Sunday, 14 February 2010

Black Bottom Heartbreak and Red Velvet Cupcakes

This is the story of a cupcake post that was almost not to be, a story about getting older and wasting perfectly good ingredients; but most importantly a story about learning that sometimes things go wrong and all you can do is reassess your methods and move on! You see, recently Shannoncita had birthday and in the tradition of offices throughout London, and probably the rest of England as well, it is the job of the birthday girl/boy to bring cakes to their colleagues to enjoy. While most people make a quick stop at M&S, after a couple of years I have developed somewhat a reputation in my office: I always bring home-made cakes. As the UK does not have the same baking tradition as we do in Canada, it is kind of a big deal to have something made from scratch and I am only too happy to provide.

After the cheesecake brownies I made (ages ago) were such a success, I decided on a variation of a theme and make a batch of Black Bottom Cupcakes from the cookbook of a famous London bakery; unfortunately it did not go to plan. Maybe I should have realised that the measurements seemed a bit off to begin with -not enough liquid-to-dry ingredients, but it wasn’t until the batter started to clog my hand mixer that I truly realised there was a problem. A quick internet search for similar recipes confirmed my suspicions that there was significantly less liquid than usual and also that the cheesecake mixture was far too liquid to balance the textures properly -not to mention that the cream cheese icing was far too sweet. Though I tried to incorporate enough liquid to solve the problem, it was no use -the cupcakes were ruined! What a heartbreaking waste!

Having to return to work the next day empty-handed, I promised a birthday/valentines compromise for the end of the week. It was an easy decision, a tried and tested classic Red Velvet Cupcakes -after all I had to make use of the cream cheese icing that I had prepared for the failed Black Bottom Cakes!

I have made this cake before, not as cupcakes but as a layer cake, and if it is possible it looks even more beautiful. Layer after layer of red sponge interspersed with the white of the icing. I think this cake is easily E.’s favourite and it’s not hard to see why. The lightness of the cake balances perfectly with the smoothness of the cream cheese icing..., and not to overstate the obvious: the colour is mesmerising!

This cake is a bit unusual because instead of adding the bicarbonate of soda with the other dry ingredients and then mixing with the liquids, this recipe combines all of the dry ingredients (EXCEPT the bicarbonate of soda) and then mixes them with the liquid ingredients to make a smooth batter, finally the bicarbonate of soda is mixed with vinegar and added as fizz at the end -as if it were some sort of fifth grade science experiment. I don’t know of any other cake recipe that does that!

I imagine bakers everywhere were whipping up the same thing for St Valentines Day and I was only too happy to join in.

Red Velvet Cake
adapted from
250 g plain flour -sifted
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp cocoa powder
115 g unsalted butter -room temperature
300 g caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
250 ml buttermilk*
2 tbsp liquid red food colouring
1 tsp vinegar
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat oven to 175°C and divide 12 cupcake cases in a cupcake pan.

In a bowl sift together the flour, salt, and cocoa powder and set aside.
In a separate bowl, beat the butter until soft and pale in colour. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time and once smooth. Add the vanilla and mix by hand until combined.

Mix the buttermilk with the red food colouring in a glass or metal measuring cup (food colouring will stain plastic and your clothes so be careful not to splash). Add half of the flour mixture and then half of buttermilk to the butter mixture, mix until just combined and then repeat.

In a small cup combine the vinegar and baking soda. Allow the mixture to fizz and then quickly fold into the cake batter ensuring that the fizzy mixture is evenly mixed through the batter.

Divide the batter amongst 12 cupcake cases (fairy cake cases will yield more). Bake in the preheated oven for approximately 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely before icing.

*Buttermilk can be easily substituted by adding 1/2 tsp of vinegar or lemon juice to 240ml of milk and letting it sit for 10 minutes.

To be honest I really had to freestyle the icing because it was left over from the Black Bottoms and was sickly sweet, but after a bit of troubleshoting it was something like this:

Cream Cheese Icing*
200 ml double cream
250 g full fat cream cheese -room temperature
250 g mascarpone cheese -room temperature
200 g icing sugar- sifted

Mix the the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese on a low speed until smooth. Add the confectioners and continue to mix until combined.

In a separate bowl whip the cream on high speed until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture a bit at a time until it is fully incorporated. Cover and place in the refrigerator for an hour.

*You may actually wish to make the icing first as it will be ready to use by the time the cupcakes have cooled.


The Bittersweet City said...

These look great! Will we be seeing a post about chocolate chilli mousse cakes soon? :)

(I tried leaving a comment a few days ago but it didn't seem to work!)

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