Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
I am in love with these red velvet cupcakes! And I’m in love with America! But mostly with the cupcakes…
I wanted to post an American recipe to celebrate this country that I’ve been calling home for the past 5 years, and had a hard time trying to decide between burgers, hot dogs, meatloaf and lots of other American dishes. And then it hit me: red velvet cupcakes! Not only they are a classic American treat, they have the flag’s colors.
Ok, except the blue… But I took care of that with some adorable patriotic sprinkles!
5 years ago I landed on JFK, in New York City, excited to start a new journey. My plans were to go to school, learn a lot and go back to my country to be with my family.
Silly me… Little I knew that I was going to meet my soul mate and fall in love with this amazing country!
Back then 4th of July meant a day I had no classes, lots of booze and fireworks. Today this date has a lot of meaning and I’m happy I have a blog so I can honor my “step-country”! The country that gave birth to my beloved husband and that will, in the future, give birth to my children.
Ok, emotional part of the post is over. *wipes tears*
Now let’s talk about what really matters: red velvet cupcakes!
Red velvet cupcakes are a variety of red velvet cake which is a super moist cake with a blood red color, topped with either vanilla or cream cheese frosting.
There’s an urban myth that says that the cake was invented in the 20s by a chef at New York City’s famous Waldorf-Astoria luxury hotel. Supposedly, the recipe would have leaked when a customer wrote to the chef asking for the recipe. So he sent her the recipe, along with a $350 bill for it! She was so outraged that she sent the recipe to all her socialite friends.
Other theories have the cake being invented in the South or even in Canada.
The story that I choose to believe is that the cake was invented as a marketing strategy from this company called Adams Extract, that sold food coloring. It was during the Great Depression and people were cutting unnecessary expenses, including food coloring. So they came up with the Adams Red Velvet Cake to try to get those sales back up!
It worked! The recipe became a huge success throughout the country and was even offered on free recipe cards at grocery stores.
The tag line? “The cake of a wife time!”
If you’re not a red velvet lover, chances are you didn’t have the real thing. Believe me, I’ve had my fair share of dry red velvet cakes and cupcakes!
Nowadays I know that the true red velvet, when made right, is fluffy, buttery and moist.
The “velvet” part of it comes from the smooth texture of super fine cake flour. And as for the red color, forget all the lies you heard about the chemical reaction between the cocoa powder + vinegar + baking soda. The plain and simple answer is: red food coloring. Lots of it!
During the food rationing of World War II, bakers used beetroots to enhance the color of their cakes. I haven’t tried the recipe with beets, so I can’t testify to its efficacy. If you have, let me know in the comments below what you think in regards of beets vs. red food coloring.
Don’t feel intimidated by the vinegar in this recipe. You won’t be able to taste it. Also, the baking soda needs an acid to react with to make the carbon dioxide bubbles that will make the cake rise and be extra light and fluffy. The recipe really benefits from this, as cocoa powder tends to slightly reduce the rise in cakes.
Also, don’t substitute the buttermilk for milk. It won’t be the same! Not only does it give a little help on the acid department for the baking soda, it adds a creaminess and tanginess to this recipe that regular milk won’t do.
If you can’t find buttermilk, you can make your own by adding a teaspoon of white vinegar (or lemon juice) to your regular milk. Let it sit for 5 minutes to activate!
And finally there’s the cream cheese frosting. It complements these cupcakes so well, adding some tanginess and creaminess. It’s like biting into a cloud!
The original recipe (from Magnolia’s Bakery Cookbook) is topped with vanilla buttercream. I just couldn’t do it! Red velvet and cream cheese frosting is like Romeo and Juliet. They just can’t exist without each other!
Also, the cookbook recipe said this was supposed to make 24 cupcakes. I got 36 out of it! Thank God for my coworkers for taking some from me and preventing me from eating 36 cupcakes by myself!
God knows I would!
For the cupcakes
- 3 1/2 cups super fine cake flour
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons liquid or gel red food coloring
- 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
For the frosting
- 1 1/2 sticks of butter, softened
- 2 cups confectioner's sugar
- 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 (8oz) packages cream cheese, softened
- Patriotic sprinkles to decorate
Making the red velvet cupcakes:
- Pre heat your oven to 350.
- Line 3 (12 count) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
- In a medium bowl, sift the cake flour and reserve.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, letting them incorporate before adding the next one.
- Add the cocoa powder, red coloring and vanilla extract and beat well.
- In a measuring cup or in a bowl, mix the salt and buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the cake flour. Beat until only combined. Do not overbeat or your cupcakes will be too dense!
- In a small bowl, combine the baking soda and vinegar. Once it reacts, add to the batter and mix until everything is well blended and the batter is smooth.
- Divide the batter among the prepared pans and bake the cupcakes for about 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Let the cupcakes cool a little bit in the pan. Remove and let them cool completely before icing.
To make the icing:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat all ingredients until white, creamy and fluffy.
- Pipe the frosting on with a big star tip. You can also frost them with a butter knife!
- Decorate with the patriotic sprinkles and have an awesome 4th of July!
Feel free to customize the amount of red food coloring in the recipe. Add more or less depending on how red you want your cupcakes to look!
P.S. Wanna keep in touch? Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest to stay up to date with my posts! If you end up making one of my recipes, I would love to see it! Just take a photo and post it on your preferred Social Media and tag me or use the hashtag #oliviascuisine!