Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Red Velvet Celebration Cupcakes

In honor of my friend Kelly's birthday, i decided to make her something really special. inspired by Martha's Birthday Cake in the Martha Stewart Baking book

A special shout out also goes to my friend Kat, who surprise mailed me an adorable little cupcake stamp with pink and black ink a while back! She knows me so well! Kat and her boyfriend Harris are known for their thoughtful natures- always sending notes, cards and small presents in the mail to their friends. They make me want to be a better friend!

I used the stamp and one other coffee cup stamp i had laying around to decorate the boxes and make them special. (coffee and cupcakes- my friends know how serious i am about those things!) I got these delightful magenta boxes from Sur La Table, and at 1.50 per box, its an inexpensive, and a great way to gussy up a cupcake and make the birthday girl feel extra special. each box fit 9 or 10 normal sized cupcakes.

I think these may be the best cupcakes i have ever made, in style and in taste.

Red Velvet Celebration Cupcakes
I'll be honest. I'm not a huge fan of red velvet. When I think of red velvet- my mind immediately goes to sitting on the zebra couch with my grandma and watching Steel Magnolias. While the color is festive, the cake itself is usually dry and the resemblance to blood kind of grosses me out. for this cake, i added some extra cocoa to make the red velvet cake darker and more sophisticated, and topped it with an adapted version of Swiss meringue-- one of my favorite fancy icings. You make it sort of the way you make marshmallows- but without the gelatin, and there is something so appealing, special and exciting to me about using science to make something so delicious and fancy. The Swiss meringue is decadent and sweet. Mimicking a regular pie style meringue, but without the foamy jiggle. (Kelly's special cupcake had extra) You can use this icing without bruleeing the tops-- and it makes an excellent super white and fluffy icing for any cake. I've just bought some A&W Root beer syrup-- so my next cupcake will be root beer float cupcakes-- and I'll probably use this icing again.
A friend at the birthday party summed up everyone's collective feelings on the cupcakes in a pretty funny and naughty way,

"mmmmmmm..... I want to cover my bed in it and roll around in this icing with a lady."
wow... you don't say? ;)

Red Velvet Cupcakes
I adapted the Joy of cooking's Buttermilk Layer cake for this.

2 1/3 cups cake flour
4 tablespoons buttermilk powder (why always buttermilk powder? well i hate drinking buttermilk- and i don't use it enough to justify buying it and then throwing it away. so i use this for added richness and flavor, and just keep buying the skim milk i know I'll use)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 small bottle of red food coloring (about 2.5 tablespoons)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp--- if your butter isn't at room temp-- just mix it with the paddle in the mixer for a couple extra minutes- starting on low- and moving to high for a couple minutes.
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup skim milk

Preheat oven to 350

On top of some parchment paper (for easy mixing) Sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, buttermilk powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a 2 cup measuring cup, whisk together the eggs, skim milk, red food coloring, and vanilla extract.Using a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and on medium/high speed , beat the butter until creamy- adding a 1/3 cup of sugar at a time until the mixture is light yellow and really fluffy. once its all fluffy, alternate 1/3 of the liquid with 1/3 dry scraping the sides of the bowls between incorporations until the mixture is smooth, but don't over mix!

Using a 3 ounce disher (that's a fancy ice cream scoop, y'all!), or a ladle, or a measuring cup with a spout (the possibilities are endless) portion the batter into festive paper cupcake cups (i used red stripes) filling about 3/4 full. this recipe should make 20-24 cupcakes.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, or about 14-16 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then take the cupcakes out of the metal cupcake tin, and set on a cooling rack. You'll want the cupcakes to be completely cool before frosting.
Swiss Meringue
Adapted from Martha Stewart Baking

8 large egg whites (or 1/2 cup of liquid egg whites)
2 cups sugar
2 drops almond extract
2 tablespoons room temp unsalted butter (very important that it be smooth and room temp)

In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, combine egg whites, sugar, and almond extract. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and whites are hot to the touch, 3 to 5 minutes. You'll want the sugar to be completely dissolved- so the icing isn't "crunchy"- unless yo ulike that sort of thing.

Transfer the bowl to the electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, mix on low speed, gradually increasing to high speed, until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 8 minutes. add in room temp unsalted butter, and mix on high again for about 3 minutes Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Using a star tip on your pastry bag, pipe the frosting on each cupcake in little dots-covering the surface of the cupcake top- pulling upward as you go. Putting a little bit of pressure on the bag on the upturn creates little spikes all over the cupcake. Using a torch, brulee the tops until you have a good amount of caramelization on the tops-- do this to your liking. If you don't have a torch, preheat your broiler (must be a top broiler) to high for about 5-10 minutes, with the oven rack in the upper middle, lightly brown the tops of the cupcakes carefully-- it can go from looking like a perfectly toasted marshmallow to incinerated pile of ash in a matter of seconds- so like a good ninja, don't turn your back. these cupcakes will keep at room temp for 6-8 hours. after that- they just don't look as awesome.


  1. Dang! Those were good. I'm so sad I only got to eat one of them.

  2. They were so delicious! Thank you so much for making my birthday so awesome. Team Maya forever!

  3. I've actually never had red velvet. 0_o