Monday, July 13, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes

In elementary school, my parents were the ultimate bake sale team. Mom's fantastic baking skills coupled with Dad's insistence that when a kid lays down a quarter, he should get a substantial sweet. This meant that he ensured all our treats were oversized. As mom put it, we were hosting our own Monster Cupcake Rally.

It's no surprise, then, that our goodies sold first, putting the smaller or storebought items to shame. This prowess was a great source of pride for me, so I had a bit of swagger each time we packed up the cupcakes to carry them to my classroom. One day we outdid ourselves with gargantuan minicakes covered in a homemade pink frosting. I recall my mom's prophetic voice warning my dad that he was overloading the box I was to carry, saying I would certainly drop them. Dad and I issued a collective scoff and forged on without heeding her words.

You can see where this is going. When my mom and sister pulled up to the school to deliver the rest of the goods, they glimpsed Dad and me, busily picking up cupcakes from the grass, with bits of pink frosting evident in my hair. In my defense, it was a hidden sprinklerhead (that, and my folly) that caused my undoing. And although we managed to salvage most of the cupcakes, my pride remained forever damaged.

For many years, I harbored some resentment toward cupcakes, irrational though it was. No matter how much sugar they contained, the thought of pink frosting in my hair left a bitter taste in my mouth. Until, of course, my mom and sister managed to swoop in (just weeks ago) with a cupcake so tasty, it should be called The Reconciliator -- as opposed to its actual name of Red Velvet. These cupcakes were the first to put my skepticism and post-frosting stress disorder to rest. This recipe yields cakes that are moist but not oily, complex but not flashy, and sport a cocoa-to-cake ratio that's balanced just so that you can detect the chocolate flavor without being overwhelmed by it. Their delicious simplicity was enough to make me think that perhaps cupcakes and I can have a happy future together after all. But no pink frosting just yet. Baby steps!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Adapted from Paula Deen's recipe here

  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
  • Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon. In a Pryex liquid measuring cup, gently beat together the oil, and buttermilk, and then add this to the creamed butter/sugar mixture. Then add the eggs one at a time, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer for ~2 minutes, until thoroughly mixed. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry.

Cook's Note: Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip.


Jordan said...

So I found one of your cupcakes in my fridge after returning from San Diego (it must have been yours, for certainly Trueblood did not take up baking while I was gone... I think)...

I harbor a serious love for red velvet cupcakes... even made myself a red velvet cake for my birthday... this was SO one of the best I have ever had...

Becky said...

i am glad you are coming around to cupcakes again! i love cake, so even in the form of a cupcake, i'll take it! :)