I know, I know, posting about Red Velvet Cupcakes on Valentine’s Day, when did I become so predictable??! In my defense, the 2 have more in common than just the sweetness and red theme of this certain holiday. For most of my life I didn’t understand the popularity of either. They were dumb, made no sense to me. Valentine’s Day exploits everything you lack: money, love, romance. Red velvet cupcakes just lacked.
Then I fell in love, with a person and a recipe.
Have I ever told you the story of how hubby and I met? Believe it or not, Brett and I initially met on Facebook. We are both from a very small northern town of Ontario, population 500 plus some goats through the winter months, but with a 7 year age difference we never met in our young school years. It wasn’t our time yet.
He traveled for a few years and landed in Toronto to study. I, too, moved to Toronto. We lived parallel lives for over a decadent; going to the same concerts, drinking at the same bars, knowing many of the same people but we didn’t meet until the time was right. Not until I was coming out of a dreadfully failed relationship and a friend suggested I “give up MySpace and check out Facebook“. So I did. As I was surfing away on my newest online addiction, I kept noticing the same thumbnail image commenting on friend’s pages. The guy in the little picture box was hot, I could make out his stunning eyes and a sleeve tattoo. I knew all of the hot tattooed guys in Toronto (or so I thought), who is this guy?! I clicked on his bio:
Mutual friends: 32 (Impressive since I only had about 50 Facebook friends at the time.)
Current city: Toronto (Hey, that’s where I live.)
Hometown: Haliburton (WHHAA??!! Who IS this guy?!)
I sent him a direct message: “We share many of the same friends, I think that makes us friends.”
From there we chatted online a little. He became “Facebook guy” to my friends, the mysterious stranger I knew nothing about and yet couldn’t stop talking about. After a couple weeks of online flirting, I began dropping the most obvious hints that I wanted him to ask me out. He didn’t – guys can be so dumb. I gave up on subtle and sent him this message, “I like food. You like food. We should eat some food together.” Minutes later he responded with, “Absolutely! You’re on.” The following Thursday we had our 1st and last date. We’ve been together since. (Oh, yes. The power of food strikes again. :))
Brett and I had so many opportunities to meet but kept missing one another for all of those years. Even once we started talking online, it turned out that my apartment was steps from his office door. We were visiting the same coffee shop every day, even with a picture of the other in mind, and still hadn’t collided. As strange as it may sound, I believe that we weren’t ready to meet until the moment we did. We individually needed to grow and learn and become who we wanted to be before connecting. Once we did, it was electric and there was no turning back. All of these years later, we have 2 amazing kids, a great house, a ton of responsibility and I still feel the same youthful giddiness I did when there was a new message from “Facebook guy” waiting for me in my inbox.
If you have been one of the many to request a batch of red velvet cupcakes from me over the past few years, you’ve likely noticed my lip curl and eyes roll. When did these cupcakes become so trendy? Red velvet cake originally received its name from the vinegar and buttermilk combination causing a reaction with the cocoa to create a reddish-brown colour. Over time, the natural reaction wasn’t impressive enough so bakers started adding red food colour to the batter to create a more vibrant red hue. Lame but what really bothers me about this flavour’s name is that when I hear the word “velvet”, I anticipate a silky, smooth, rich flavour and that’s not the case with these. Here’s the reality: this is a moist and dense cupcake with a mild cocoa flavour that pairs very well with a thick cream cheese frosting. Nothing more, nothing less.
Those who love it, seem to love it a lot and for them I didn’t give up on this batter. It was discovering 2 key elements that allowed me to ignore the expectations and fall head over heels for the delicate cake as well:
1) NYC’s Magnolia Bakery’s influence.
2) Using only high-quality ingredients. The use of a premium cocoa powder, like Valrhona or Ghirardelli, takes this recipe from good to great. Same rules apply for the flour (only cake flour, not self-rising) and food colouring (avoid cheap, water-based colouring).
Magnolia’s Red Velvet Cupcake
Original recipe by Magnolia Bakery
Makes about 36 cupcakes
- 3 ⅓ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
- ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 ¼ cups sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons red food coloring (up to 6 tbsp if a more vibrant cake is desired)
- 3 tablespoons good-quality unsweetened cocoa
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 1 ½ teaspoons cider vinegar
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
- 1 pound cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
- 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease and lightly flour three muffin tins. Place cupcake papers in the tins.
- To make the cake: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
- In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overheat.
- In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
- Divide the batter among the prepared pans, filling 3/4 of each cup. Bake the muffin trays for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool in the pans for 1 hour. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack.
- Frosting: In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about 3 minutes.
- Add the vanilla and beat well.
- Gradually add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating continuously until smooth and creamy.
- Cover and refrigerate icing for 2 to 3 hours, but no longer, to thicken before using.
- When the cake has cooled, spread the frosting liberally on the cupcakes and enjoy!!xoxo