On a slightly more successful note (by comparison to my failed sorbet experiment), the happy ending to the weekend's tale of woe was the perfectly delicious Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting I baked on Sunday afternoon.
I have always loved the combination of the earthy vanilla-chocolate sweetness of red velvet cake topped with the sour creaminess of the cream cheese frosting. I also get a kick out of the contrast between the dark, red-brown colour of the cake and the whiteness of the icing. But I have been a bit scared of making a red velvet cake myself, though god knows why because this was pretty straight forward recipe (even if it did make an exceptionally large number of cupcakes). I think largely as a result of Saturday's sorbet trauma, I chose a recipe from Martha Stewart's Cupcake cookbook and stuck to it to the letter - I was not disappointed by the results!
The recipe helped me to conquer two kitchen-related fears:
1) using large amounts of vegetable oil rather than butter in cakes, and
2) recipes involving vinegar.
I'm not sure whether all the blog-o-sphere whinging about Martha's recipes relates only to her online site, but this recipe was seamless, well explained and absolutely delicious. It's the second recipe I have cooked from this cookbook, and both have turned out beautifully.
The cupcakes also gave me an opportunity to use one of the many items in my kitchen I unearthed in the New Year and pledged that I would not neglect for another year! Yippee!! So, now these gorgeous red and white cupcake papers have had a work out and boy are they convenient when you have a recipe that makes enough batter for 38 full-sized cupcakes and you only possess one 12-cupcake tin to bake them in. I did 12 in normal white cupcake liners in my existing tin, and the other 12 in the red-and-white stand alone cups I had purchased about a year ago and never used. Both shapes worked really well and to great acclaim when I presented them at a Sunday night BBQ and today at the office morning tea. Snaps to Martha!
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
2 1/2 cups sifted plain flour
1 1/2 cups neutral flavoured vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil)
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt (the little bursts of saltiness work perfectly with the frosting)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (the darker and more expensive the better)
2 large eggs (the recipe says room temperature, but mine were out of the fridge and it was fine)
1/2 teaspoon red paste food colouring (you need to use a hell of a lot more if you only have liquid stuff)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons bicarbonate soda
1 cup butter (unsalted and softened)
12 ounces cream cheese (also room temperature - helps to whip it up real good!)
4 cups icing sugar (yes, 4 cups. I know. This makes one hell of a lot of frosting)
Let's start with the easy stuff - heat your oven to 175 degrees celcius. Now, line your cupcake tins with pretty, pretty liners.
Now that you're organised, go sift your flour, salt and cocoa and whisk together until combined. Pop the dry mix aside while you get out the Kitchenaid and deal with the wet ingredients.
Whisk the oil and sugar together until they're all combined, then add in your eggs one at a time, whisking together properly between each. Add in the food colouring (beware, it will stain your fingers and your tea towels. It's water soluble, so don't panic) and vanilla extract, and mix until combined - and a lovely bright red colour.
While your speed is low, add in a third of your flour mix, then half your buttermilk. Then a third of your flour mix, followed by the other half of your buttermilk. Finally, add the last third of your flour mix and only use the mixer for as long as necessary to combine.
Now comes the fun chemistry part of the process. Mix the bicarb soda and vinegar in a separate bowl and watch it fizz and foam. Add quickly to the batter and mix for only ten seconds. I don't know why the ten seconds (or the vinegar-soda mix for that matter) is necessary, but don't question the genius - this tastes amazing when it's done.
Okay, now fill your cupcake liners two-thirds of the way up and bake in the oven for around 20 minutes. Test with a cake tester before you remove from the oven, to make sure it's cooked all the way through. I used the "classic bake" setting on my oven, rather than the fan-forced oven setting and it worked a treat.
When they're done, pop them out of the tins and onto some wire cooling racks until they are completely cooled through.
Now, onto the cream cheese frosting - which was super easy (as long as your butter and cream cheese is room temperature)! My expert cupcake-making-red-velvet-baking friend had advised me to ensure I whipped the butter and cream cheese first, before adding the icing sugar, otherwise it turns all soupy and doesn't taste nearly as nice. Fortunately, that was exactly what Martha's recipe required...
Beat your butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add in your icing sugar, one cup at a time and making sure each addition is properly and smoothly whipped into the butter and cream cheese. And that's it - done.
Ice your cupcakes and eat immediately. Or not. You can keep the frosting in the fridge for up to 3 days, and the un-iced cupcakes too - just make sure you return the cupcakes to room temperature before you serve them.
And they were a total hit. Musky, earthy not-quite-vanilla-not-quite-chocolate with all the creamy, sweet-sour counterpoint of the frosting. Highly recommended.