Every year I ask Alejandro to give me an idea of a treat he would like for Valentine’s Day. Every year all he says is “blueberry muffins.” Same goes for his birthday. The guy is a nut for blueberry muffins! Even when I implore him to think of something red or pink, he insists nothing would make him happier than some damn blueberry muffins. Because they make him so happy, I indulge his request each time. However, I usually end up making something Valentine’s Day themed for myself and friends. This year I used Valentine’s Day as an excuse to finally try red velvet cupcakes.
I’ve had red velvet cupcakes a couple times before, but it has been a few years and they’ve always been from a bakery. Each one that I’ve tried has tasted pretty dry and bland, so I’ve never been too eager to try baking them. However, after baking Classic Yellow Cupcakes and loving them, I began to wonder if my dislike of cupcakes was due to the the mediocrity of bakery cupcakes (especially the ones with frosting that is sickly sweet almost to the point of bitterness), and not with cupcakes in general. After making these red velvet cupcakes, I definitely think this is the case. They were delicious!
I found two pretty similar recipes for red velvet cupcakes from a couple of my favorite food blogs and decided to try both. The two major differences between the recipes is the amount of cocoa and the type of flour called for. Recipe one uses more cocoa and all-purpose flour, and recipe two uses less than half as much cocoa and cake flour. Though both cupcakes turned out delicious, I ended up preferring the taste of recipe one. I preferred the texture of recipe two though. The cake flour really did make the cupcakes lighter. Recipe one is below, though I substituted cake flour for the all-purpose and made a couple tweaks to the directions based on what I liked from recipe two.
Another difference in the recipes is the composition of the cream cheese frosting. I like my cream cheese frosting rich and slightly tangy, and recipe two fits the bill. It uses more cream cheese and less sugar and is by far my favorite. Recipe one produces a super fluffy frosting with just a hint of cream cheese flavor. I despise whipped, fluffy frosting, so this one was a no go for me.
For the Cupcakes:
½ cup butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
2½ Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp. (1 oz.) red food coloring
½ tsp. vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. cake flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar
For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
8 oz. (1 block) cold cream cheese
¼ cup butter, at room temperature
½ Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a standard muffin pan with liners.
2. In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour and salt; set aside. In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and red food coloring to make a thin paste without lumps; set aside.
3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
4. Add the cocoa mixture to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour/salt mixture and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining buttermilk and flour mixture.
5. Keeping the mixer speed on low, add the baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat until completely combined and smooth.
6. Divide batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check early and don’t overbake!
7. Cool for 10 minutes, then remove cupcakes from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
To Make Frosting:
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until totally incorporated. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.
Yield: 12 Cupcakes