It’s my opinion you don’t need a special event to make a batch of cupcakes. However, having a special occasion makes you feel better about baking and eating, and in times of seasonal depression we need all the help we can get. So if you are going to bake cupcakes, do what I do and make up a celebratory reason- “First Bitterly Cold Day of the Year Day,” “Holiday Card Day,” “Wear Black Pants Day,” “Everyone in the Office Gets a Cupcake Day.” You get the idea.
I decided to make red velvet cupcakes because a) they are red (it’s the holiday season), b) chocolate is always a hit flavor and c) my friend Lindsay absolutely loves them. Oh, and it’s “Lindsay is Going Abroad for Two Weeks Day.” Clearly they were essential for the occasion.
In the event you need a real reason to bake cupcakes or a cake, and that reason is an actual party, red velvet is perfect. Perhaps its just the word velvet in the title, but there is something seductive about red cake- the color is sexy and they are overtly tempting. I’m quite certain no is able to resist them. The fact the flavor is chocolate but the cake is red is alluring in some odd “you shouldn’t be this way but I love you anyhow” way.
I pair red velvet with cream cheese frosting. The buttermilk richness of the cake and the cream cheesy frosting go so well together. It adds another layer of luxury and let’s be honest, when you are eating a cupcake it should be complete decadence. So I say go for it whether you have a party, holiday, or random reason (“Use a New Pen Day”?). I highly urge you to celebrate with a batch of these ravishing scarlets.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
for the cake
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons red food coloring
- 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk*, room temperature
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/4 teaspoons white distilled vinegar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
for the frosting
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2 cups plus more (generally 1 cup) powdered sugar
* Make your own buttermilk: Combine 1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice with enough milk to measure 1 cup. Let sit 5 minutes. You have buttermilk!
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour and salt. In a small separate bowl, combine food coloring and cocoa powder to form a paste.
In a large bowl (or an electric mixer with the paddle attachment) beat together the sugar and oil until well combined. Add eggs and mix. Add the buttermilk, vanilla, and water; mix. Add the cocoa paste and mix. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and combine until smooth, but take care not to over-mix. It will make the batter tough and no one wants a chewy cupcake. In a small bowl (I recommend washing out bowl you mixed the paste in) mix vinegar and baking soda and watch, feeling like a mad scientist, until the fizzing stops. Add vinegar mixture to the cake batter and gently yet thoroughly combine.
Use an ice cream scoop to fill cupcakes tins about 3/4 full. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in middle of cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.
For the frosting, mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla until smooth. With mixer on low, add 1 cup of powdered sugar. Slowly add remaining sugar until 1/2 cup at a time until spreading consistency is reached.
Dollop 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons frosting onto a completely cooled cupcake. With a bent icing knife, smooth frosting onto top of cupcake and finish in a swirl motion. Continue frosting the rest of the cupcakes. Enjoy!
Note: For fluffier cupcakes, use about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon baking powder.