Red Velvet Cupcakes

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

Ingredients:

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!

How To:

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.

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Peanut Butter & Jelly Cupcakes

The epitome of brown bag lunches in my opinion is the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, made correctly. By made correctly I mean has a layer of PB on both bread slices so the middle layer of jelly doesn’t seep out and onto the other lunch goodies. It has happened and it can happen again, but I hope it doesn’t- so some poor little kid is saved from soggy jelly ridden bread and gooey lunch accoutrements.

But I’m here to speak about something much more than the standard sandwich and that is Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes. Sweet, salty peanut buttery cupcakes with peanutty icing and drizzles of non-seeded strawberry jelly (or grape if you prefer; I know people have a thing about jelly flavors just as they have a type of bread all pb&j’s must have. To each their own).

This is not one of those faux recipes that leaves you wanting the real thing- it leaves you wondering how pb&j got so famous as a sandwich and not as a cupcake.

The only labor intensive parts of this recipe are measuring the peanut butter and de-seeding the strawberry jelly. As for the first issue- I recommend rinsing your measuring cup with warm water and not drying it- go ahead measuring the peanut butter and it will come out easier. Alternately, you can spray the measuring cup with non-stick spray and the peanut butter will give you little resistance coming out. For the jelly- simplest way to de-seed is to put the jelly through a sieve and smash it through with a rubber spatula. Of course, you can always leave the seeds in to avoid this step all together.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Cupcakes

Ingredients:

for cupcakes

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter, smooth or crunchy but smooth is recommended
  • 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) softened unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon good-quality vanilla

for frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 teaspoon good quality vanilla

for garnish

  • 1/2 cup strawberry jelly

How To:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Combine milk and vanilla in a small bowl, set aside.

Using an electic mixer beat butter, peanut butter and brown sugar in a large bowl at medium speed until blended. Add egg and beat until fluffy, about 1 minute. Add flour mixture and milk alternately in batches, at low speed beginning and ending with flour mixture, then mix until just combined. Take care to not over mix.

Spoon batter into 12 lined muffin cups (about two-thirds full) and bake 18 to 20 minutes until pale golden and a tester inserted in center of a cupcake comes out clean.  Set cupcakes on rack and allow to cool completely.

While cupcakes are baking, process jelly through sieve so seeds are removed. Place jelly into small pastry bag or ziploc bag. Set aside. For the frosting, place the butter and peanut butter into a medium bowl and beat with an electric mixer. Gradually mix in the milk, vanilla and sugar. Add more milk if necessary.

Put frosting into pastry bag with 1M Wilton tip (or use whatever tip you like!). Pipe onto cupcakes. Next take strawberry jelly filled pastry/ziploc bag, snip end with a scissor (or use a small round tip) and make swirl or zig zag patter or whatever pattern you want on top of cupcakes. A lot of kids will want to trade for your PB & J.