Friday, December 11, 2009

The Velvet Cupcake: Testing my limits

For JEL, who gave me the challenge, and for all my g-friends who love red velvet (even if I don't understand why)

I am not a lover of the Red Velvet Cupcake. I've never been intrigued by it, interested it or in any way have found it appealing. It is, however, a great favorite among a number of my girlfriends, and I have just not been able to understand why. I DO NOT like the color - it scares me, as I try to avoid artificial colors and flavors, as a general rule. I think they make Daughters a bit bonkers, and on top of it, older Daughter has eczema flare-ups when she consumes artificial colors and flavors (like in commercial candies and processed foods.) So I avoid it. But even then, the bright red color never appealed.

But when best friend JEL tells me to do something , I generally ask, "How high?" She particularly enjoys giving me random challenges like, "I want you to try and come up with a red velvet cupcake recipe or find one."

"NO. I don't do artificial colors," I said adamantly.

"But it's my favorite, and you don't have to put the colors in there," she countered.

So I found myself doing a bit of research, asking my g-friends who adore the cupcake. What about it is so appealing? Why do you like it so much? Texture of cake? Color? I even went as far to ask the question, "Does a red velvet cupcake need to be red?"

Then one friend said, "Just make a NOT Red Velvet Cupcake" and I was immediately struck by the notion. I liked it. Have the light cocoa background flavor in the cake, a great cake texture, BUT - just don't make it red. SO I went with it. Then another friend suggested that instead of calling it the Not Red Velvet, that I should call it "The Velvet Cupcake." I loved here I am with Velvet Cupcake in my repertoire.

I'll confess - the first batch of these didn't come out that well because my baking technique. I didn't follow my gut in terms of how I would execute a normal cupcake so the first attempt was less than wonderful. The frosting, however, was great. My second round was perfect, lightly chocolate, moist, and the perfect foil to vanilla cream cheese frosting.
The Velvet Cupcake
Makes 12

3/4 stick of butter (6 tablespoons), room temperature
3/4 cup of sugar
1 egg, room temperature
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350. In the large bowl of a mixer, cream butter. Add sugar and cream together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg, and beat well. Scrape down the sides and make sure the egg is well incorporated.

In a medium bowl, mix together cocoa powder, flour, salt and baking soda. Set aside.

In bowl, or large measuring cup, mix vanilla extract, white vinegar, and buttermilk. Set aside.

To your butter sugar mixture, add half of the flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Add half of the buttermilk mixture. Beat again until just combined. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beat, and then add the rest of the buttermilk. Beat until just combined.

Scoop cupcake batter into pans. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes, or until centers spring back lightly when pushed. Remover from oven, and allow to cool in pans 10 minutes. Remove from pans and allow to cool completely.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Enough for 12 cupcakes
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
4 oz (half a stick of butter) unsalted butter, room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped OR 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (the vanilla extract DOES color the frosting so it loses it's pure white color, while the vanilla bean will just fleck the frosting with beautiful black dots...the vanilla bean is my preference.)

In bowl, cream together cream cheese and butter, until uniformly combined. Add vanilla extract/vanilla bean and mix. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time until desired pipeable or spreadable texture is met.

Printable recipe

I am ready to eat these

My next cupcake carrier...saw these at Costco as well and loved the design. (holds 36 cupcakes)

My choice of vanilla bean. Excellent service from the company and usually free shipping.


Gracethroughchocolate said...

These are very, very beautiful! I'm also not a fan of artificial colors--artificial flavors and preservatives are also not great, but to me they seem to make a little more sense.

Did you use a star tip to make the outer circle of petals on your roses? That's very clever! If I may ask, how did you get the circle to close so neatly?

LOVE your blog.

Joanne Choi said...

Gracethroughchocolate - I used a Wiltons 2D star tip for the frosting and did not change the tip- I started in the center and swooped around and around and finished at the outside of the cupcake. I was experimenting and it ended up looking like the roses you see in the picture...give it a try...very easy.

Gracethroughchocolate said...

Thank you, Joanne! I really appreciate your (star) tip!

Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets said...

These are really lovely! I recently made mine without food coloring as well (ok, a tiny bit in the frosting but for a good cause) and they didn't turn out well. Thanks for the info about the frosting technique. I wish more bloggers would detail such methods :).

Electra Maven said...

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lostpastremembered said...

I really must learn how to use a pastry are a master! What a gorgeous crown of frosting That said, the cupcakes read delicious... thanks for the inspiration.

Joanne Choi said...

I am not a master of frosting - AT ALL...but the tip (wiltons 2D) and the way I frosted them (start at the center and slowly make circles towards the outside of the cupcake) made these look as they did. It is REALLY simple, so get a pastry bag and try it.

Grace said...

i agree--synthetic food coloring is frightening. and honestly--isn't brown velvet just as luscious and lovely as red velvet? i know the cupcakes would be equally delicious. decadently-done! :)

oneordinaryday said...

I totally agree about the red color. I just don't really get it, though I did give it a try once in the form of a cake roll.
Have to tell you that your piping is gorgeous! Who needs a bright red cupcake with that frosting anyway??

jenny+3 said...

OK. I am one of the fortunate few who have enjoyed these. They don't taste quite like red velvet, but are definitely one of my top three favs. They are perfect. No need to add the artificial stuff. Fab Joanne, as always. And...the frosting tastes as good as it looks.

Meliha said...

These look great!


sunnyd said...

Do you have to use an electric mixer to make the frosting? I did it by hand and the frosting did NOT look like yours! I even bought the 2D tip at Michael's. The frosting looked less than appealing and I thought it was really sweet. Please advise.... thank you! =)

Joanne Choi said...

you don't have to use a stand mixer. You can use a hand mixer. It may be a case of over or under beating. I prefer more butter and my cream cheese more on the colder side - beatable and smooth but not so warm and smooshy. You may have to play with balancing that temperature in order to get the frosting the way you want.

sunnyd said...

Joanne, I followed your advice. They came out perfect! I made them for my daughter's birthday and posted a pic on your Facebook page.

bg said...

This recipe is fantastic! We're already on our second batch in three days. Is it possible to double the recipe? Because a dozen cupcakes just aren't enough in our household. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

i LOVE the frosting, so pretty and looks like a rose. I've seen it on other blogs, but have never found out what the piping tip used was. Thank you so much for letting us know, and again, this is GORGEOUS!

tania said...

Is baking soda the same as Bi-Carb Soda or Baking Powder????

Anonymous said...

The red coloring actually comes from the reaction of the vinegar and the buttermilk found in most recipes. A good baker probably wouldn't use food coloring to make it a "red" velvet cake.


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