Cupcakes…one of life’s biggest little pleasures, no question about it. Why have they become so wildly popular in recent years? Well, for starters, cupcakes are always delicious and always comforting. They’re easy to make, easy to serve, and just the right size for a snack or dessert – or even breakfast, depending on what flavor they are. (Hey, there’s nothing wrong with a pumpkin spice cupcake for breakfast…pumpkin is a squash, you know. And have we not all had a morning where we just needed the chocolate – and weren’t afraid to admit it?)
Cupcakes can be elegant enough to serve at a special occasion – like the Red Velvet Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting I made for a wedding, above. With just a few adjustments these cupcakes can be whimsical enough for a 5-year old boy’s birthday bash – like the Green Velvet Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting I made, below.
Same cupcake recipe, same frosting…change the red food color to green, add some cookies and cream brownie crunch and top with a white chocolate candy melt lizard brushed with cool shades of pearl dust …and voila! Enough flavor and fun to send the excitement level through the roof.
Red Velvet is hard to describe. It’s not too sweet, it’s not too chocolate, or vanilla or spice, it just is…delicious. Topped with its best buddy, Cream Cheese Frosting, it needs nothing else. You might say that Red Velvet and Cream Cheese Frosting are to cupcakes what Batman and Robin are to superheroes – the Dynamic Duo who conquer all.
It’s definitely okay to eat this cupcake – and have fun baking it, too. Bon appetit!
Red Velvet Cupcakes* with (Whipped) Cream Cheese Frosting
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 tsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 Tbsp. (1 bottle) red food coloring – add a teaspoon or two more if you want a darker red
1 1/4 tsp. white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 cup water
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line two 12 cup muffin tins (or two 6 cup jumbo muffin tins) with paper liners.
In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a separate bowl, use a stand mixer or hand blender to mix together the oil, sugar and buttermilk. Add the eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and water and blend well. With your mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three batches and mix just until combined-scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Scoop the batter into the cupcake tins and bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes our clean (I start checking them at about 18 minutes). Remove from the oven and set for 5 minutes on a rack,then remove the cupcakes to a wire rack to cool completely.
Make the frosting:
2 packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Add, a little at a time (so you don’t have lumpy frosting):
4-6 cups powdered sugar
Mix until smooth and creamy. Frost the cupcakes using an offset spatula and decorate if you wish with sprinkles, edible confetti, etc…
Note: If you plan to pipe the frosting decoratively onto the cupcakes, here’s a cool tip: add
2 Tbsp. heavy whipping cream
Mix it in on low speed, then increase the mixer speed to high and whip until you can see that the frosting is lighter and holds its shape. You may need to add a little more whipping cream. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or so before piping onto the cupcakes. (This is a great little trick that will lighten the frosting without changing the depth of the flavor-I’ve tried it with several frostings and it works wonders!)
*Cupcake recipe adapted from Terri Wahl, owner of Auntie Em’s Kitchen, as seen on an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay several years ago; the recipe is no longer on the Food Network website.