I hate red velvet cake. It looks totally creepy, what with it being a scary shade of deep red, and it doesn’t really taste like very much – I know there’s cocoa in it, but its flavor is rarely discernible. I made some red velvet cupcakes over the summer because they were requested for a party, but I was not satisfied with them – they were not even remotely chocolaty, the color was frightening, and they were a bit dense.
A few days ago, I wanted to make cupcakes and since I was being stared down by the carton of buttermilk in my fridge, I decided to revisit red velvet cake, albeit with a few revisions in mind.
I added more cocoa than is normally used, I added the red color with a light hand, and I made sure that they came out light and fluffy by using both baking powder and baking soda and by adding the baking soda and vinegar at the end. The result: fluffy, soft, kind of chocolaty, and not-so-scary-looking cupcakes that I can’t resist. Turns out red velvet cake isn’t so bad after all.
Perfect Red Velvet Cupcakes
(makes 12 cupcakes)
(makes 12 cupcakes)
For the cupcakes:
1 ¼ cups cake flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup buttermilk
½ teaspoon vanilla
½ – ¾ teaspoon red food coloring (I used ½ teaspoon; use the full ¾ if you like yours really red)
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup (½ stick, 4 tablespoons) butter
1 teaspoon vinegar
¾ teaspoon baking soda
For the frosting:
6 ounces cream cheese (cold)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter (room temperature)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
Make the cupcakes:
Heat an oven to 350° F. Line 12 muffin tins with cupcake papers.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, vanilla, and red food coloring.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat well to combine.
Beat in half of the dry ingredients until well mixed, then mix in all of the buttermilk mixture, and then mix in the remaining dry ingredients.
In a small bowl, mix the vinegar and baking soda. Pour this mixture into the cupcake batter and mix until just combined.
Immediately distribute the batter among the 12 cups and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pans after 12 minutes.
Let the cupcakes cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove them and let them cool completely before frosting.
While the cupcakes cool, make the frosting:
Beat the cream cheese and butter together until it is very smooth. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Add the sugar and mix until combined.