Red Velvet Cupcakes

October 30, 2011

Margaux says . . .

We have a real problem of loving things that we know are bad for us.  There really doesn’t need to be 3 oz. of red food dye in these cupcakes….they would be just as wonderful without it.  But we still do it, and it’s still one of the most popular cupcake flavors out there.  Every bakery I go to has red velvet, front and center, and I’m willing to bet they’re a best seller.  We taste with our eyes first, and that’s what makes these so tempting (and knowing that yummy cream cheese frosting is on top helps, too).

I’ve tried several different red velvet recipes, and I think this one is the best.  It has more cocoa in it than other recipes, which I prefer.  Because of the extra cocoa, it also has more dye, though, but you could definitely use less if you want.

I think red velvet is a perfect Halloween cupcake flavor…you’re biting into bloody cake, and the topping is white, so there are all kinds of decorating options.  I decided on skeletons this year, to match my son’s costume.  They turned out pretty cute, thanks to my mom, and with the help of Desi.  🙂

Red Velvet Cupcakes

adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 36 cupcakes

3 1/2 cups cake flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 cups canola oil
2 1/4 cups superfine sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) red food coloring or 1 teaspoon red gel food coloring dissolved in 6 tablespoons of room temp. water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 teaspoons white vinegar.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with cupcake papers.

2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.

3. Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time. With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring. (Take care: it may splash.) Add vanilla. Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.

4. Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.

5. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full, place in oven and bake until a cake tester comes out clean, 18 to 24 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes. Then remove from pans, and cool completely on cooling racks.

Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter room temperature
3 cups confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese and butter in a medium bowl. With a handheld electric mixer, beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla. Beat, on low speed to combine. If too soft, chill until slightly stiff, about 10 minutes, before using.

Advertisements

Strawberry Cream Cake

July 8, 2011

Margaux says….

I made this for my Granny’s 86th birthday.  The strawberry season is much too short, and this year it seems even shorter (and even non-existent).  All the strawberries I’ve gotten so far have been pretty flavorless, and when my mom went to get some for this cake, she said that they’re already gone from the farmer’s market in Peoria (IL).
Luckily, Aunt Suzy (not knowing of my strawberry troubles) sent me a text on Tuesday asking if I wanted her to pick up a bucket of strawberries at a farmer’s market in Menomonie, WI that she stopped at on the way down for the party.  YES!  I was seriously considering buying supermarket strawberries because I was determined to make this cake!  I’ve made it a few times over the years, and I was NOT going to let a strawberry season go by without making it.  And the strawberries she got were the biggest, most beautiful and sweetest ones I’ve had this year.  So my strawberry season went out with a bang!

Aunt Suzy says . . . 🙂

This cake isn’t the easiest to make, but it’s also not the most difficult. I think more than anything, it’s just time consuming, because you have to hull and slice all the strawberries. Otherwise, the cake is a cinch to make, and the frosting is just as easy! And it’s really fun to build. Adding the cream layer is a little tricky. I found it was easiest to place dollops on and then gently spread them outward to the edges.
Voila! The cake is light and spongy, so the puree soaks in nicely. And the cream cheese/whipped cream topping is so velvety-smooth! It really is a crowning culinary achievement, and your friends will ooh and ahh when you bring it out!

Best Strawberry Cream Cake

from Cook’s Illustrated 2006

If using a cake pan, you will need one with straight sides that are at least 2 inches high; otherwise, use a springform pan. The cake portion can be made ahead of time, wrapped in a double layer of plastic wrap, and frozen; thaw the frozen cake, unwrapped, at room temperature for about two hours before proceeding with the recipe.

Cake
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
5 large eggs (2 whole and 3 separated), room temperature
6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 tbsp water
2 tsp vanilla extract

Strawberry Filling
2 lbs. medium or large strawberries (about 2 qts), washed, dried and stemmed
4-6 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp kirsch
pinch table salt

Whipped Cream
8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp table salt
2 cups heavy cream

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour round 9 x 2-inch cake pan or 9-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and all but 3 tbsp sugar in mixing bowl. Whisk in 2 whole eggs and 3 yolks (reserving whites), butter, water and vanilla; whisk until smooth.
2. In clean bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment, beat remaining 3 egg whites at medium-low speed until frothy, 1 to 2 minutes. With machine running, gradually add remaining 3 tbsp sugar, increase speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 60-90 seconds. Stir one-third of whites into batter to lighten; add remaining whites and gently fold into batter until no white streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then invert cake onto greased wire rack; peel off and discard parchment. Invert cake again; cool completely, about 2 hours.
3. For the strawberry filling: Halve 24 of best-looking berries and reserve. Quarter remaining berries; toss with 4 to 6 tbsp sugar (depending on sweetness of berries) in medium bowl and let sit 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Strain juices from berries and reserve (you should have about 1/2 cup). In workbowl of food processor fitted with metal blade, give macerated berries five 1-second pulses (you should have about 1 1/2 cups). In small saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer reserved juices and Kirsch until syrupy and reduced to about 3 tbsps, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over macerated berries, add pinch of salt, and toss to combine. Set aside until cake is cooled.
4. For the whipped cream: When cake has cooled, place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Whisk at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Reduce speed to low and add heavy cream in slow, steady stream; when almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds stiff peaks, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes more, scraping bowl as needed (you should have about 4 1/2 cups).
5. To assemble the cake: Using large serrated knife slice cake into three even layers. Place bottom layer on cardboard round or cake plate and arrange ring of 20 strawberry halves, cut sides down and stem ends facing out, around perimeter of cake layer. Pour one half of pureed berry mixture (about 3/4 cup) in center, then spread to cover any exposed cake. Gently spread about one-third of whipped cream (about 1 1/2 cups) over berry layer, leaving 1/2-inch border from edge. Place middle cake layer on top and press down gently (whipped cream layer should become flush with cake edge). Repeat with 20 additional strawberry halves, remaining berry mixture, and half of remaining whipped cream; gently press last cake layer on top. Spread remaining whipped cream over top; decorate with remaining cut strawberries. Serve, or chill for up to 4 hours.