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Friday, March 20, 2009

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I've always had a bit of fascination with red velvet cake, a traditional Southern American specialty often referred to as "the chocolate cake of the south".

The cake is so named because of its incredibly soft texture, the moist crumb arising from the use of buttermilk and its fluffy aeration a result of the buttermilk's reaction with vinegar. Most red velvet cakes use cocoa although there's not an overly strong chocolate flavour. The red colour comes from food colouring, although apparently this may have its roots in traditional cocoa (pre-Dutch processing era) naturally turning reddish-brown when reacting with alkaline vinegar. Naturally this cake is always popular around Valentine's Day as well as weddings.

This is the recipe I used for my recent hosting of an afternoon tea. Because of their moistness, they keep well for several days in the fridge, and as always, the cream cheese icing is always a hit.

Red velvet cupcakes
Makes 12 regular or 30 mini cupcakes
This recipe can also be doubled to make a two-tiered sponge

150g sugar
60g butter
1 egg
100g (3/4 cup) plain flour
25g (2 Tablespoons) cornflour
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
20ml red food colouring (less if using a paste)

Cream cheese icing
125g cream cheese
35g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence/extract
1 - 1 1/4 cups pure icing sugar

Preheat oven to 175C.

Cream butter and sugar using an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well.

In a separate bowl, sift the dry ingredients together. In another bowl combine the buttermilk, vanilla and vinegar.

Add a third of the dry mix to the butter mixture and beat briefly until combined. Add half of the wet mixture and beat. Repeat until you finish with the remainder of the dry mixture.

Add enough red food colouring to suit your preference. Transfer mixture to patty lined muffin tins, filling to about 1/3 full.

Bake at 175C for about 14 minutes for small cupcakes / 20 minutes for regular sized, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Top the cooled cupcakes with cream cheese icing. Store any leftover cupcakes (if there are any!) in the fridge.

Cream cheese icing

Using an electric mixer, beat together the cream cheese, butter and vanilla essence together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the icing sugar until you reach a spreadable consistency. If the icing is too soft, refrigerate for an hour. Otherwise use a piping bag for quick and pretty swirls.

* A handy substitute for buttermilk is natural yoghurt replaced at 100% yoghurt if thin, or 50/50 thick yoghurt and milk.

And as an addendum, I've just received confirmation that my live interview on ABC Radio has finally been rescheduled and will be held this Sunday 22 March at 11am. This week's Food at Eleven segment on Simon Marnie's Weekend show will focus on food writing, with respected food journalist John Newton talking about what makes a good food writer, writing for print, and food reviews versus criticism. Naturally I'll be talking about food blogs.

Tune into 702AM, 11am-11.30am Sunday 22 March 2009.

PS. If you aren't already doing so, you can follow me on twitter here.

Related GrabYourFork posts:
How to host your own afternoon tea
GYF on 702 AM ABC Sydney
27 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/20/2009 02:58:00 am


  • At 3/20/2009 8:52 am, Blogger PiCkLeS said…

    You're getting good with your decorating Helen!

  • At 3/20/2009 9:11 am, Blogger Y said…

    Those are just the cutest cupcakes, Helen!

  • At 3/20/2009 9:12 am, Blogger Debzillah said…

    ust emailed the trusty boyfriend alarm requesting that he notify me on Sunday that its time to tune in :)

  • At 3/20/2009 10:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's interesting that the cocoa will change colour depending on the processing. That's cool.

    Have fun at your interview!

  • At 3/20/2009 11:29 am, Blogger thesweettoothfairy said…

    Speaking of dutch-processed cocoa, do you know where to get it in Sydney? thanks!

  • At 3/20/2009 11:38 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The cupcakes look just damn beautiful!
    Good luck on the radio appearance!!

  • At 3/20/2009 1:32 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ahh, a making-of post! I'm not a cupcake-making kind of person but I've always been a fan of behind-the-scenes or making-of type stuff.

    Thanks for the insight :)

  • At 3/20/2009 2:41 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Gorgeous little babies. They were delicious as well.

    Have fun Sunday.

  • At 3/20/2009 3:42 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Cupcakes are awesome, but I'm more looking forward to your stint on radio ;)

  • At 3/20/2009 10:43 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    I love making Red Velvet purely for the excitement of pulling out a devilishly red cake out of the tin.

    Your cupcakes are so adorable!

  • At 3/20/2009 11:38 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Thank you for the red velvet recipe, it's one of my favourite cakes, I like the flavour to be really chocolatey to contrast with the cream cheese frosting! Looking forward to hearing you on Saturday.

  • At 3/21/2009 2:31 am, Blogger Jen said…

    How exciting! Will there be a podcast of the radio show?

  • At 3/21/2009 3:29 am, Blogger TonyM said…

    Wow those cupcakes look awesome - I love the red colour!

  • At 3/21/2009 12:20 pm, Blogger Jo said…

    ah so that's why red velvet has that funny taste to it because of the vinegar. i can only eat so much of this cake before it starts to taste bitter to me. weird huh!

