oven and kind of slathered with my recipe for cream cheese frosting. I like them… maybe even loved them. I hope you will too.
A few tips before you get started- wear an apron. There was a new white t-shirt casualty almost immediately (for both my daughter and myself-see photo below.) Try not to be alarmed by the obscene (and somewhat disturbing) amounts of red food coloring- it will give the batter a slightly “shark week” kind of feel…
The super cute and festive cupcake papers I used were from sur la table (surlatable.com). Double them up or stick the baked cupcakes into a second fresh wrapper after they are baked. The red color leaks into the paper when they are baking, and kind of destroys the color and pattern of any baking paper you are using.
Evidence of destroyed white t-shirt..
Oh! And also, read the recipe all of the way through before you begin. There are a few weird things that are not like traditional cake batter- and it resulted in me scraping batter out of muffin tins and starting again- not fun. By the way- I was so overwhelmed in the batter process that I forgot to take any pictures until the cupcakes were in the oven. Sorry!
Red Velvet Cupcakes, makes 2 dozen
2 ½ cups Cake Flour, sifted
½ tsp salt
2 Tbs Dutch processed cocoa powder (* it must be Dutch Processed)
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups buttermilk
2 oz Red food coloring (*I cut it to 1.5oz with plenty of red color, but if you want to go all the way with it- who am I to stop you?
1 tsp white vinegar
1 heaping tsp baking soda
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the cupcake tins with baking papers.
Sift together the already sifted flour with the salt and the cocoa. Set aside.
In an electric mixer, bet the butter until soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue beating until everything is well combined and again, fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until each is well combined into the batter. Add the vanilla and mix well to combine, scraping down the sides if necessary.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and the food coloring, completely kind of dissolving the dye into the buttermilk (otherwise it will sit on the bottom of the bowl).
You are going to alternately add the flour and the buttermilk to the butter mixture in three parts, beginning and ending with the flour. Keep mixing the entire time, and scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure that all of the butter and flour are mixed into the red batter.
Now! In a small bowl add the tsp of vinegar. Add the heaping tsp of baking soda and mix it with a spoon to combine. It will fizz up, and you should immediately add it to the batter, folding it in with a spatula until well combined.
Immediately spoon the batter into the cupcake tins. (The batter is pretty thick, so I used an ice cream scooper and it was easier than the spoon I started with). Bake the cupcakes at 350 degrees for 15minutes. Pull the cupcakes out and let them cool before frosting.
See! Still very red inside despite reduced food coloring!
Cream Cheese Frosting
This frosting is admittedly not super cream cheesy! It is more for the butter cream lover, imparting a cream cheese flavor, without giving you the feeling that you should be eating it with a bagel or something. I love it, and surprised myself with the wonderful flavor (I am not a HUGE cream cheese frosting fan). The cheese gives it just the right amount of tang, and I used vanilla paste, (or you could use extract plus some fresh vanilla bean seeds) to lend some vanilla flavor and a speckling of beautiful little seeds throughout the creamy white frosting.
2 sticks butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 ½ tsp vanilla paste (or a scraping of ½ a vanilla bean or just extract)
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 Tbs milk
Beat all of the ingredients in a standing mixer until completely combined and light and fluffy. Generously frosts 2 dozen cupcakes.
See beautiful vanilla seeds!
Garnish the cupcakes with fresh berries for taste, texture and decidedly festive appearance!
I displayed them on two white ceramic cake platters stacked on top of each other.