Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Scarlet Fever

What is it about red velvet cupcakes? Is it that signature deep jewel-red hue, or the steady growing trend of cupcakes and cupcakeries? Is it the many celebrity endorsements, or insertions in popular culture? No matter what the explanation might be, the world is all abuzz with red velvet cupcake fever. Ask any local cupcake bakery what their most popular current flavor is. If the answer is not red velvet, odds are it's in the top three. It's also very likely that said bakery has seen red velvet's popularity soar even higher in recent months.

Red velvet cupcakes are not only gaining popularity and growing in availability at restaurants and bakeries all over the U.S., but are also making quite a crimson splash overseas. As it soars to cupcake superstardom, red velvet quite easily maintains it's natural elegance and charm. Although it's exact origins are disputed, red velvet has long been celebrated in the southern tradition, and in my mind, is an indisputable southern belle at heart. I remember when the film Steel Magnolias was released. Set in Louisiana, there is an unforgettable scene involving a red velvet grooms cake in the shape of an armadillo. I was young and I remember being very puzzled by this, and wondering what it was exactly. I'd never seen cake that color (or shape, for that matter). It wouldn't be until years later that I would finally make the connection.

Later, when cupcakes became a pop culture phenomenon, red velvet rose in tandem. Pick up a People magazine and you're sure to read about Katie Holmes' cupcake deliveries to the set of her latest movie (red velvet, naturally). Who doesn't love a little celebrity gossip with their dessert?

The unique flavor and fine texture of red velvet is all about what goes into it. There is a distinct science to these ingredients that results in brilliant confectionery synergy. But I think the real secret to red velvet lies in its inherent charm in a way that can't fully be defined. It's beautiful. It's delicious. It's unforgettable.

Recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting:

Cupcakes (makes 12 regular cupcakes)

  • 2 and 1/2 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp of kosher salt
  • 2 tsp of cocoa powder
  • 1/2 oz. of red food coloring
  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter (1 cup)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of buttermilk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp of squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, sift the flour and salt together. In a separate bowl, make a paste by stirring the cocoa powder and food coloring together. It will look like blood. Seriously. Set these aside. In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and the sugar until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each. Next, add the cocoa and food coloring paste, using a spatula to get all the goopy red goodness. While the mixer is on a low speed, alternately add the flour/salt mixture with the buttermilk. Finally, add the vanilla, juice from the orange, and baking powder. Beat until smooth. Spoon the batter evenly into paper or foil cupcake liners in a regular muffin/cupcake pan, making sure not to overfill since the cupcakes will rise. Bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes. Cool completely before spreading on the frosting.

Buttercream Frosting (will cover 12 cupcakes)

  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter
  • 4 cups of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer with the whip attachment, whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and continue to whip. Next, drizzle in the milk and vanilla. Continue to whip until the ingredients come together with frosting consistency. Frost cupcakes right away.


Queen B said...

Wahoooo! These were amazing and we have been craving them ever since (probably has to do with the three cups of butter in the recipe!). So thankful to get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. And super thankful to get the recipe to try to recreate them :) Love you!

Anonymous said...

V---These cupcakes were delightful~ I loved it~~ Thanks for bringing a sample. I had been off the internet for a few days, that's why I did not comment at the Lake, it was SO nice to see you guy's and taste the treat, I LOVE a good Cupcake~ Ciao~ S
ps.. I am the one who voted the Choc. & Peanut butter.. I will sample those anytime~~ ha

Veronica said...

Thanks! And hey thank YOU for the awesome cheesecake! What a fun weekend!!

amandajmoeller said...

Red Velvet Cake is a family favorite... growing up it was always my brother's request for his birthday. I think it is the buttercream icing! Anyway, there is a new ice cream place in Clayton called "Chill" and one of their flavors was red velvet cake batter. It was yummy! I miss getting to taste your recipes!