  • At 3/21/2009 2:25 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Good Luck on Sunday Helen, I will be tuning in! Will also try the Red Velvet cupcakes, I have never tasted them before!


  • At 3/21/2009 11:51 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Pickles - It's all about the piping bag :)

    Hi Y - Thank you. Mini always equals cute!

    Hi Debzillah - lol. I think a podcast is uploaded to the site anyway. I'll post a link when it's available.

    Hi Arwen - I think it's fascinating too, esp that now the colour is "faked". There is something quite spectacular about its redness though.

    And not sure about 'fun' but I will certainly try to keep cool :)

    Hi thesweettoothfairy - I've seen it for sale in IGA supermarkets (Thai Kee at Market City), plus you will able to get it from the usual DJs, The Essential Ingredient and other food specialty shops.

    Hi Yas - The cupcakes tasted great too, and thank you. I think I'll need it! haha

    Hi Simon - Not much behind-the-scenes. Are you a cupcake eating person? That's always a good incentive to bake!

    Hi Veruca Salt - The icing was my favourite part :) And thanks, I will try to!

    Hi Howard - Eek, I am going to pretend noone is listening. lol!

    Hi Karen - I agree, the redness of the cake is such a cool part of it!

    Hi YaYa - I wonder if it tastes less chocolatey because your eyes see red, not brown? I do like the cream cheese frosting too, and thanks, I hope the interview turns out well.

    Hi Jen - The website seems to run a podcast of the last show aired. I'll post a link when it's available.

    Hi TonyM - Thank you. The red colour is half the fun, although they do involve a fair amount of food colouring!

    Hi Jo - Really? I didn't think that vinegar had a particularly bitter taste - perhaps it's more the bicarb? Not sure, but you could always bake some of your own to find out :)

    Hi Noodlehead - Thank you, I've done radio interviews before but never a live one! I definitely suggest trying these out - they are super moist and have so far been a winner with everyone!

  • At 3/22/2009 5:28 am, Blogger Beaujolais said…

    great idea makes a change to the bog standard cupcakes you see everywhere these days.

  • At 3/22/2009 11:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    So pretty! I just dreamt about cream cheese icing last night oO;; I'll record the radio via my laptop, so I won't miss any while I'm studying hard =) A few minutes to go!

  • At 3/22/2009 11:54 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hi, heard you on the radio Helen! You were great and it sure makes me appreciate your blog more, given the huge amounts of time you put into it. Keep up the good work.

  • At 3/22/2009 12:24 pm, Blogger 2-minute Noodle Cook said…

    My cake looks pink after adding 1 teaspoon red fermented rice in place of the red food colouring. Not sure why Chinese BBQ pork looks so red.

  • At 3/22/2009 5:18 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Beaujolais - The red colour does tend to surprise people but the softness and moistness is even better!

    Hi Chris - Ooh sounds like a tasty dream. And I've included a link to the podcast on the latest post about my interview.

    Hi Yvonne Z - Aww thanks. I was a little tongue-tied at times, but it was great to give food blogs some much needed airplay.

    Hi 2-minute noodle cook - Red fermented rice? Wow, that's quite a switch. I've made Chinese BBQ pork from scratch and it traditionally uses red fermented tofu. The ones in the shops tend to use a lot of food colouring, I expect.

  • At 3/22/2009 6:08 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Got to love cupcakes and got to just adore mini cupcakes!! they were so yummy!! Thanks Helen!!

  • At 3/22/2009 9:21 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I'm not really a big cupcake-eating person but when I am, I tend to also be a cupcake-buying person :)

    Something worth considering I guess. They're usually not all that hard to make considering the results you get.

  • At 3/23/2009 4:18 pm, Blogger Christina said…

    I love the mini cupcake idea and your cupcake/icing/pattie colour scheme. I am going to have to try this receipe and use red or silver foil cupcake patties.

    This makes me think of my chocolate beetroot cake, the result didn't turn out as red this though.

  • At 3/23/2009 6:09 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I grew up outside of Atlanta, so I've eaten more than my fair share of red velvet cake. It's one of the things I miss most about home. Your cupcakes are gorgeous! They make me a little homesick!

  • At 3/23/2009 10:56 pm, Blogger Jo said…

    my friend had a giant red velvet cupcake-cake for her birthday. definately tasted bitter to me unfortanately. it is definately something different.

  • At 3/24/2009 12:01 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Alexandra - Surprised by glad some made it to you!

    Hi Simon - Cupcakes are so easy to make, which explains why I can no longer buy them anymore. $3.50 could easily make you a dozen!

    Hi Christina - Glad you noticed the patty pan colour coordination :) Red or silver foil patty pans would look great too!

    I did read recently of someone making red velvet cake with grated and cooked beetroot in order to get a natural red colour - it seemed to look reasonably red. You could google it to find it, I'm sure :)

    Hi SarahKate - Oh there's nothing worse than being homesick for food! Would definitely recommend you try making these as they're so easy to do.

    Hi Jo - The ones I made didn't taste bitter so not sure what it was, unless you have a particularly sensitive palate? I have noticed more and more red velvet cupcakes popping up all over the place though.


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