Red velvet cake has become a very popular cake. Red velvet is a basic buttermilk cake with red food colouring. No one knows the exact origins of the cake and some believe cocoa in the cake turns a reddish colour when mixed with vinegar. I have not proven this to be true but I believe that it makes the cake have a warmer colour than using the red straight out of the food colour bottle.
There are many different variations to red velvet cakes. Some use butter and some use oil. Some cakes use beet juice instead of food colouring. But regardless, all of them will contain buttermilk, vinegar, cocoa and of course red food colour (either beet or artificial). My go to red velvet cake is Paula Deen’s red velvet cake.
Whenever I bake red velvet cupcakes (or other cupcakes), I make sure to take the eggs, butter and buttermilk out of the fridge to bring them to room temperature. When I know I will be baking in the afternoon I take them out in the morning. If you forget to take them out, it’s not the end of the world. I usually put my cold eggs in warm water for at least 15 minutes. Butter can also be softened in the microwave (just make sure you don’t over heat it).
Why warm up your eggs? I’ve read that eggs at room temperature produce a fluffier batter and helps it rise better. It makes a better batter!!
When getting the dry ingredients ready. I like to sift everything. Its important to incorporate air into the mix and to make sure you don’t get lumps of unmixed cocoa in your dough. You never want to take a mouthful of cupcake just to find a bitter dry spot of cocoa.
I get all the dry ingredients (flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder) ready in one bowl and the wet ingredients (buttermilk, oil and food colour) in measuring a cup. I also start mixing the eggs with the sugar in my blender. My grandmother always used to make sponge cake and would always beat the eggs and sugar until the sugar had dissolved. It helps with making the batter rise when you bake it.
Once the eggs are a nice light yellow colour, I start adding the other ingredients. I alternate the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients. This mixes the ingredients more evenly and quickly. You never want to over beat your cupcakes or they come out chewy.
For this batter, I don’t think I used enough red food colouring. Usually the recipe calls for lots of it but I used a gel instead of the drops and didn’t know the conversion. I’ve also used different colours to make different coloured cupcakes!! My favourite was blue velvet cupcakes.
I like using a scoop to drop my batter into the cupcake liners. It makes more consistent cupcakes. I also like to bake the cupcake trays on cookie racks. The cupcake racks don’t always have room for you to hold them with your oven mitts and I might have gotten my thumb in one or two before learning this trick.
As you can see, I didn’t use enough food colour. These cupcakes turned more of a pink velvet than a red velvet. Once out of the oven, I put the cupcakes on a cooling rack and cool completely before icing.
Now time to the frosting!!!!
I love cream cheese frosting. It is my favourite icing to use for cupcakes. I’ve also made this icing so often that I don’t follow a recipe. It is a very forgiving one where your measurements of butter and cream cheese don’t have to be exact. When creaming the butter and cream cheese, cream the butter first and make sure the butter is smooth and not lumpy. Add the cream cheese to the butter and get that smooth before adding the vanilla extract and powdered sugar.
I decided for this cupcake, I needed to add a bit of colour. I love the contrast of the white frosting to the red cupcake but I was a little disappointed with how the colour of the cupcake turned out. I wanted to add a little punch of colour with the frosting. To make a stripe of colour, use a metal spatula and gel food colour and place a streak of colour on the side of the icing bag. When you frost the cupcakes, the icing drags the colour with it.
These cupcakes turned out pretty good. It was a hit at my Chinese New Year dinner with my family and would have also been great as a Valentine’s Day cupcake.
Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter (1 cup), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (I used 3 1/2 cups)
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food colouring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.
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