Merry Christmas Eve everyone! 🙂
There’s so many things about a Red Velvet Cake/Cupcake that we don’t get. Firstly, despite claims that cocoa when mixed with an acid like buttermilk or vinegar takes on a red tinge, most Red Velvet Cakes are enhanced by buckets of food coloring. And this simple food coloring has made it even more eye-catching against clouds of snowing creamy white icing. Well, it could just have easily been blue … Secondly, it’s basically a cocoa cake, but never tastes like one. Lastly, some say the frosting is the best part, but never as good as the same frosting on another cake.
But never mind my incomprehension. Because no matter how you slice it, or bake it, people go ga-ga over a simple Red Velvet Cake/Cupcake. Every new bakery or any cupcake shop round the corner seems to sell a version. Established ones are adding the cake to their repertory, and those that have always made it are hard pressed to keep up with the demand. Today, more than 20 bakeries in New York City sell Red Velvet Cake/Cupcakes, threatening to end the long reign of the city’s traditional favorites – Cheesecake and Dark Chocolate Blackout.
Some say the Red Velvet Cake is a Southern specialty, although it is certainly not in every cookbook about Southern food. Others say that the Red Velvet Cake was a signature at Manhattan’s elegant Waldorf-Astoria in the 1920s. A woman was supposedly so in love with it that she asked for the recipe, only to be charged $100 for it. In revenge, she began circulating the recipe to everyone she knew. Some attributed the cake’s rise in popularity to its role in the 1989 film “Steel Magnolias”, where it appeared in the shape of an armadillo, with gray icing. In 2002, the cake, made by Sam Godfrey, owner of the bakery Perfect Endings in Napa Calif, scored a public-relations coup of sorts when singer Jessica Simpson served a towering hexagonal version at her wedding to Nick Lachey.
Like the many theories on where it exactly came from, the Red Velvet Cake has produced as many controversies on how it should be made. While foods were rationed during World War II, bakers used boiled beets to enhance the color of their cakes. Chefs such as Mr. Doherty, Waldorf-Astoria’s executive chef, Adam Perry Lang of Daisy May’s BBQ USA, and Johnny Iuzzini, the Executive Pastry Chef at Jean Georges, use beets in their versions as well. Other chefs like Mr. Godfrey of Perfect Endings uses food coloring, resulting in an excellent Red Velvet Cake that was feature in Williams-Sonoma catalog for the first time at Christmas. Some recipes call for cocoa in amounts ranging from none at all like the one in “Craig Claiborne’s Southern Cooking” (Times Books, 1987), to a serious half-cup like the one at Elisa Strauss. But of course, the more cocoa in the cake, the more red food coloring is needed to override the brown. And home bakers should be aware that using lots of red food coloring carries the risk of thoroughly spattering the kitchen.
But regardless all the disagreements it has produced, the Red Velvet Cake has become an American tradition that is holding on strong. Whether it’s Christmas, Valentines Day, or just about any occasion, a Red Velvet Cake is brilliant for celebration! Even the name has a vampy allure: red velvet. Thus with one of our friends’ birthday today, and since she’s a huge lover of cupcakes, we knew that Red Velvet Cupcakes was the perfect way to go.
Eggless Red Velvet Cupcake
Adapted from My Diverse Kitchen
We used a little less sugar, and a little more vanilla extract than called for. It turned out perfect with just the right amount of sweetness, and the vanilla extract certainly enhanced that unique delicious flavor distinct to a Red Velvet. Also, the original recipe called for Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. I used Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa – a blend of Natural and Dutch cocoa. This resulted in a milder chocolate flavor as compared to one which uses Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder. This also means that the flavor is even more distinct and makes the Red Velvet Cake all the more special and amazing. But if you prefer your Red Velvet Cakes more chocolaty, feel free to add more cocoa powder! 🙂
Yields 6 regular-size Cupcakes
78g all purpose flour
100g granulated sugar
2/3 tbsp dark cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/18 cup fresh pureed beets (3 medium sized beets and approximately yield 1 1/2 cups of purée) *
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
* Wash 3/4 medium (61g) beets, scrape/ peel and slice them. Cook them (steam cook or microwave) till they’re well done. Cool and purée the cooked beets along with about 1 or 2 tablespoons of water, in a blender till smooth. Keep aside. You can do this ahead and refrigerate the purée for a day or else freeze it till required.
To make the cupcakes: first whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a bowl till well mixed. Keep aside.
Put the puréed beets, oil, lemon juice and vanilla extract into another bowl and lightly whisk together till mixed well.
Pour this into the bowl with the dry ingredients and mix just enough to combine. Divide the batter equally between 3 cupcake tins lined with paper cups.
Bake the cupcakes at 180C for about 20 to 25 minutes. A skewer/ toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean once they’re done.
Cool completely and frost with cream cheese frosting.
Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from Relishing It
Frosts about 16 regular-sized Cupcakes
1 – 8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
To make frosting: Combine cream cheese and butter in a bowl for an electric mixer. Beat on high until light and fluffy, a couple of minutes. Add the sifted confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and beat on low at first, then increase to high. When frosting is light and airy – it is ready to put on top of the cupcakes.