FACE OFF: Red Velvet

From left to right:

Cupcake 2/Icing 1  –  Cupcake 1/Icing 1  –  Cupcake 2/Icing 2  –  Cupcake 1/Icing 2

So my older brother is getting married and I’m honored that they’re letting me make their cupcake tower for the wedding. In the months leading up to the wedding (July 2011) the Great Cupcake Trials will take place to get the best recipes possible for the special day! The Red Velvet Face Off was the first of these trials.

Red Velvet Cupcake #1

adapted from the NY Times Red Velvet Cake recipe

  • 1c cake flour
  • 1/3c cocoa
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • 2/3c vegetable oil
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1oz (2T) red food coloring
  • 1/2tsp vanilla
  • 1/2c buttermilk
  • 1/2tsp baking soda
  • 3/4tsp white vinegar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line12-cupcake pans with cupcake liners and spray with cooking spray.
Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a bowl.
Place oil and sugar in bowl of an electric mixer and beat at medium speed until well-blended. Beat in eggs one at a time.
With machine on low, very slowly add red food coloring (and water or syrup, if necessary). (Take care: it may splash.)
Add vanilla.
Add flour mixture alternately with buttermilk in two batches. Scrape down bowl and beat just long enough to combine.
Place baking soda in a small dish, stir in vinegar and add to batter with machine running. Beat for 10 seconds.
Divide batter among 12-cupcake pans, filling each about 2/3 full. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Icing #1

Cream Cheese Icing
adapted form the 06/98 Epicurious.com Cream Cheese Icing recipe

  • 1 8oz pkg of cream cheese – room temperature, divided in three parts
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter – COLD
  • 1 tablespoon shortening
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

Beat half the sugar and all of the butter in large bowl until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and combine very well. Add the first third of the cream cheese and combine very well. Add the shortening and combine very well. Add the remaining cream cheese one piece at a time, combining very well after each. Gradually add the remaining sugar and combine thoroughly until light and fluffy.

Thoughts on Cupcake 1 with Icing 1 — The cake was good – it was darker and had a more chocolatey taste. The frosting was good but VERY cream cheesey.

Red Velvet Cupcake #2

Magnolia Bakery recipe

  • 3 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 tbsp red food coloring
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes).

To make the batter: 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 overbeat. 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. Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing.

Icing #2

Creamy Vanilla Frosting

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups (4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

In a medium-size saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10-15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, on the medium high speed of an electric mixer, beat the butter for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well.

Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on the medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in color. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes (no less and no longer—set a timer!). Use immediately.

Thoughts on Cupcake 2 with Icing 2: This is the one I was most excited about as I really like Magnolia Bakery cupcakes. I liked this one better overall. But this icing definitely had a taste of butter (how could it not with 4 sticks in it?!). Also, the icing didn’t pipe in an extremely attractive manner as it was so fluffy that it didn’t come out as smoothly as I’d like.

Final thoughts: I can’t eat red velvet anything for a VERY long time now because not only did we have a gazillion cupcakes in our kitchen, but I didn’t LOVE either of these enough either. My coworkers definitely didn’t complain about getting to eat all of them 🙂 If red velvet makes the cut for the wedding, the recipe search will continue.


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