Sexy red velvet cupcake. I think a big part of its appeal is the thrill of eating something you shouldn't. It's like taking a bite of the forbidden fruit.
I avoided making and eating red velvet cake for years. I just couldn't bring myself to use two tablespoons of red food coloring to make a 9 " round cake. I was so adamant about not eating the RV cake that when I was in Hummingbird Bakery in London's Portobello Market last summer, I was able to walk away. When I found out later that tourists actually search Hummingbird out for its red velvet cupcakes, their most popular item, I developed a curiosity about the RV cake.
A few months ago when I was in Melbourne, I finally had a taste of the lethal cake. Little Cupcakes in Melbourne makes really yummy cupcakes. I was impressed most by their RV cupcake. It was of medium density, not fluffy soft or dense and it was delicious. The thing about the RV cake is that it doesn't have any distinct flavor. There's not enough cocoa to stand out and the color doesn't add to the flavor. I think if you were to eat RV cake blindfolded, you won't be impressed. The whole hoo-ha about the cake is its looks, like how a red dress or red lips can instantly up your hotness rating, as pointed out in this wonderful blog from where I got the recipe. The recipe is adapted from--guess where--the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. How great is google.
Red velvet cupcakes for my kids' singles party this Valentine's Day.
I think RV cake should come with a warning. My fingers were stained when I made the batter and a spot of coloring on my daughter's top just wouldn't come off. I ate a full mouthful of the RV cupcake and am waiting to see if my body absorbed or expelled the coloring. I used Wilton's 'Red Red' color paste, 1/2 teaspoon instead of the 2 tablespoon (20 ml) required. That's 1/8 of the original recipe amount. Commercially, there's a likelihood that the cheaper red coloring used for staining birthday eggs is used, so beware.
I've reduced the amount of sugar and coloring and used my preferred cream cheese frosting, which has less sugar and more cream cheese. Making this cake'll stoke the chemist in you. There's not only coloring to play with but also buttermilk (which I substituted with milk and lemon juice), vinegar and bicarb of soda, all of which are supposed to make the cake moist and heighten the red color. If you have no conscience about using food colors, do use more coloring to make a bright red cake and against a white frosting. The rainbow cake may be more dramatic but the RV cake is classy and womanly.
Trivia about RV cupcakes: the RV cake was the signature cake of Eatons, a departmental store in Canada, in the 50s and 60s. Other accounts credited the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York as the origin of the cake as it was served in the hotel in the 1920s. The RV cake is thought to be a redder version of the devil's food cake, a rich chocolate cake thought to have originated from the southern US.
Red Velvet Cupcakes (makes 12 small cupcakes)
60 g Unsalted Butter, room temp
120 g (reduced from 150 g) caster Sugar
1 large Egg, lightly beaten
10 g Cocoa Powder
1/2 t (reduced from 20 ml) Red Food colouring, gel/paste*
1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
120 ml Buttermilk (or use milk and add 1 T lemon juice, let sit 5 minutes)
150 g Plain flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Bicarb Soda
1 1/2 teaspoon White wine Vinegar
*paste or gel coloring is more intense. If you use liquid color, you will need more than the same amount in paste/gel. I suggest that you use 1 teaspoon paste/gel coloring to get a decent looking cake. I just couldn't do it so I stopped at 1/2 teaspoon.
1. Line a 12-cupcake pan with cupcake cases. Oven at 170 C.
2. Sift the cocoa powder into a small bowl, add the coloring and vanilla extract. If you used the reduced amount of coloring, top it up with an equivalent amount of water to make a paste.
3. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg, beating until mixture is well-blended.
4. Stir in the color paste, mixing well with the batter.
5. Add half the buttermilk, then half the flour and repeat with the remainder.
6. Add the salt, sift in the bicarb and throw in the vinegar and mix well.
7. Spoon batter into the paper cases until 2/3 full and bake 20 to 25 minutes until a skewer inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean. Remove and let cool completely on a wire rack.
8. Frost the cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
300 g Icing sugar, sifted (I decreased the icing sugar by half but that gives a softer frosting so it's your preference)
50 g Unsalted butter, room temp
125 g Cream Cheese, slightly softened
--beat together until light and fluffy.