I’ve been busy with tech this week, so I’ve been unable to give you new posts. But I’ll try to make up for it with CUPCAKES! Red, white, and blue Independence Day cupcakes no less! Not only did they look fantastically patriotic, but they were some damn good tasting cupcakes. Allow me to employ a few more adjectives: red velvet, cream cheese frosting, raspberry chocolate ganache, fresh raspberries and blueberries!
I’m not sure how the current cupcake craze started but I, for one, am happy to embrace this particular trend. The single serving size, the convenient wrapper, the surprise of a hidden filling, the piles of frosting . . . all wonderful things about cupcakes. I’m still not sure about edible decorations beyond fresh berries, but I’ve never understood those cakes with mounds of tastless icing forming pictures, or sugar props that are supposed to make kid’s birthday cakes more “fun.” Nope, give me something that tastes as good as it looks, and you’ll trump some fancy schmancy sugar sculpture in my book any day.
Also, a word on red velvet cake. I’d never made a red velvet cake before this weekend, and don’t have any associations with the dessert. I’ve tasted it before, sure, but never been overwhelmed by it. What’s the big deal about red food coloring anyway? Why do people go nuts for cake batter the color of my KitchenAid? But, for the 4th of July, I wanted to make patriotic cupcakes. And I wanted red cupcakes, white frosting, and blue berries (get it?). So, red velvet cupcakes it needed to be. With some poking around, I found that the wonderful gal over at Smitten Kitchen had tried her hand at red velvet cake. Better yet, she seemed to share my bewilderment with the whole concept. So, I cut her recipe in half, and went for it without a trial run. I followed her directions pretty much to the tee, but below for your calculating convenience, is the recipe, halved.
And, of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and just do a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting. No,indeed! I had to fill them! With chocolate! And raspberry! Oh, a raspberry chocolate ganache? Excellent! Now, I just needed to tools to get the filling INSIDE the cupcake. I needed a long skinny decorating tip, a coupler, and a bag. Something like this (although I just used a big ziploc bag). And, while I was at it, I decided to pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes. More culinary firsts for me! This dessert project was turning into quite the endeavor!
Red Velvet Cupcakes, with Raspberry Chocolate Ganache and Cream Cheese Frosting
makes 18 cupcakes
Red Velvet Cake
- 18 cupcake papers
- 1 3/4 cups cake flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa (not Dutch process)
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 cup, plus 2 tbsp. granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tbsp (1.5 oz) red food coloring
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 tbsp, plus 2 tsp buttermilk
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/4 tsp white vinegar
- 8 oz good quality chocolate, a mixture of semi- and bitter-sweet
- 3 oz heavy cream
- 1 tsp butter
- 3-4 oz raspberry jam
Cream Cheese Frosting
- 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese (you can use neufchatel cream cheese, but stay clear of the fat free kind!)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
- 1 (16 oz) box powdered sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line regular sized muffin tins with papers and set aside. Sift together the cake flour, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat sugar and oil on medium speed in your mixer until well-blended. Add the eggs, one at a time. With machine on low, carefully add the food coloring. (The mixture will look like fake blood at this point. And you’ll probably have some red on your hands too. I did!) Add vanilla. Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately in two batches, starting with the flour and ending with the buttermilk. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary, and beat just long enough to combine.
Combine baking soda and vinegar in a small dish (yes, your elementary school science classes were correct, they’ll fizz up), and add to the batter with machine running. Mix for 10 seconds.
Divide batter among prepared papers (they should be 3/4 full), place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. (Mine took 22 minutes.) Cool for a few minutes in the muffin tins, then carefully lift them onto a wire rack to cool completely before filling or frosting.
To make the ganache, combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, or you could use a double boiler. Stir to incorporate everything into a smooth velvety mixture. Taste and add more raspberry jam if you want to. If it is too think, add a bit more cream. Remove from heat and cool till the ganache is a workable temperature, but still flows easily.
Prepare your long narrow pastry tip in a bag (I used a large ziplock bag fitted with the coupler and tip) and ready your cooled cupcakes. Fill the bag with the warm chocolate mixture. Carefully insert the tip into the center of a cupcake, so that the end of the tip should be right in the middle of the cupcake. Gently squeeze the bag, filling the cupcake center with ganache, until the cupcake begins to swell. Stop squeezing, and carefully remove the tip from the cupcake. Repeat with all the cupcakes.
Let the chocolate cool before frosting the cupcakes. I put mine in the fridge for an hour or so.
Make the cream cheese frosting. The butter and cream cheese should be at or just below room temperature. Beat the butter and cream cheese with the whisk attachment of your electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add sifted sugar, being careful to start the machine up slowly and not have an explosion of powdered sugar all over the kitchen. Add vanilla. Continue to beat until sugar and vanilla are fully incorporated and frosting is fluffy looking.
Prepare your pastry bag with some sort of open star tip, and fill with frosting. Starting at the outer edge of a cupcake pipe in a spiral towards the center. Stop, and lift the tip straight up. Then, do another layer of frosting, starting just inside the first and ending at the center. You should end up with something that looks like this: