So one of my biggest hurdles when it comes to blogging is my timeliness. Which I suppose you know, as I haven’t been around for a couple of months. But other than my extreme procrastination, I’m simply late with things. I made some beautiful, beautiful pies with the pie crust I made in advance for Thanksgiving, but who wants to read about a new apple pie when they’re still working on their leftovers? With Christmas came some to-die-for coconut creme brulee, but who wants that the day after New Years’? I unfortunately just don’t have the waistline allowance to make holiday-specific specialties more often than at their scheduled anniversaries. (That and the fact that “Tuesday” has become a reason to eat my weight in whatever happens to cross my path.)
So how lucky are you guys that Parker needed cupcakes for his classroom the Friday before Valentine’s Day?
Now, I’ve never made Red Velvet cake before. Hell, I’ve only had it once, and it was at Tom’s work Christmas party. And, um, it was open bar for like, three hours before that. Needless to say, I don’t remember much about it other than wondering if I had gotten red crumbs on my black dress. (Just because you’re wasted doesn’t mean you have to look like it. At least make an attempt to look decent, cause you know those pictures the next morning aren’t going to be pretty.) I am hardly the first to blog about Red Velvet cupcakes, but when a fake holiday based on nothing but commercialism rolls around, you really can’t resist the kitsch, can you?
This recipe comes from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, not only because I love the book, but because I really just like cooking from an actual book, not just trying to decipher the chicken scratch that I scribbled down quickly off of the computer screen. The recipe includes a boiled white icing, which if you do some poking around, you will find is the “real” way to frost a Red Velvet cake–no cream cheese nonsense. But you know, I gotta admit, it really just didn’t do it for me. It essentially tastes like sweet milk because well, that’s pretty much what it is. Which is all find and dandy except that I don’t particularly care for milk. (But then, I don’t particularly care for cream cheese, yet loved it on these, and would much prefer it on these cakes. Go figure.) I encourage you to try it anyway. It wasn’t bad by any means, it just really wasn’t my bag. Plus, it’s really fun when you things are a huge pain in the ass to make, and you totally think you’re going to screw it up cause you suck at life, and then it comes together in the end. (This frosting is one of those times. Just keep whipping.) The original recipe also includes cinammon. I was making these for two-year-olds, and opted to scrape out a vanilla bean and add that in lieu of the spice. Either would be lovely, I should think.
Red Hot Velvet Cake
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
1/4 cup unsweeted cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red gel food coloring
1/4 boiling water (I just used the hottest stuff from the tap)
6 tablespoons room temperature butter
2 tablespoons room temperature shortening (Butter can be substituted, if you have “feelings” about this.)
1 2/3 cup sugar
3 room temperature eggs
1 cup buttermilk (Or 1 cup milk + 1 tablespoon vinegar/lemon juice)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda
Preheat oven to 325. Butter and flour three 8-inch cake pans, or line 24 muffin cups with liners.
In a small bowl (I used a 2 cup liquid measuring cup), whisk together the water, cocoa, and food coloring. Once cooled, stir in the buttermilk.
Sift the flour and salt together into a medium bowl and set aside.
In either a large bowl with a hand mixer, or in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening, and sugar about five minutes, or until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure each to fully incorporate each one before you add the next.
With the mixer on low, add a third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the liquid (make sure you added the buttermilk!). Stir in the second third of flour, the rest of the liquid, and finish with the flour. (This makes sure everything is incorporated evenly.) In a small bowl, mix the vinegar and baking soda (it will bubble and fizz!). Add it to the cake batter, and stir just to combine.
Divide batter evenly between your three cake pans and bake for about 30 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through. For cupcakes, fill the cups about 2/3 of the way full, and bake for about 20-22 minutes (rotating halfway through), or until cake tester comes out nearly clean. Let cool for about 15 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.
Boiled Vanilla Bean Buttercream
adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) room temperature unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 vanilla bean
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk the first four ingredients together. Heat until boiling and thickened, stirring occaisionally, for about 20 minutes. Pour into large bowl or bowl of your stand mixer, and mix on low, slowing increasing the speed to medium. Beat until the mixture has cooled–about ten minutes. Add the butter a stick at a time, again making sure each one if fully incorporated before you add the next. Once all the butter is in, whip on high until the mixture come together to form a cohesive frosting–this will take about 10-15 minutes. Be patient! Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise with the tip of your knife. Expose the insides, and scrape out all those goodies with the blunt side of your knife. Add it to the frosting and mix to combine.