Hello Fall! and some Cupcakes

24 Sep

It was FINALLY cold enough yesterday to break out the jeans and long sleeve shirts! Fall has finally arrived in the real world and not just for those of us who started early with all the pumpkin and apple delights!

The good news is that my jeans still fit.  The bad news is that they’re not nearly as loose and comfortable as sundresses, cotton skirts and t-shirts.  The solution to this should be to take it easy on desserts and stop frying EVERYTHING (I do that a lot on here, don’t I?)…but cookie dough ice cream with cool whip and white chocolate chips, I just can’t quit you!

Oh yeah, and then I made cupcakes.  I need a new strategy.  And probably soon some new pants.

Remember when I told you last week about my red velvet fails and that I planned a red velvet recipe for this weekend?  That was mostly only because I had half a block of cream cheese in the fridge I wanted to use up…I was actually feeling pretty disenfranchised by red velvet and everything it stood for.

Here’s what changed that: the boyfriend went to a fraternity meeting and a sorority brought red velvet cupcakes.  He texted me about how delicious they were, and I replied “I will make red velvet that will make their cupcakes weep.”

You see, I’m very competitive.  I had no real desire to make great red velvet cupcakes.  Until then. In fact, even in that moment I didn’t want to make great cupcakes…I just needed to make red velvet better than that sorority. Plus, red velvet is one of the boyfriend’s favorite flavors, so I wasn’t going to let those girls woo him away with delicious cupcakes.  No, my friends, I was not.


First, make sure you’re not wearing any nice clothes.  Inevitably, no matter how careful you are (especially if you’re sloppy like me), you will end up with red food coloring on your fingers, shirt, countertop, etc.

Oh yeah, and buy a bottle of red food coloring.  I bought the pack of assorted colors (for variety, you know?), but this recipe calls for 3 T of red food coloring, so you will use much more than is in those little dropper bottles.


Like any cake, cream together that butter and sugar until incorporated and a sandy texture.  Then beat in the egg and set aside for a bit.

Then make your cocoa paste.  In a small bowl, combine red food coloring, cocoa powder and vanilla extract into a paste.  Cocoa powder does not incorporate well, but just keep stirring and it will eventually look like this:

Like I said, you’ll need a lot of food coloring.  Color doesn’t matter…you could just as easily make this a blue or green velvet cake.  You could even forego food coloring altogether…just use 3 T of milk or water instead to make this paste.  Your cake would be a light brown color.

Scoop that paste into your butter/sugar mixture and beat until well incorporated and then alternate additions of the wet (buttermilk) and dry (flour) ingredients.  Your batter will be pretty dense, but no worries.

Now comes the interesting part…baking soda and vinegar.

Why baking soda and vinegar in a red velvet cake? It’s tradition!  No, seriously.  Back in the day, people used beets to dye this cake red, but the red coloring in beets turns bluer in an alkaline environment…baking powder and baking soda both make cake batter alkaline, and we need them as leavening agents to make cakes light and fluffy.  To neutralize the basic baking soda, add an acid (vinegar), so the beet dye stays red! (source)

But we’re not using beets to dye our cake, so do we still need the vinegar?  Well the reaction of baking soda and vinegar also produces carbon dioxide gas…this infusion of gas bubbles into your batter will help with the leavening to make your cake fluffy!  It may help with that characteristic red velvet taste too, though I found no confirmation of this.  I do know that there was no baking soda or vinegar involved in the other two red velvet attempts I’ve made and both of those failed.  So yes, I’m convinced you need it.

Make sure your oven is preheated and ready to go, because you’ll want to get these into the oven as soon as possible once the batter is complete. 

Sprinkle in your salt, and then add the baking soda to one side of the bowl, the vinegar to the other.

Then give it another good whip with the electric mixer.  I’m convinced the batter fluffed up more with the baking soda and vinegar.

I used a  1 oz. ice cream scoop to dole out the rather thick batter and it worked beautifully (I made a half batch and got 8 cupcakes).  Into the oven for 15-20 minutes

Look how pretty!  The perfectly crinkly tops!

While those cool, make your frosting!  It’s just softened cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and a bit of heavy cream (whole milk, sour cream or greek yogurt work too…it’s just to lighten the otherwise heavy, dense frosting slightly)

The boyfriend approved.  He loved the cake…but was not as much a fan of the frosting.  “It tastes…cheesy,” he said quizzically.  “Well duh,” I replied “It’s cream cheese!”

I will say, I used Neufchatel cheese (1/3 reduced fat cream cheese), which I like in almost everything else.  I think it tastes just like cream cheese, but for a frosting where the taste is so prominent and so expected, I’d say just go with the full fat real cream cheese.

These cupcakes turned out perfectly.  I’m no cake baking expert, and have fallen flat with homemade cakes numerous times, but these are just beautiful!  And they’re everything you could want from a red velvet cupcake!  Most, fluffy, slightly chocolaty but light…you will love these, and how easy they are to make!


Red Velvet Cupcakes w/Cream Cheese Frosting
Slightly Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
Makes 12-14 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes
4 T unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
3 T red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup + 2 T all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 T distilled white vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting
6 oz cream cheese (use full fat), room temperature
4 oz (1 stick) butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 T vanilla extract
2 tsp heavy cream (can also use whole milk, sour cream or greek yogurt)

I’m going to tell you what I did, see Brown Eyed Baker’s recipe for more detail/what to do if you have a stand mixer:

  • Preheat oven to 350 F and line a standard muffin/cupcake pan with cupcake liners
  • Cream together the butter and sugar until incorporated, and a fluffy/pebbly texture, then beat in eggs until light colored, liquidy and well combined.
  • In a separate, small bowl, stir together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring until it turns into a paste (it will take a little while, but just keep stirring)
  • Beat your chocolate paste into the butter/egg/sugar mixture
  • Slowly alternate additions of buttermilk and flour: beat in half the buttermilk, then the flour, buttermilk and flour. Scrape down the bowl as necessary, and beat until smooth (I used the hand mixer the whole time)
  • Add salt, then baking soda to one side of the bowl and vinegar to the other
  • Give the batter a final mix with the mixer at high speed for a minute or so
  • Divide the mixture evenly among cupcake liners (I used a 1 oz ice cream scoop and got 8 cakes), and bake 15-20 minutes until the tops are set and a toothpick inserted into the center of the biggest one comes out clean
  • Allow cupcakes to cool about a half hour before frosting
  • To make frosting: cream together butter and cream cheese until smooth, then slowly beat in powdered sugar.  With mixer on high speed, beat in heavy cream and vanilla for about 5 minutes.

One Response to “Hello Fall! and some Cupcakes”

  1. andrewmargason@cox.net September 24, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    They were yummy! Make more!!

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