Monday, May 31, 2010

BEYOND Velvet Cupcake : My competitive side

For JEL who spied for me, JJ, SYJ, MJ, LJ, and AJ who tested them for me

I am competitive.  Really very competitive.  I don't like to lose.  I love board games (winning them), playing games with my students (beating them, even though none are over the age of 10), and being known as a great cook and baker (the one whose food my friends want to eat the MOST.)  I know - it is silly and immature and totally nutty.  But I really cannot help myself.  I try to rein in that side of me, try to make myself not feel the urge to BEAT everyone, but most of the time I fail to squelch it and instead it rears its ugly head.

A couple of weeks ago, our church had a bake sale to raise money for our Vacation Bible School.  The organizer of the event asked all the women in our church if they could participate and bake something for the event.  I was very excited because I love this event - it always is a great time for the church and people get high on sugar and kids just have fun.  Last year I baked about 100 cupcakes for the event, iced and frosted, and packed a ton of cookies as well.  This year I did similarly - 40 vanilla bean and 40 chocolate cupcakes, some chocolate chip cookies, and Almond Rolo Pretzels.  Other women participated, bringing coffee cake, brownies, cookies, chocolate dipped pretzels, and all in all there was an impression selection and wide variety of baked goods.  There was one another cupcake contribution - a velvet cupcake. When it came my turn to buy some goods, I decided to buy everything that other people had made which included this other cupcake - which was somewhat unremarkable in appearance.  It was called "Velvet Cupcake" and although I had had enough of cupcakes to see me through for a while, I bought it, if only to size up the competition.

I sat down with my lunch, chit-chatting with a few other folks, and everyone was talking about which baked goods tasted the best.  I got quite a few compliments on my cupcakes and so I graciously said, "Oh no, they aren't really anything" while the inside part of me cheered victoriously!  I then had the opportunity to eat the cupcake that I had purchased and friend JEL happened to walk by.  "What's that?" she asked.

"A velvet cupcake," was my reply.

"Oh...interesting," she said.

"Do you want a bite?" I asked.

She readily took some and I also took a bite. I was confused initially, not really sure what I was tasting, but next to me JEL was suddenly ecstatic.  She said, "THIS is JUST like a red velvet cupcake, but it's just not red."

"Wait," I said.  "This is like a REAL red velvet cupcake only not red?"

"If I close my eyes, I can't tell it's not red."

I stopped dead in my tracks.  After all, I have my own version of a velvet cupcake that is not red....and here she was saying that this one...was better?

"I'm going to find out what it is," she said.  "I'll be back."  She went off to hunt for the master baker and I sat fuming in my seat thinking, how could it be?

A few minutes later she quickly returned saying, "I found out.  VEGETABLE oil."  Again with the vegetable oil.  I had discovered this vegetable oil trend and made the Chocolate Raspberry Cupcakes, and here it was again in a Velvet Cupcake.  Immediately more intrigued, I set out to find the baker himself.

In my conversation with him, he revealed that there was not an ounce of butter in the batter, and it had only 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder.  I quickly thought of my own recipe and began re-evaluating proportions and ingredients.  Mine was differently but not markedly so, so I was curious; could just the exchange of vegetable oil make all the difference?

JEL found out later that it was a Paula Deen recipe that he had used.  I decided however, that I would use the velvet cupcake recipe I had, to adjust and make it with the vegetable oil, also reducing some of the cocoa powder.  The result - something pretty darn special, again with the "from the box" texture that so many people want.  It's easier to mix without the mixer too, so there is no excuse for not making these.
BEYOND Velvet Cupcake
Makes 12 regular or 24 mini cupcakes

3/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, room temperature
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoon buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350. Line desired size cupcake pan with liners.

In a medium bowl, sift together sugar, cocoa powder, flour, salt, baking soda.  Make a well in the center.

In bowl or large measuring cup, mix egg, vegetable oil, white vinegar, buttermilk and vanilla extract.

