Thursday, October 01, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

Red velvet is one of my favorite types of cake. Despite what some people may say, it is NOT just a chocolate cake with red food coloring added. I firmly believe that red velvet is a classic example of a whole that is more than the sum of its parts, because seemingly small modifications (adding vinegar and buttermilk) make it much different (to me) from a chocolate cake.

Because I lovelovelove red velvet, I am painstakingly picky about it. As a result, I have always been afraid to attempt baking it myself. However, last week I finally sucked it up and gave it a shot.

I was making these cupcakes for a friend, so I did a trial run first (not pictured). For my trial run, I used this recipe. I chose it because it used a traditional cooked-flour frosting that I was curious to try (even though I was planning to use cream cheese frosting on the final batch, at my friend's request). I loved the frosting (though I think I need to mix the flour and milk together more before cooking next time because there were a few lumps). However, the cupcakes were a little on the dry side.

For my second and final run, I used a recipe adapted from the above recipe and this other recipe. As you can probably tell, the two recipes are very similar, but the first one has more cocoa and uses butter, while the second one has less cocoa and uses oil. I wanted the moistness of an oil cake recipe while keeping the slightly dense texture that comes from using more cocoa.

This second batch came out almost exactly the way I hoped it would. I still think I could increase the amount of cocoa slightly, which I may try next time.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 ounces red food coloring
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
Pinch salt
2 eggs (at room temperature)
1 cup buttermilk (at room temperature)
1 teaspoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (or 325 degrees if using a nonstick pan).

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In another large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.

Using a standing mixer, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until just combined and a smooth batter is formed.

Line two cupcake pans and fill about two-thirds full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting (I made a double recipe)

1 pound cream cheese (I always use it straight from the refrigerator)
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand-held electric mixer in a large bowl, mix the cream cheese, sugar, and butter on low speed until incorporated. Increase the speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. (Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape the down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.)

Reduce the speed of the mixer to low. Add the vanilla, raise the speed to high and mix briefly until fluffy (scrape down the bowl occasionally). Store in the refrigerator until somewhat stiff, before using. May be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

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