I figured my next baking post should be about the best recipe I’ve made this year, so far: Red Velvet Cupcakes.
I’ve made this recipe three times so far – twice as cupcakes and once as two mini two-layer cakes. It’s been delicious every time. It’s most delicious as cupcakes though – the best cupcakes I’ve ever made. I foresee them becoming a staple for birthdays and whenever I have guests over. (So come with a sweet tooth in April, Emma!)
I usually bring any sweets I bake into work to share. Otherwise it’d be impossible to balance my goal of baking more with my New Year’s Resolution of eating better and getting in shape. These cupcakes are the most popular thing I’ve brought in so far. I brought them in for Ryan’s birthday and people absolutely love them. Many people said I should open a bakery and two people said it was the best cupcake they’ve ever had in their life. So these were very popular. :)
The recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book. The recipe is for layer cakes, but I use it for cupcakes too and adjust the baking time.
This recipe uses buttermilk, which is a key reason why it’s so fantastic. It may seem annoying to buy a quart of buttermilk just for this recipe, but once you have buttermilk you can make all sorts of fantastic recipes like buttermilk biscuits and homemade buttermilk pancakes. I’ll post recipes for those soon too. (By the way, the only buttermilk I could find at Meijer or the A&P was lowfat buttermilk, which worked just fine.)
Here’s the ingredients, and the steps which I’ve somewhat reworded and added in my own tips.
2 tablespoons natural cocoa powder*
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup buttermilk (room temperature)
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) red food coloring (this is an entire bottle of McCormick brand food coloring, which is the only brand I’ve seen at any chain supermarket)
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces and softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
*For the cake to have the proper rise and color, you must use natural cocoa powder, do not substitute dutch processed cocoa. The two standard supermarket brands (Nestle and Hershey’s) are natural cocoa powder and work fine.
1. Adjust the oven rank to the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the cupcake pans with liners. (This recipe makes about 24 cupcakes.) If you’d like to make a layer cake instead, grease two 9-inch cake pans and dust with some cocoa powder. Then line the bottoms with parchment paper, cut to fit perfectly in the bottom of the pan.
2. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a medium bowl. In another medium bowl whisk the buttermilk, eggs, vinegar, and vanilla together. In a small bowl mix the cocoa powder with the red food coloring to form a smooth paste. In all my experiences it took a lot of stirring to get the food coloring to combine with the cocoa powder. For a few minutes it looked like the food coloring would never absorb all the powder. But it does, so just stick with it and suddenly it will all combine very quickly.
3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 to 6 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in one-third of the flour mixture, followed by half of the buttermilk mixture. Repeat with half of the remaining flour and the remaining buttermilk mixture. Beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Beat in the cocoa mixture until the batter is uniform.
4. Give the batter a final stir with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly combined. Fill cupcake liners/pans to about 2/3 or 3/4 full. I like to use an ice cream scoop to make sure the cupcakes are all the same size, and so it’s easier to fill the liners.
5. Bake the cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, about 15 minutes. (If you’re making the layer cakes, the baking time is about 25 minutes, and you should rotate the pans about half way through).
6. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, and then carefully remove from the pans.
7. Frost the cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. You could also use a vanilla frosting, or vanilla buttercream, but I definitely prefer Cream Cheese frosting, and it’s the traditional frosting for Red Velvet. :)
MY TWO MOST IMPORTANT TIPS
The two most important things you need to do to ensure moist, delicious cupcakes are:
1. Make sure you DO NOT over-mix the batter once the flour is added. Whisk away at the flour when combining the dry ingredients. Don’t worry about the liquid buttercream mixture – whisk as much as you want there too. But once you hit step 3 and start combining everything together it is very important not to overmix. When you’re alternating the dry and wet ingredients into the large bowl, don’t feel the need to mix everything so that it all looks uniform – alternate the ingredients and mix, but just a bit to get the new addition somewhat mixed in a little. Then add the next. Once you have all the ingredients in, mix until it’s mostly uniform, but keep in mind you’ll be doing more mixing to add the food coloring mixture, so that’s the first time when your batter should really all look like one, uniform thing. (Not over-mixing once the flour is added to the wet ingredients is a key tip for most recipes, and especially in this one.) I have a wonderful KitchenAid stand mixer (that will come in VERY handy for making the frosting) but for this recipe I use my small hand mixer to ensure that I don’t over-mix.
2. DO NOT over-bake. I found the baking time to be 15 minutes for my oven, but the first time you try this I recommend peeking at them at 12 or 13 minutes to see how they are. Once they don’t look liquid on the tops anymore and have peaked you can pull them out to test them. The toothpick or tester shouldn’t come out with batter on it, but it will have quite a few moist crumbs. This is good, and it’s probably done at this point. Over-baking will lead to drier cupcakes, and Red Velvets must be moist!
Well, there you have it! The best cupcakes I’ve ever made. :) If you try this recipe I’d love it if you’d comment and let me know how they turned out for you, and how you liked them.
As much as I love this recipe, I’m determined to try a few more Red Velvet recipes to compare. This was the first one I tried and I feel like it’s perfect. (America’s Test Kitchen’s recipes often are perfect.) So I will try a few other recipes, including the one in my Magnolia Bakery cook book, for testing. :) I’ll let you know how those turn out.
I wish I had a better photo of the insides of these cupcakes, but I only have one I took in low light on my iPhone while my little brother was eating one. It’s better than nothing though, so I’ll post it for now and next time I make this recipe I’ll take and post more photos.
Here’s the iPhone photo, since it’s better than nothing:
Since I do most of my baking and reading on weekends, I thought it would also be fun to tell what book I was reading while making my recipes.
The first batch of cupcakes (the ones in the photos) were made over Valentine’s Day Weekend while I was in Michigan visiting my family. I was reading Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. The second batch, and the layer cakes, were made before Ryan’s birthday and I was reading The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.
So now you know what books kept me occupied while each batch was in the oven. :)
(This post was brought over from emilyw.vox.com. Click here for the original post and comments.)