Red Velvet Birthday Cupcakes

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red velvet cupcakes with gold sugar sprinkles

what did you do on MLK day? instead of going out and giving  back to my community like i should have, i went to bar method and then spent the afternoon crafting red velvet birthday cupcakes for my dear friend bruce. i feel slightly guilty about this, but i’d like to think that the hours i spent cleaning caked cat pee off of the crates at petco sufficed as my volunteer commitment for the weekend (i volunteer with a no kill cat rescue called kitty kind. they are wonderful, the cats are adorable, and i don’t even mind the pee).

so let’s talk red velvet. red velvet is one of those cupcake flavors that hit its heyday when cupcakes became a “thing.” you know, when magnolia and buttercup and baked by melissa and butter lane and sprinkles and the 9 million other scenester cupcake places opened. back in the day, people made chocolate and vanilla and they were satisfied with that. but then the fancy schmancy cupcake places came along, and lord, am i glad they did. otherwise, i’d never have learned of such wonders as chai cupcakes (holy food orgasm) and red velvet cakes (holy melt in your mouth amazing).

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doling out batter. kind of looks like little red turds, no?

red velvet’s funny, mostly because people seem to automatically assume that the red coloring corresponds with a ‘red’ flavor, such as cherry, strawberry, or watermelon. this isn’t the case. in fact, red velvet cupcakes are flavored with a hint of cocoa and a splash of cider vinegar; this is what gives them the sweet but ever so slightly tangy taste they’re known for. of course, there’s lots of red food coloring. i’m partial to this one, which i buy at ny cake (if you don’t live in NYC, ny cake ships!). gel food coloring is great, because it means you’re not pouring three bottles of chemicals into your cupcakes.

not that i poured three bottles into mine – i probably used about half the amount of food coloring recommended in the recipe because i was using gel instead of liquid.

so, want to make these babies for yourself? you do, they’re good. really, really good.  unless my taste buds and my friends lied to me, in which case, taste buds, i’m sorry, friends, go find your own cupcakes.

The Recipe (from the More from Magnolia cookbook) 

3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising!)

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 1/2 cups white sugar

3 large eggs at room temperature

6 tablespoons liquid food coloring (use only 3 if you’re using gel color)

3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1 1/2 teaspoons cider vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

to make, preheat your oven to 350, and line 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes total)

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mixing up the butter and sugar…heavenly.

to make the batter, sift the cake flour into a small bowl and set aside. in your stand mixer (or a large bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer), cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy – this should take about five minutes. once light and fluffy has been achieved, add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

next, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa and vanilla. if you’re using gel food coloring, it’s okay to add a few droplets of water to thin the mixture out a  bit (i didn’t have to, but you never know). add the red chocolate mixture to the butter/sugar/eggs mixture, and beat well. now the fun comes – your batter will start to turn a brilliant pinky red. BEAUTIFUL!

now, pour your buttermilk into a glass measuring cup, and stir the salt into the buttermilk. add to the batter in three parts, alternating with the cake flour. beat until the ingredients are just incorporated, but don’t overbeat.

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painting the town red with chocolate, vanilla extract, and red gel food coloring

in a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. it’ll fizz up like a second grade science project! volcano cupcakes! just kidding.

add the cider/baking soda mixture to the batter and mix well. use a rubber spatula to scrape down all the edges, and make sure the batter is smooth throughout.

divide your batter into the prepared cupcake pans – fill each cupcake liner 3/4 of the way full (don’t overfill or your cupcakes will overflow. trust me. been there, done that).

arrange the pans in the upper and lower thirds of your oven and bake the cupcakes for 20 minutes, switching the pans halfway through. use a toothpick to make sure the cupcakes are done – you want it to come out clean; a goopy toothpick means that shit ain’t done!

cool cupcakes in the pan for about 10 minutes, then remove from pan and cool completely on a rack before icing.

which brings me to the best part: FROSTING. i like cream cheese frosting for red velvet, but vanilla buttercream would be delish as well.

cream cheese frosting is the easiest in the world to make – which is part of why i love it.

Ingredients

2 oz. packages of cream cheese, left to sit out for a bit so they soften slightly

6 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract ( i used about 2 1/2 cause i loooove me some vanilla extract)

5 cups sifted confectioners sugar

to make, beat the cream cheese and butter on medium speed in your stand mixer for about 3 minutes, or until smooth. add the vanilla and beat well. gradually beat in the sugar, 1 cup at a time, until smooth and creamy. cover and refrigerate for a bit to thicken – or spread as is if you’re happy with the consistency as it stands.

i added gold sprinkles on top of mine because i’m fancy like that – but any toppings will do. sprinkles just make everything nicer, if you ask me. but these babies are so delicious they’d be fine with frosting and nothing else.

now, go forth and eat!

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