Okay, okay not a complete failure. But boy is this a story. And its long. So make sure you’re sitting down. A glass of wine wouldn’t hurt either.
Three weeks ago I had the same little problem I did this week, and was strapped for cash but really, really wanted cupcakes. So you know when you get all Martha Stewart and think you can whip up something out of nothing? That was me, times ten. I only had bread flour as usual, and figured there must be some darn red velvet recipe out there that calls for bread flour. Well there was one, but whoever wrote it needs to be shot. Okay not with a gun, but a horse tranquilizer would suffice. I mean really, bread flour for red velvet? What were they thinking! What was I thinking even trying it!? It was stiffer than a cutting board, more dense than a pound cake, and tasted like paper…better yet, a napkin. It was a total let down for myself, my confidence, and my poor best friend who had to do taste testing. Note: ALWAYS secretly taste test before having someone else do it. Save yourself the embarrassment. You’re not that amazing yet.
So here I am again a month later, determined…I mean possessed, to freakin nail this red velvet. And what do I do, but screw it up again! I searched high and low, read for hours, did comparisons and sifted through endless reviews. I chose the recipe by beloved Joy the Baker, but I still fell short somehow. But it wasn’t all a lost cause. I learned vital things for next time through my research. And most of all, this recipe turned out the best cream cheese frosting I ever had! So what were the lessons? Well, allot actually. For starters, my initial research was about fat. No not my ass, actual fat. The whole butter vs oil debate. You don’t know this, but my first ever true cupcake experience goes way back to when my ex use to buy me cupcakes every Sunday morning for brunch. They were these beautiful little minis, sapped in oil. But I loved it! It was the best use of oil I ever saw, like magic. Because it wasn’t greasy, it was just…hmmm, smooth. So these days, I’ve got myself thinking that I could recreate those delicious cupcakes, but never have been able to. Then I came across Mr. Cake Man Raven. The king of red velvet, as he once was (now the reviews are bad, as with all things that evolve, aka: go frugal). He makes use of oil in his recipes, which led me to a woman who did an 8 recipe comparison test and said oil was not the best choice. So butter it is! (For now.) Now my problem was getting a rise out of my cupcakes. For some reason they never quite look perfect like bakeries make them. For one, I don’t yet have a scooper to measure evenly, but more importantly I just want a perfect dome. So I read on Chokylit that baking soda AND baking powder together make for a great rise. Voila! But alas, these babies still found a way to let me down. It all came down to the flour. It was more dense then I wanted, and had no crumb in sight. So this mysterious ‘tender crumb’ that cake flour provides is haunting me and I will not rest until I try my hand at red velvet again with the perfect batter! I eventually dream to bake for dollars, so my perfectionist traits are shining through. I know a good cupcake when I see one (as well as a bad one Magnolias!) so one day soon, I will master this darn red velvet! If anyone has ANY TIPS at all, it would be most helpful.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
adapted from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbookmakes one dozen cupcakes Note: this is the recipe I used today with a little tweaking, but I will find a cake flour recipe and share that next week.
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 Tablespoons red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 baking powder*
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Turn mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
Turn mixer to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.
Turn mixer to low and add baking soda and white vinegar. Turn to high and beat a few more minutes.
Spoon batter into a paper lined cupcake baking pan and bake at 325 F for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the center cupcake comes out clean.
Let rest in the pan for 10 minutes, then place them of a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
2 1/3 cups powdered sugar, sifted
3 Tablespoons butter (softened)
4 ounces cream cheese (cold)
Beat the powdered sugar and butter together in the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-slow speed until it comes together and is well mixed.
Add the cream cheese all at once and beat on medium to medium-high until incorporated.
Turn the mixer to medium-high and beat for 5 minutes, or until the frosting becomes light and fluffy.
Note: Do not over-beat as the frosting can quickly become runny.