Love is in the air at Chez Tomboy!
With Valentine’s day coming up this weekend, I thought I’d make something beautiful and romantic for me and hubby to, well, stuff our faces with. Red velvet sprung instantly to mind for it’s iconic colour, despite never really having much luck with it personally in the past. I’ve only made red velvet once, and it wasn’t even a true red velvet made with buttermilk (which probably explains the “meh” factor). I’ve eaten it in cafes and the like and it’s always been dry and bland. Is it vanilla? Is it chocolate? It’s always seemed like it’s trying to be both but ends up being neither. But people rave so much about this cake that I wanted to give it a go and get it right. I wanted to know what it is that people love so much!
In my search, I came across the blog of a fabulous baker, the lovely Sally at Sally’s Baking Addiction. I am completely in love with her blog and she is my new idol. She seemed to feel the same as me about this illusive cake, until coming across a delicious example at a wedding, and embarked on her journey to create the perfect recipe. So, I have used her recipe today. It is more time consuming than a lot of recipes I’ve done in the past, but the result is so worth it. The only major thing I changed was the cream cheese frosting, as I wanted a nice thick frosting so that I could pipe it onto the cupcakes rather than spread it. You can find Sally’s original recipe, along with her own cream cheese frosting here.
To give these gorgeous, deep red cupcakes an extra special touch, I coloured the frosting red and piped roses onto the top of the cupcakes. This was a technique I learned almost two years ago on my hen weekend, when me and my hens had a lesson in decorating cupcakes, and I don’t get the opportunity to do it often enough! But Valentine’s roses just could not be passed up. Because of how soft cream cheese icing is compared to normal buttercream, they haven’t kept their shape as well as I would have liked, but the general idea is there!
I bow down to Sally’s baking genius, because these cakes really are amazing. So unlike the bland weirdness I’ve experienced in shops, they are soft, light and buttery, with that hint of chocolate coming through. I think using real butter instead of baking spread like I usually use is a big factor in the success.
As well as proper butter, buttermilk is a must. This is another vital ingredient for the distinctive taste of a true red velvet. There’s a super cool scientific reason – the buttermilk, along with the vinegar, reacts with the bicarbonate of soda and makes the red in the cake, redder.
Buttermilk is not as widely available here in the UK as it seems to be in the USA from what I can tell – my usual supermarket only stocks one brand in one size (imagine my panic when I was updating my shopping online Saturday night and it had gone out of stock!) – but if you’re unable to get hold of it, you can make a substitute using regular whole or semi skimmed milk and lemon juice or white vinegar (1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar to 250ml milk). Stir the lemon juice or vinegar into the milk and leave for 5 minutes or so. It’s not a dead-on trade for taste but will work just the same! I have used real buttermilk this time as I wanted to be as faithful to Sally’s recipe as I could be for my first attempt, but would probably use this method in the future to save a little money. Besides, I may just have a special little weekend bake planned to use up the rest of the buttermilk…
Red Velvet cupcakes
Makes 14-18 cupcakes
- 160g plain flour
- 60g cornflour
- 1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda
- 4 tsp natural unsweetened cocoa powder (I used heaped teaspoons – it came to 15g)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 60g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature (usually I would use baking spread but this time have used real butter as per the instruction of my new baking goddess – the buttery flavour is important for a red velvet)
- 200g caster sugar (a minor change from Sally’s recipe as she states granulated sugar, but I find granulated doesn’t cream as well with the butter)
- 120ml vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp distilled white vinegar
- Liquid or gel red food colouring (I used Sugarflair gel colour in Christmas Red)
- 120ml buttermilk, room temperature
For the icing
- 50g butter
- 180g cream cheese
- 400g icing sugar
- Dash of lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla essence
- Red food colouring (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with cupcake liners or silicone cupcake cases if you prefer, and another two to six holes of another pan – Sally’s original recipe said it made 14, but my 12 hole tin has pretty small holes, so my batter made 18 cupcakes – the ones from my 6 hole tin were almost twice the size! I quite liked the contrast though. I baked both batches together, one on a lower shelf and switched half way through the baking time.
- Sift together the plain flour and the cornflour into a medium bowl so they are well combined. Stir in the bicarbonate of soda, the cocoa powder and the salt and set to one side.
- In a large bowl, beat the butter until it is smooth. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add the oil and beat well. The butter will most likely not combine completely with the oil – this is okay!
- Keeping the whites in a separate bowl, add the egg yolks and the vanilla extract to the butter mixture and beat until combined, then do the same with the vinegar and the food colouring. I used gel colours and used about a teaspoon’s worth, but I added it in smaller increments with a toothpick until I reached the colour I wanted
- Start to add the dry ingredients. Add about a third, beat, then add half of the buttermilk and beat again. Add another third of the dry ingredients, beat, add the other half of the buttermilk, beat, and finish with the last third of the flour mix. Each time, beat until just combined – overmixing can cause your cakes to sink
- Whisk the egg whites you put aside earlier until thick and foamy. Fold carefully into the batter. The batter will be silky and thick
- Spoon the batter into the cupcake liners until they are about two thirds full, then bake for about 20 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the centre will come out clean when they are cooked. Leave to cool fully before icing
- To make the icing, beat the butter until completely smooth and creamy, then add the cream cheese. I was more patient than when I made my carrot cupcakes, and added the cream cheese in small spoons, and only beat the mixture until each spoon was combined with the butter. Once all the cream cheese is mixed in with the butter, start adding the icing sugar, adding the lemon juice about half way through to make sure it is completely mixed in. Once all the icing sugar has been mixed in, add the food colouring if using, until you reach the colour you desire, and more lemon juice if you find the icing too sweet still, but be careful not to go overboard and make it lemon icing!
You can pipe, splodge or spread the icing on top and decorate in whatever way you fancy! I sprinkled a bit of red glitter to finish my roses off.
(If anyone wants a little tutorial on piping roses, comment and subscribe – I’m sure I can come up with another excuse to pipe some roses in the future!)
Now, what on earth could I make with that left over buttermilk…