Friday, February 18, 2011

If Cupid's Arrows were Cupcakes...

Valentine's Day - a day where love is literally "in the air", as expressed through garish Hallmark Cards and heart-shaped boxes filled with unnameable chocolates (I always dread being the one who will choose the only chocolate filled with that fruity orange stuff, yuck!) Many have reserved this holiday for those with significant others, but I chose to break the mold this year and celebrate in a new style: champagne, roses, French cuisine, and three of my best girlfriends - now that's my idea of romantic. Anyways, about the cupcakes - these little beauties made their debut two days later for our office's birthday party. Remember that scene from Sleeping Beauty where the fairies turn an onslaught of arrows into flowers? Had they been Cupid's arrows, I imagine they would have turned into Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting.
For those of you familiar with my blog, you know this is one southern classic I've revisited in a number of contexts (both cake and cheesecake). But Red Velvet had yet to be featured in it most beloved, bite-sized form: the cupcake. Now for many, the "cupcake experience" is uninspired flavor disguised in a mound of frosting and confections. For me, a cupcake has endless potential: frosting variations, cake textures, flavor combinations, decorative ideas, and more - all in one petite sweet! These cupcakes were my first time using nonpareils, which (no shame here) I was REALLY excited about! I had been picturing these sugary pearls atop cream cheese frosting for weeks, and now my decorative dream had come true.
Like all red velvet cakes, this cake uses more red food dye than water in the Charles River, so be prepared to have a lot of extra bottles of yellow, green and blue lying around. On a side note: if anyone needs yellow, green or blue food coloring, I have plenty - just let me know. This recipe used FOUR whole bottles of red...I plan to invest in wholesale for future projects, a gallon should do it. 
Other than that, these cupcakes were delicious! I went for the classic Cream Cheese Frosting, and made the cupcakes slightly smaller than called for to ensure I had enough to go around. I made them the night before, then woke up early the next day to make the frosting and decorate the cupcakes before my morning commute. Enjoy!
Red Velvet Cupackes
Adapted via Joy the Baker
Yields: 2 dozen cupcakes

   - 8 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
   - 1 1/2 cups sugar
   - 2 large eggs
   - 5 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
   - 4 (0.3-ounce) bottles red food coloring
   - 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
   - 1/2 cup buttermilk
   - 1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
   - 1/2 teaspoon salt
   - 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
   - 1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Cream Cheese Frosting
   - 5 cups powdered sugar, sifted
   - 6 Tablespoons butter, room temperature
   - 8 ounces cream cheese, cold (room temperature)

For the cake: Place a rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Turn mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.

Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth. Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar. Turn to high and beat a few more minutes. Spoon batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 325 F for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean. Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them of a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting: Beat the powdered sugar, cinnamon, and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated. Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy. Do not over-beat as the frosting can quickly become runny.

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