I’ve long been intrigued by the red velvet cake. I had a recipe for the cupcake version in Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook but I postponed trying it because frosting a cake intimidated me. I couldn’t handle a piping bag well (Sam was so much better at it — she can even combine colors) so I procrastinated. Then, I realized that cream cheese frosting need not be piped at all but can be spread using a small offset spatula. So, in November of 2010, I decided it was time to make a batch of red velvet cupcakes. They were delicious but they looked terrible.
Today, I have a daughter who has gone to culinary school, she has steadier hands and she can pipe frosting beautifully. Alex baked these red velvet cupcakes using the old recipe and they are definitely ten times better looking than the ones I made back in 2010.
Just what shade of red a red velvet cake or cupcake should be depends on the coloring agent and the amount of cocoa powder added to the cake batter. Some use beet roots to acquire the red hue but the modern practice is to use commercial food color.
There are minor revisions in the recipe. Alex used regular red food color for these cupcakes rather than the strawberry-flavored red food color that I used back in 2010.
An updated version of the recipe originally published in November, 2010.
- 1 and 1/4 cups cake flour
- 1 tablespoon cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon red food color (we use gel at home)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar (lemon juice also works)
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Line a 12-hole muffin pan with paper cups.
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
Whisk the oil and sugar until smooth (I used a wire whisk). Add the egg, whisk until incorporated. Add the a third of the flour and mix. Add half of the buttermilk and mix. Add another third of the flour, then the remaining half of the buttermilk and, finally, the last third of the flour, mixing after each addition. Stir in the red food color and vanilla extract.
Place the baking soda in a small bowl. Pour in the vinegar (watch the mixture fizzle!). Pour the mixture into the cake batter and mix until incorporated.
Pour the batter into the lined muffin pan. It is alright to almost fill the holes to the brim as the cupcake batter will only rise at the center.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the center of the cupcake comes out clean.
Take the cupcakes out of oven, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting:
1 250-g. block of cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/3 c. of butter, softened to room temperature
2 to 3 c. of sifted confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, depending on how sweet you like your frosting
Beat the softened cream cheese and butter together. Add the confectioner’s sugar, half a cup at a time, mixing after each addition until smooth.
When the cupcakes have cooled, spread the tops with cream cheese frosting.
To serve the cupcakes, stick a whole strawberry in the frosting.
*If you don’t have cake flour, place a tablespoonful of corn starch in a one-cup measuring cup, fill with all-purpose flour and you have a cup of cake flour.
**If you don’t have buttermilk, pour half a tablespoonful of lemon juice or vinegar in a half-cup measuring cup, fill with whole milk and you have half a cup of buttermilk.
***I used a muffin pan with 3-oz. capacity. If using pans with more or less capacity, the baking time will be longer or shorter, respectively.