One of my favorite things about cooking is sharing recipes. I love to hear that people out there in the world use my recipes to feed their families, celebrate birthdays, welcome neighbors, and entertain friends. Even though it’s a small thing, just knowing that a recipe was useful to another human being makes my life feel worthwhile.
With that said, you can imagine how eager I was to respond to a request by the hugely popular (and rightfully so) foodiecrush online magazine for a “tried and true” recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes. The timing was perfect, too, as I’m in the process of making about 200 of the little red gems for John’s birthday party this coming Sunday.
If you’d like to learn about the history of Red Velvet Cake, check out this well-researched piece on Gilt Taste: The Unknown History of Red Velvet Cake by pastry-chef and blogger Stella Parks. While my own recipe is not true to the original Red Velvet cake (which was actually more of a chocolate cake with a slight red hue due to the interaction of cocoa powder, buttermilk, vinegar), it is not — as Parks would say — “a crimson chalk-fest,” either.
Nope, mine is a simple recipe (as usual) that uses vanilla extract (no scraping vanilla bean pods here!), red food coloring (yes, I admit it), and your standard cream cheese icing (I ain’t servin’ no icing made with raw eggs at a birthday party!). So maybe my recipe isn’t completely authentic. But so what? It’s easy. And delicious. And in my book, that’s what counts.
Admittedly Modern Red Velvet Cupcakes
Makes 2 1/2 dozen
½ pound unsalted butter, softened
2 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon red food coloring
1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar (or other mild vinegar, such as white balsamic)
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
6 large eggs
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
2 packages (8 ounces, each) cream cheese, softened
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 boxes (16 ounces, each) confectioners’ sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper or foil liners.
In large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until fluffy.
Mix in vanilla, food coloring, and vinegar. (Wait, is that Elmo in my mixing bowl? Apologies for the bad lighting in the photo.)
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt.
Now, moving onto the cocoa powder. If you’re like me, you’ll probably want to skip the cocoa-sifting step. Don’t. Cocoa powder has a tendency to clump. If these clumps make it into your batter, they will be nearly impossible to get rid of … meaning that you’ll end up with, at best, lots of little brown dots in the finished cake, and at worst, big pockets of unsweetened cocoa powder (bleh). To avoid these problems, use a fine mesh sieve to sift the cocoa.
Sifting with a sieve is really quite simple: Just shake or tap the sieve with your hand and let the cocoa powder flow into a bowl.
Then add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, alternating with buttermilk and beating in between.
Beat in eggs.
Fill lined muffin cups about 3/4 full. For me, getting the cupcake batter into the muffin cups is always a challenge. (I usually end up with batter all over the pan and myself.) Lately, I’ve started using an OXO measuring cup to pour the batter into the cups, and it works wonderfully! The little lip on the cup makes pouring a cinch. You can use a butter knife to guide the flow of batter.
See how nice and clean my pan is? No more burnt dribbles of batter to scrape off after cooking!
Bake for 15-18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Place on wire racks and cool completely. In the picture below, I put a red teaspoon on the cupcake pan so you can see that, although the batter looks bright red, the cupcakes actually come out a little more maroon, which I like better.
For icing, in a medium bowl, beat butter, cream cheese, and vanilla until creamy. Add confectioners’ sugar, about 1 cup at a time, beating after you add each cup. Icing is finished when all ingredients are thoroughly combined and creamy. Ice each cupcake with a generous amount of frosting. (Another blog post on icing cupcakes with a ziploc bag available here.)
Yikes! Time to go get Jack from preschool! Will post pictures of the icing and finished cupcakes soon. … In the meantime, dear foodiecrush, I hope this recipe meets your needs. Do let me know how your little Smudge likes it!