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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Red velvet cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcakes

My workmate / almost twin Jennie has organised a cupcake bake off in August to raise money for the RSPCA as part of their cupcake day. A bake off? Naturally I'm participating! However, I'm not very good at doing decorative, fiddly things, so I thought I'd better get some practice in beforehand.

And when I found out that another one of my workmates had her birthday on Monday and was going into work even though she wanted to take the day off, it was the perfect opportunity for cupcake practice.

I decided to make red velvet cupcakes. I've never eaten one before, but I love the name and I've seen plenty of photos and loved the distinctive red colour. Well, do you know how red velvet cupcakes become red? Originally the colour was due to unprocessed cocoa having a chemical reaction with buttermilk. Nowadays though, it's mostly due to red food colouring.... and a shitload of food colouring at that.

In fact, the recipe asked for so much food colouring (2 oz or 1/4 cup !) that it kind of scared me. I couldn't bear to put the full amount in and only used half the amount, topping it up with water. Even that seemed like a lot and my batter was still very vibrantly red. It was so red that it coloured all the tips of my fingers and I struggled to stop it staining everything in the kitchen.

I had intended to bake something else after I had put the cupcakes in the oven, but after struggling with the bright red batter, I ran out of steam and had to sit down!

After the cupcakes came out of the oven (and I had rested) I turned to the cream cheese icing. The icing is normally white, but the recipe called for butter.... which naturally turned the icing yellow (Update: thanks to Maria and Rilsta who suggested that beating the butter for longer would help make the icing whiter!). I had to hurriedly pipe it on top of the cupcakes, because the light was fading fast and I wanted to take photos. I admit that my piping skills need practice, but the pressure did not help.

But the positives? Well... they could possibly be the best cupcakes I've ever eaten (admittedly I'm not a big cupcake eater). They're not too rich, or too sweet, and have a really nice crumb. I also loved the cream cheese icing, even though it was the wrong colour! They went down rather well at work.

I would definitely make these again but next time I think I'll leave out the food colouring. I don't mind a small amount of colouring, but that seemed a bit much!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet cupcakes

The recipe below is from but I have adapted some of the measures to metric and cut down the amount of food colouring.

2 & 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
115 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/8 cup red food colouring + 1/8 cup water
1/4 cup water
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Cream cheese icing
225g cream cheese, softened
115 grams unsalted butter, softened
1 & 1/2 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Grease 24 cupcake cups or line with paper liners.
Cream together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, combine the cocoa, food colouring and water to make a paste. Add to the butter mixture.
Sift the flour and salt into the butter mixture. Mix until just combined.
One at a time, add the following ingredients and mix until just combined: buttermilk, vanilla, and water.
In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the baking soda. Fold this into the cake batter, making sure it's well incorporated.
Spoon the batter into the cupcake cups. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until they spring back when touched.
Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.

Cream cheese icing:
Blend together the softened cream cheese and butter until smooth. Then add the icing sugar and vanilla extract and blend until combined. Pipe on top of the cooled cupcakes.

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