Good red velvet cupcakes are elusive.
Some can be overly dry and flavourless, some TOO bright red to the extent that it is off-putting and some simply not worth eating. It has taken me a while trying different red velvet cupcake recipes until I found that I come back to today and I have to say that it is excellent! Beautifully moist and with a really beautiful slight chocolate flavour, these are topped with a a slightly sharp cream cheese frosting that compliments the cupcakes perfectly.
I have always wondered what the story behind red velvet cake (and cupcakes) is in the first place as they seem to be a predominately American trend that has only recently become really popular here in the UK. After doing a little research, I found that while foods were rationed during war time, bakers used boiled beetroot to enhance the colour of their cakes and to retain moisture. Although there is no beetroot in these cupcakes, the concept remains and we are left with the moist, delicious red cupcakes of today.
The recipe I have found to be the best embodies all the principles that I have mentioned earlier in my post and is easy to follow with no difficult or time-consuming steps. I kept the decoration on my really simple but you can customise these in whatever you wish to suit your personal preferences.
The recipe is as follows and makes 12 cupcakes. If you want to make a red velvet cake instead, double the quantities below, divide between three 20-cm cake tins and bake for 25 minutes at the same oven temperature.
For the cupcakes:
60g unsalted butter at room temperature
150g caster sugar
20g cocoa powder
40ml red food colouring
½ tsp vanilla extract
150g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1½ tsp white vinegar
1 x 12-hole cupcake tray, lined with paper cases
For the frosting:
300g icing sugar, sifted
50g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125g cream cheese, cold
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3.
2. Put the butter and the sugar in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy and well mixed. Turn the mixer up to high speed, slowly add the egg and beat until everything is well incorporated.
3. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanilla extract to make a very thick, dark paste. Add to the butter mixture and mix thoroughly until evenly combined and coloured (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk.
4. Beat until well mixed, then add half the flour and beat until everything is well incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Scrape down the side of the bowl again. Turn the mixer up to high speed and beat until you have a smooth, even mixture. Turn the mixer down to low speed and add the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar. Beat until well mixed, then turn up the speed again and beat for a couple more minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the frosting by beating the icing sugar the remaining 20g of the unsalted butter together in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed until the mixture comes together and is well mixed. Add the cream cheese in one go and beat it until it is completely incorporated. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed. Continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy, at least five minutes. Do not overbeat, as it can quickly become runny.
6. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full and bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the centre should come out clean. Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely. When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the cream cheese frosting on top and decorate as desired.