Sunday, January 26, 2014

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red velvet is the new trend in baking.  You can find everything from red velvet cookies to pancakes.  Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised when my best friend’s fiancé asked me to make red velvet cupcakes for her 30th birthday party.  I was thrilled!  I love making people happy through my food J. 

After I stole her cupcake tower and pastry bags with decorating attachments, I got to work lol.  You would think I would have my own stash with all of the cooking and baking I do.  I digress… 

One of the reasons why I love cooking is because I often get to use my scientific mind to figure out why things work the way they do.  (I’m an engineer by trade).  Well, key ingredients in any red velvet baking dish are buttermilk, vinegar, cocoa and red food coloring.  The combination of buttermilk and vinegar bring out the anthocyanins (a fancy word for “pigments”) in the cocoa.   The Dutch processing that occurs with most cocoa nowadays adds alkalinity and therefore, reduces the appearance of the anthocyanins.  Red food coloring is added to overcome this and results in a brighter red color.

2 ½ c cake flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder
½ c unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ c sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
1/8 c water
2 tsp red food coloring
1c buttermilk
1 tsp white vinegar

8oz cream cheese, softened
½ c butter, softened
3c powdered sugar
½ tsp salt
 1 tsp vanilla

Tip: In the winter months, it may take FOREVER for your butter to soften.  A trick I use is to put the stick of butter between two layers of plastic wrap.  Roll out butter using a rolling pin.  Voila!  Perfectly softened butter!

Preheat oven to 350F.  Line 2 cupcake pans with paper liners.  This recipe makes 24 cupcakes.

Sift flour, salt, and cocoa powder into a large bowl and set aside.  Cream butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer over medium speed until fluffy.   

Crack eggs into a separate bowl and add vanilla.  Pour one egg into the butter mixture and mix until creamy.  Pour in the second egg and continue mixing until well combined.

Combine water, food coloring, and buttermilk.  Pour into mixing bowl and mix well.  Combine vinegar and baking soda.  It will foam.  Pour into mixing bowl and mix well.

Option:  You may add more food coloring if you like.  I’m not a fan of dyes in my food so I used as little as possible.  This resulted in a more red-brown color rather than bright red.  Some other recipes call for anywhere up to ¼ c of food coloring.

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixture.  Scrape down sides when needed.  Mix until just combined.  Be sure not to over-mix the batter.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into the liners and bake at 350F for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Note: times may vary based on oven.

Clean out mixing bowl and paddle attachment.  Whip butter and cream cheese until creamed.  In a separate bowl, sift powdered sugar and salt.  Gradually, add the powdered sugar mixture to the cream cheese mixture and scrape down sides as needed.  Mix in vanilla.  Frost cooled cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting.

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