Just what shade of red a red velvet cake 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.
I’ve long been intrigued by the red velvet cake. I have a recipe for the cupcake version in Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes cookbook but I’ve postponed trying it because frosting a cake still intimidates me. I still can’t handle a piping bag well (Sam is 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, a couple of days ago, I decided it was time to make a batch of red velvet cupcakes.
That decision was prompted by a discovery. I was at Bakers Depot buying cupcake liners and additional red food color when I saw this bottle of strawberry-flavored red food color. Oh, the things that went in my mind! Strawberry-flavored red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting topped with a whole strawberry. The only thing that remained was to transform that mental vision into something real. Last night, I did.
Strawberry-flavored red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
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 strawberry-flavored red 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 15 minutes.
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.
Edited on February 3, 2012.