Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Mmm, will you look at those? YUM! This was my first time ever making AND eating red velvet cake. Where have you been all my life? Why have we not met before? For those of you who don't like Red Velvet (i.e. Jaylene), you're crazy. This was the most delectable cake I have ever had in my life. Incredibly moist, flavourful, vibrant in colour... and that icing? What can go wrong with cream cheese frosting? I can't say enough good things about these cupcakes, they were to... die... for. I am looking forward to the day when I can make them again, or even a full cake! You gotta try these.

Yield: about 24 cupcakes

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese (about 1 block)
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. clear vanilla extract
2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar. Beat on medium speed until well blended. Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter has a very odd texture- something I've never encountered before. It's almost... goopy for lack of a better word, like a runnier putty. Perhaps it was just the way I made them as I have nothing to compare it to, but either way they turned out fantastic.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Mix in the vanilla extract. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth. Frost cooled cupcakes as desired. 

*If you enjoy large amounts of frosting, you might consider increasing the quantities by 50%. This is what I did for this batch and often do for cupcakes; I'd rather end up with too much than too little.

Source: Annies Eats, originally adapted from other sites.

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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Valentine's Day Sugar Cookies

Having made sugar cookies with royal icing for the first time at Christmas, I was eager for an opportunity to try them again. There's something special about these cookies; they allow for SO much creativity! And if you don't mind spending the time it takes to make them, they can be a lot of fun and incredibly rewarding when you see the finished product. Especially when all your friends comment on how amazing they are ;). The problem was, I couldn't decide what to make. I had seen so many ideas on different blogs, so I settled on 2 different batches to make. The first is the one seen above: classic vanilla sugar cookies decorated as conversation sweet hearts. The second is seen below: a more romantic valentine's day chocolate sugar cookie.

This was also my first time using the 'wet-on-wet' technique- more on that later. One of my favourites was the lips cookie that have S.W.A.K. on them- Sealed With a Kiss!! Love it.

Let's start with the conversation heart cookies first. You can refer to my directions in this post: Baby Shower Cookies. In that post I used almond extract, which I prefer to vanilla. Use whichever according to your own preference, but I find that the almond gives it a more unique taste, and I've found through the feedback of eager tasters that the almond is the preferred flavour.

Onto the chocolate sugar cookies. With the royal icing on these, they tasted like a firmer oreo cookie. I can't decide which I prefer- vanilla or chocolate! What I will say is that the chocolate cookie dough is not nearly as nice to handle as the vanilla. It was a bit crumbly and difficult to work with, which resulted in me throwing out more than I normally would have at the end. I think in the future I will try a different recipe to hopefully get something a little more moist. Nonetheless, the final product was yummy. Give them away as Valentine's Day treats or enjoy them yourself, I won't judge!


2 & 1/2 c. all-purpose, unbleached flour
1/2 c. dutch-process cocoa (I don't have dutch-process, and so just use normal cocoa powder)
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1 c. unsalted butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk together the flour,cocoa, espresso powder and salt; set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until light an fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined. In 3 additions, add the flour mixture at low speed. Scrape down sides and bottom of bowl as needed.

Roll the dough on a lightly floured and cocoa-ed surface. (I mixed the 2 of these, then spread on my rolling surface, on my rolling pin, and used it to dip my cookie cutters.)

I put my baking sheets into the freezer for about 8 minutes before going into the oven to help prevent spreading. It works out quite well- when 1 pan is in the oven, another is in the freezer, while another is what I'm currently working on. Every 8-10 minutes or so (how long it takes to bake the cookies) all the pans get rotated.

Bake 8 minutes. Let cool completely before moving onto icing.
Source: adapted from Bake at 350

You can find my recipe for royal icing in this post: Baby Shower Cookies Pin It