Saturday, May 15, 2010

Weekend Cooking...Red Velvet Cupcakes

While I do bake from time to time, by no means do I consider myself a baker. Baking is too much like high school chemistry to be totally enjoyable for me. Red Velvet cake is the perfect example. It was the niece's birthday and the birthday girl wanted red velvet cupcakes, so red velvet cupcakes there would be. Off I went in search of a recipe. And then there arose the whole issue of Dutched vs. natural cocoa. I read recipe after recipe, extolling the virtue of each and the use of baking power vs. baking soda as a leavening agent, depending on which sort of cocoa you used. From the Joy of

"Dutch-Processed or Alkalized Unsweetened Cocoa Powder is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Because it is neutral and does not react with baking soda, it must be used in recipes calling for baking powder, unless there are other acidic ingredients in sufficient quantities used. It has a reddish-brown color, mild flavor, and is easy to dissolve in liquids. Its delicate flavor makes it ideal in baked goods like European cakes and pastries where its subtle flavor complements other ingredients. 

Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder tastes very bitter and gives a deep chocolate flavor to baked goods. Its intense flavor makes it well suited for use in brownies, cookies and some chocolate cakes. When natural cocoa (an acid) is used in recipes calling for baking soda (an alkali), it creates a leavening action that causes the batter to rise when placed in the oven."

Well, it seems most red velvet recipe call for the use of Dutched cocoa...but I could not find any, without buying it online, and I left it too late for that. Natural cocoa it would be. But which leavening was I suppose to use? It was all so confusing! Finally, I happened upon this recipe, from the Pinch My Salt website. It seemed to cover all the bases, with both baking powder and soda, buttermilk and vinegar. I present it here, with a few changes of my own based on some other recipes I read around the WWW.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
  • 2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 oz. red food coloring  or 1 tsp gel food coloring
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. almond extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with  cupcake papers.
2. Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a  medium bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter  and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  Beat in  eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste,  scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go. Add one third of the  flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the  buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of  buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until  well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.
4. In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda. It will fizz! Cool! Add the vinegar mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Using an ice cream scoop or a scant 1/4 cup measure, fill cupcake cups with cake batter. They should be 1/2 to 2/3 filled. Place muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven. Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake.
5. Cool the cupcakes in the tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting with cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Icing
  • 16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar

I applied the frosting using a piping bag with a star tip and added a few red sprinkles for a more festive look.

They were delicious if I do say so myself. A glass of cold milk, a cupcake, made by a fond aunt...perfection!

This is my contribution this to this week's Weekend Cooking.
"Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend."
Be sure to check out the other entries this week. As always, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.


  1. Lovely cup cakes. Not much of a baker myself, I have to say those look wonderful Hope they tasted good :-)

    Have a great weekend.

  2. Those look delish! Your niece is very fortunate to have such a wonderful auntie.

  3. yes, she is! lol
    I am not the greatest of cupcake fans..or cake for that matter, but I think these turned out quite nice.

  4. Very interesting about the cocoa. I vaguely remember reading the difference between the two types, but I had long forgotten, so I appreciate the refresher. Yes, baking can be a bit of a science.

    Your cupcakes look heavenly! I have a friend who loves red velvet cake, I might make these for her next birthday.

    You earned major good aunt points.

  5. Your cupcakes are gorgeous! Did Bandit get one?

    I used to like red velvet cake until I baked a red velvet cheesecake and realized how much red dye is in it. That kind of turned me off, for some reason. I guess I kept thinking of the red dye #2 controversy.

  6. I love Red Velvet cake. Your recipe looks so good. That is very interesting about cocoa. I have to check to see what I have and my favorite recipes.

  7. the cocoa think was new to me.
    Kathy, you can use beet juice in the Red Velvet cake...or so they say. that I did not try.

    sadly, no cupcake for bandit because of the chocolate and his mother's insistance that the tinest bit will kill him.
    He did like the icing though!

  8. What a good Aunt you are! Red Velvet cake is a fav of mine and these cupcakes along with the recipe looks wonderful!

  9. You sound like me...what the niece wants, the niece gets! :) These look YUM!!

  10. I do adore red velvet cake in any form.....I'll have to give these a try. They'd be great for Valentine's Day too!

  11. I love Red Velvet Cake-there is a yogurt place near my house that just started serving Red Velvet yogurt.

  12. They are BEAUTIFUL! I am sure they tasted delicious :)

  13. Oh, yum. I am so making this recipe ... thanks for sharing!

    Pop on over to my blog today to receive your Super Comments award!

  14. These look SO good! Even though I'm Dutch I've never heard about Dutch-processed cocoa.

    And cream cheese icing is new to me. That seems like a really clever idea. Must try!

    My weekend cooking post is here:

  15. According to Wikipedia "The Dutch process was developed by Dutch chocolate maker Coenraad Johannes van Houten."

    As to cream cheese icing, well I never made it before but for some reason is traditional on red velvet these days. If you like it more tangy, more cream cheesey, use less confectionery sugar, if less tangy, more sugar.


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