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Red Velvet Cupcakes

February 10, 2010

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner so here’s a recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes, a perfect V-day inspired treat!  I made these last year and they sure did a good job at making my day brighter.  These were some of the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted, but there was just one minor problem…they didn’t come out RED.  See I tried to be all healthy and natural (or at least as much as you can be when making cupcakes!) and decided to cut out the artificial red food coloring and make my own instead.  I did some research and saw that Tartelette had a recipe up for red velvet cupcakes using reduced strawberry syrup.  I loved the idea so I went ahead and gave the syrup a try…but ended up with ‘light brown velvet cupcakes’ instead.  While I was really bummed at first, my disappointment disappeared as soon as I took that first bite.  These were the softest, fluffiest cupcakes I have ever had, nothing like the bricks that many of trendy cupcakeries try to pass off as cupcakes.  Plus the hint of strawberry put a great twist on the traditional red velvet cocoa flavor…and the cream cheese frosting was the ideal finishing touch.  If I were making these for V-day again, I would keep the syrup but also add in some food coloring in order to get that red effect.  As tempting as it is to whip up another batch of these, I’m in the mood for something a little different this year.  I had to pass up a trip to Brazil (for Carnival!!) with one of my best girl friends in the world this weekend (have I mentioned how fun being a poor student is yet?!), so I’m thinking only a dessert with lots and lots of melty warm chocolate can do an adequate job of consoling me this Valentine’s Day!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

recipe adapted from Tartelette and Pinch My Salt

  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour*
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup strawberry syrup [next time add 2 oz red food coloring]
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

Strawberry Syrup: cook a pint of strawberries with ½ cup sugar and juice of ½ a lemon. Let cool. Strain. If the juice is very liquidy, reduce over medium heat to obtain a syrup consistency.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers.

2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.   Mix strawberry juice and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps (next time add the food coloring here too). 

3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy (~three minutes).  Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go.  Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

4. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda.  Yes, it will fizz!  Add vinegar mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake cups with cake batter (they should be 2/3 – 3/4 full).  (You may not fill all the cups)  Place muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Check early and don’t overbake!

5. Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.  Frost cupcakes with cream cheese icing (recipe below) and decorate!

Cream Cheese Frosting

recipe from Pinch My Salt (best frosting ever!!)

  • 16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • pinch of salt

With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Turn mixer to low speed and blend in powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract.  Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.  If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth).

Recipe Notes: If you prefer a sweeter and/or stiffer frosting, more powdered sugar can be added (up to four cups). But remember, the more sugar you add, the less you’ll be able to taste the tangy cream cheese!

Bonus: fun article about Red Velvet Cake on the NYTimes!

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