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Recipe Reveal: Red Velvet Cupcakes

Red Velvet Cupcake with traditional Ermine Icing.

Red Velvet Cupcake with traditional Ermine Icing. —Patricia Gay photo

At our newspaper office we celebrate birthdays in a low key way. Someone will circulate a humorous card, and someone else will either bake a cake or a pie or buy an ice cream cake or cookies. Nothing fancy, just enough to let the Birthday Guy or Gal know we think they’re special.

I’ve seriously cut back on sugar, so my co-workers surprised me with a lovely fresh fruit platter. Perfect.

For my editor’s birthday, I was in a baking mood and decided to make Red Velvet Cupcakes. Chosen for no particular reason, just for the fun factor.

Red Velvet Cupcake Tree. —Patricia Gay photo

Red Velvet Cupcake Tree. —Patricia Gay photo

The recipe for Red Velvet Cake originated in New York City at the Waldorf=Astoria Hotel. However, it’s very popular in the south, and became widely popular throughout the country after the cake was featured in the film Steel Magnolias.

Traditionally, Red Velvet Cake is iced with Ermine Icing, a boiled butter-roux icing. That’s what I like best. Although the icing is packed with butter, it has a light texture, similar to whipped cream, but unlike whipped cream can be stored at room temperature which is  excellent.

The key to the velvety texture of the cupcakes is the buttermilk and cake flour. Don’t use substitutions. To keep the cake red, don’t overdose on the cocoa powder otherwise the cake will come out brown.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
2 1/3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (reduced fat)
1 1/2 tablespoons (a one ounce bottle) red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon white vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.
2. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
3. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring.
4. Add a fourth of the dry ingredients to the sugar and butter mixture, and mix, then add a third of the wet, and mix. Continue adding in a dry, wet, dry pattern, ending with the dry ingredients.
5. Scoop into cupcake papers, about 1/2 to 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool for one minute in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Makes about 24 to 30 cupcakes depending on size.
7. Frost with Ermine Icing or other frosting.

Ermine Icing

1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 cups whole milk
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter (softened at room temp.)
2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Over medium heat, in a small saucepan cook the flour and milk, stirring until it comes to a low boil and thickens. Remove from heat, scrape into a bowl and cover with plastic wrap, pressing so the wrap covers the entire surface, so the mixture won’t form a skin. Let cool at room temperature (DO NOT REFRIGERATE) approximately 30 minutes. Make sure the mixture is at room temperature before next step. If it is hot it will melt the butter and won’t mix properly.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Beat in the flour/milk mixture until fluffy. Chill for 10 to 15 minutes if necessary to firm, otherwise icing can be used immediately.

To decorate the cupcakes: I used a 1M decorators’s tip attached to a pastry bag and whirled it around the cupcakes in circles. Topped with assorted sprinkles/colored sugars.

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