Pour wet ingredients into well in dry ingredients.  Mix until combined, but do not over mix.

Scoop cupcake batter into pans.  Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes for regular sized/16-18 minutes for minis, 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 regular cupcakes or 24 mini cupcakes
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
8 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

A plate of these pave the way for lots of fun...and a bit of competition.

13 comments:

Gracethroughchocolate said...

How funny--a wonderful 1st paragraph. :)

It's interesting that people want distinctly different things from food. I don't appreciate the taste/texture of boxed mixes at all. I put down some of this down to preservatives and artificial flavorings, some to the mix having sat for a while before reaching the store, but a large part to the vegetable oil/shortening in the mix. I only bake with butter. Even with bread, where I only use 1-2 T of fat in a 1.5 lb loaf, I feel oil makes it taste funny and feel greasy, while butter makes bread plush and fragrant. Yet clearly, some people really prefer the boxed mix. But why bake from scratch if they truly desire the easy mix?

Anonymous said...

Why bake from scratch? How about lack of preservatives?

Joanne Choi said...

I'm not sure how I feel about cakes just like from a box either...and I also agree that it loses a bit of something...

but texturally - people are very very familiar with that feeling - and if changing oil for butter achieves that so easily and simply - I think it's great. And it tastes pretty good as well...!

Betsy said...

What a great idea, red velvet without the red. It looks so pretty but I've never quite gotten the point of it either!

Could I just ask - what is your frosting technique? These look like minis, but even on your larger velvet cupcakes, the frosting looks like roses.
I usually do a high spiral but I'm frosting cupcakes for a wedding in a few weeks and I'd love for the frosting to look like yours! Thanks!

Joanne Choi said...

Betsy - you may ask. it's funny. I've never taken a decorating class, but this ONE thing - I can do - roses...

It's a Wiltons 2D tip (bought at Michaels) and I hold the tip perpendicular to the cupcake, starting at the center and swirl out. The pressure is pretty firm on the bag and I move it very quickly around.

Does that help? you may want to practice...consistency of the frosting seems to really affect my technique.

Prisca said...

I don't know what I did wrong, but these did not turn out like your picture. Is the 1T of cocoa right? Mine looked almost carrot cake-y. They tasted very oily too, leaving my tummy feeling a bit weird. I think I'll try your other recipe for the not velvet cake.

Joanne Choi said...

Prisca - it is 1 T of cocoa. you might want to try it again if you are so compelled, but I also prefer the butter based velvet over this one. There is something special about the texture but I think the flavor with butter is so much better.

sunnyd said...

I love this! Please share how you make the pretty flower frosting! =)

Chubbles said...

Just wanted to say how awesome you write on your posts! And totally love how you include pictures... It definitely has inspired me to bake more often since you make things seem so easy to do. Definitely want to try to use these cupcake recipes... Yum!

Joanne Choi said...

Sunny - Wiltons 1D tip, start at the center and hold your bag perpendicular and swoop your way outwards. move quickly. I hope that helps.

Thanks Chubbles! I'm glad you are finding the blog helpful!

Deanna said...

Hi: I am a friend of Eva's and have been faithfully following your blog (and using many of your recipes). I have tried this recipes 3 times, and the taste is always great -- but my cupcakes turn oily (oil saturates the cupcake holders). I am not sure what I am doing wrong; my kids do have an egg allergy so i substitute the egg with applesauce & baking powder. Any thoughts? Thanks so much for sharing your amazing recipes!

Joanne Choi said...

Hi Deanna....hmmm...applesauce I've seen more commonly used to substitute for OIL vs...egg....

I'd maybe suggest that you look at the vegan chocolate donut muffins...(and you can just put in butter) and frost it with the cream cheese frosting...OR...instead of the applesauce and baking powder...try a banana?

Anonymous said...

I understand the RED in red velvet originally came from the chemical interaction between NON-dutch-processed cocoa and the vinegar in the recipe. When people started buying dutch-processed cocoa, they started coloring the batter.

FYI

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