Saturday, January 10, 2009

Red Velvet, if you please

Given the admittedly silly title of this blog, I thought it only appropriate that the first recipe featured on it be—cupcakes! And not just any cupcake, but a red velvet cupcake.

I can hear you now: “Red what?”

You’d certainly be forgiven if you’ve never crossed paths with the unique red velvet cake. In fact, even for most the proficient bakers it’s difficult to describe what, exactly, is red velvet. Clearly, it is red. And although the ingredients include cocoa powder, you’d probably be hard pressed to find a sampler who could pick out anymore than the slightest wisp of chocolate flavor. So isn’t this, essentially, a yellow cake dyed red? Oh, but it is so much more.

As a Yankee through and through, I suffer from the perception that everything in the south is just a little more...larger than life. So, perhaps that this southern comfort dessert is simply bright red should come as no surprise. Though the red velvet cake is usually associated with the southern US in popular imagination, its historical origins are also tied to any number of myths and urban legends since it first became popular in the early 1900s. This cake has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the past two decades--you may have recognized an armadillo-shaped one in Steel Magnolias, and popstar Jessica Simpson even chose a six-tiered red velvet behemoth for her wedding cake in 2002. Ever since I was young I have memories of my mother raving about an unbeatable, 7-layer red velvet cake that her grandmother used to make. While I may not yet be ambitious enough to attempt a full seven layers, maybe these delicious little cakes are just the place to start.

If you’d like a more traditional red velvet cake, try one with a butter roux frosting

The recipe I followed is from "Hey there, cupcake!" courtesy of Recipezaar


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 ounces water
  • 2 ounces red food coloring
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

cream cheese frosting

  • 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 cupcake cups or line with paper liners.
  2. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy.
  3. Add eggs and blend well.
  4. Make a paste of cocoa and food coloring and add to the butter mixture.
  5. Sift flour and salt together into this mixture.
  6. One at a time, add the following ingredients: buttermilk, vanilla, and water.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the baking soda. Fold it into the cake batter. Make sure it's incorporated, but don't beat it.
  8. Pour the batter into the cupcake cups. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cake springs back when touched.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool for about 10 minutes, then turn out of pan and onto a rack to finish cooling completely.
  10. Cream Cheese Frosting: Blend together the following: 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened, 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Blend until smooth.
*A couple of notes.
  • You can make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to milk and letting it stand for 10 minutes.
  • Due to the cream cheese frosting, these cupcakes must be refrigerated
  • If you can't find liquid food coloring gel dye is fine, it will just take extra-thorough mixing to be sure it is distributed evenly

1 comment:

  1. Saw red velvet cupcakes for sale at a Starbucks on Sunday...finally getting the mainstream cred they deserve or corporate sell-out? You decide!