Sunday, December 19, 2010

Operation Cupcake: Red Velvet

"Naked" red velvet cupcakes.
My coworkers at the full-time "grown up" job were well aware that I was undertaking the making of massive numbers of cupcakes for my good friends' wedding on December 11. I mean, I took a personal day so that I could spend it in the kitchen baking. To say that they were in on the gig is doing little more than telling the truth.

Everyone knew. EVERYONE.

Of course, the first thing I was asked when I returned to the office was, "How did it go?"

The second thing I was asked was, "Where are our cupcakes?"

See, I had promised cupcakes with the good intention of bringing into the office the cupcakes I had left over from scrap batches on Friday. The problem? I didn't have any left to bring into the office. So I had two options: I could ignore the pleas for cupcakes and pretend I had no idea that I had promised to bring them in, or I could man up and make another special batch for the people that spend the most time with me outside of my husband and dog.

I chose the latter, obviously. I have learned one thing during my short time on this planet, if nothing else, and that is that one does not fail to provide cupcakes when they have been promised.

I like to wear PJs when I bake. Comfort is key, dang it!
 Thankfully, I have been lucky enough to produce cupcakes en mass in the last few weeks. This means that I am becoming ridiculously adept at working my way through batter preparation, baking, and decorating in a short amount of time. Total time to make these cupcakes? 1 hour 30 minutes. I was a cupcake goddess for all of one evening. It was glorious.

I am happy to say that I brought zero cupcakes home. I made 30, gave one to Shannon for his patience and will power in not eating the buttercream straight out of the mixing bowl, and took the other 29 to work. All gone by 5pm that day. It was a moment to be savored.

I'm sharing this recipe so that you'll make and savor your own cupcakes. While you're doing that, I'm going to make some cookies and assorted sweets with my good friend Steph today. Look for those recipes and photos throughout the week. What better way to countdown to Christmas than with cookies? Or cupcakes...

Red Velvet Cupcakes
adapted to cupcake form from the Food Network
makes 30 cupcakes
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring (1 ounce)
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the vegetable oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla extract. Beat on low setting until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture in batches, waiting until the first batch is just incorporated before adding the second. Keep the mixer on low while you add the dry ingredients or you'll take a powder bath. Kick the mixer up to medium speed and stir until the batter is thick and combined.

Line cupcake tins with paper liners. Fill each liner 1/2 full with batter. Bake for 20 - 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Yummy Cream Cheese Buttercream
makes approximately 4 cups

1/2 cup shortening
1 cup butter, softened
1 pound cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 - 4 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, sifted

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together shortening, butter, and cream cheese until smooth. Be sure to scrape the sides with a spatula often. Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.

Add the confectioner's sugar to the cream mixture 1/2 cup at a time. Make sure the mixer is on low and that you scrape the sides of the bowl often. Once one batch of the confectioner's sugar is incorporated, add another 1/2 cup. Continue adding sugar until the buttercream is thick and smooth.

If for any reason you have difficulty with the consistency of your buttercream, you can add a bit more sugar to thicken it up or milk to thin it. Add either one tablespoon at a time until you reach your desired consistency.*

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream
You can pipe or spread the buttercream onto your cupcakes. I chose to pipe them to give them a sassy look before sprinkling red, green, and silver sugar crystals on the tops. Very holiday festive!

 *Be careful when you're thinning this mixture as you don't want a soupy frosting for your (cup)cakes. Usually 2 - 3 tablespoons will do the trick!

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