I’m mad at these cupcakes… and I rarely get angry with desserts. These little suckers, however, really frustrated me. Not that they’re bland or difficult to make or anything, they’re actually very easy and delicious… What drove me crazy is that after THREE attempts, I still couldn’t achieve the toxic red for which I had hoped. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all Italy’s fault. There must be something different about the dye here, or the cocoa, or the cupcake tins, it just can’t be that hard to make a cupcake red! I followed two different recipes to a T (and very it’s hard for me to precisely follow recipes). The first batch came out a pale, beige-ish pink that looked about as appetizing as a band-aid, the second batch called for more cocoa powder which turned the cupcakes a deep, velvety brown. On my third attempt I doubled the red dye but still only achieved a reddish chocolatey-brown. Of course, this didn’t stop me, or my friends, from devouring every last cupcake. They’re moist and flavorful, and cream-cheese icing is absolutely divine… and who really need their cupcakes to be red anyway?
“Red” Velvet Valentine Cupcakes:
Adapted from “The Confetti Cakes Cookbook” by Elisa Strauss from this New York Times article.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 3 1/2 cups cake flour
- 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 cups canola oil
- 2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring or 1 teaspoon red gel food coloring dissolved in 6 tablespoons of water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar
- 18 raspberries, for decorating
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 18 muffin tins with cupcake papers and set aside.
2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring and vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
5. Divide batter among cupcake pans, only filling them up 3/4 of the way, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before frosting. Makes about 18 cupcakes.
Cream Cheese Icing:
- 8 ounces / 250 g cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 stick / 115 g unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3 cups / 360 g confectioner’s sugar, sifted
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar vanilla and salt. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using. Makes 6 cups – you’ll have extra!