There is so much snow on the ground. Reason and experience tells me that just beneath all this white, lies grass green and patient, but I’m not so sure. Late morning, I sit here on the couch next to my eight-year-old son warm with a winter’s fever and resting after a long night of wakefulness. Laundry tosses around and about in the dryer while clean clothes sit folded neatly in piles on the overstuffed chair next to me. The dryer exhales into the chilly air outside and I can see its Downy-fresh breath rise up and swirl in the window before me.
It may be early March but I haven’t properly said farewell to February. I spent the better part of the month studying the how’s and why’s of cake baking using Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Cake Bible and Cookwise by Shirley O. Corriher as my text books. I tested out a few different chocolate cake recipes and one yellow cake (post on these to follow – I didn’t forget that I promised you chocolate cake), but mostly I spent time with Red Velvet – two recipes, three tries.
I didn’t know much about Red Velvet cakes until last month. I’ve had a Red Velvet cupcake before, so I knew that it wears a cream cheese frosting and that it takes a lot of red food coloring for it to live up to its name.
But underneath the red, what type of cake is it? Yellow? Chocolate? And what exactly is it suppose to taste like? I did learn that most Red Velvet cakes are oil-based and I will say that one of the recipes I tried called for one and a half cups of vegetable oil. I wasn’t afraid to use so much but when the cupcakes had finished baking and cooled, I released them from the pan onto a cooling rack only to be shocked by puddles of oil left behind in the pan.
And my before-mentioned son got it right when with his first bite, he exclaimed, These taste just like corn muffins! He really thought I had made him red corn muffins and I let him think for a moment that his mom is A-Ma-Zing!! But as soon as he left the kitchen table, into the garbage went twenty-two oily corny- cupcakes.
The oily recipe only included 1 teaspoon of cocoa. That’s just silly to me. Why bother? The second and winning recipe I’ve included here calls for 1/2 cup of cocoa powder – now that’s more like it! And butter instead of oil – it had gotten my attention. Because butter makes things better. Having a bad day? Slather some butter on a warm piece of bread, take a bite – soon you’ll be feeling better, you’ll see.
The first time I made this recipe I used a scant teaspoon of Super Red food coloring gel instead of the one-ounce (liquid) food coloring the recipe called for. I admit, I was trying to be fancy. The first batch was a little dry and a little off-tasting so when I made the next, I lowered my oven to 325 degrees and switched to McCormick’s red food coloring – the whole one-ounce bottle. The cupcakes were now moist and light and a very pretty shade of red.
The frosting is so, so good. After you frost with a basic cream cheese frosting, you chill the cupcakes for 30 minutes and then dip them in melted white chocolate!! With the first bite, these cupcakes whisper: chocolate, sweet cream cheese frosting and decadent white chocolate. There is no guessing – vanilla? Chocolate? What? Or hmm, I guess this is what Red tastes like…..
For me and from now on these Red Velvet Cupcakes are what Valentine’s Day tastes like or Friendship Day as is celebrated in my childrens’ elementary school. And so, in the spirit of love and friendship, I’d like to express my gratitude to the authors and creators of the following outstanding blogs for they have brightened my winter days. Please stop by and check them out.
Visit Badger Girl Learns to Cook http://learntocookbadgergirl.com/ for advice in the form of recipes on whole food cooking, clean eating, and my favorite mantra: Mistakes will happen in the kitchen…no big deal! Just keep on cooking good food!
Travel. Garden. Eat. http://travelgardeneat.com/ The photos of Kat B.’s travels are breathtaking. Her musings of busy family life along with inspiring quotes help me stay centered.
Peri’s Spice Ladle http://perisspiceladle.com/ Indian-inspired flavors and colorful photography help me get over my fear of trying new spice and food combinations.
And now for Red Velvet Cupcakes from Tastes of Italia June 2011 issue:
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 ounce red food color
- 1 ounce red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside. Beat butter and sugar in a large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed for 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs one at a time. Mix in sour cream, buttermilk, food color, vinegar and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. (Seriously, don’t overbeat.)
Spoon batter into 30 (I got 27-ish) paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup half full. Bake 20-25 minutes (I always begin around 12 minutes and continue to check every 3 minutes thereafter.) or until a toothpick inserted into the cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely. Frost with vanilla cream cheese frosting.
Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 (8-oz.) package of cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 (16 -oz.) box confectioner’s sugar
- 8 ounces melted white chocolate
Beat cream cheese, softened butter and vanilla extract in a large bowl until light and fluffy (I used the wisk attachment on my stand-up mixer). Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar until smooth. Place your frosting into a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (all I had was a large star – it made a pretty swirl). Pipe frosting onto the cupcakes in a curly pattern. Chill your cupcakes for 30 minutes or until the frosting is firm.
Now for the best part: Remove from the fridge and gently dip the tops of the cupcakes into the melted white chocolate. Allow the cupcakes to warm to room temperature before serving.
And finally, remember: life is short, make time to have a little something sweet!