The United Sweet-tooths of America are responsible for this addictively delicious cocoa decadent concoction. Red velvet cakes are memorable first for their deep red colour, amongst all the shades of baking brown, and then for their light but still chocolatey flavour. Traditionally it was the cocoa that turned the mixture red, for unprocessed cocoa, when mixed with buttermilk, undergoes a chemical reaction that turns it red. But these days most recipes use processed cocoa and red food colouring to create the right hue. This bit of historic-cake fact is important because the red colour is actually one of the hardest things to get right about these cupcakes. That and the consistency of the cream cheese icing – which should be layered on very generously if you're after those lush American bakery style cakes the girls from Sex and the City are addicted to.
The one other trick to good, American style cupcakes is to use muffin cases instead of cupcake cases. These cakes are meant to be generous in all proportions and portions.
The secret to the colouring I got from the Hummingbird bakery, who recommend using Dr. Oetker Red Food Colouring (not the Scarlett or Natural Red shades, mind). You'll need 20mls of it, which is a small bottle. If you're against using colourings and preservatives then you can try using beet juice – about eight tablespoons worth.
In addition to your 'secret ingredient', for 12 'lil cakes you'll need: 10g cocoa powder 1 egg 150g caster sugar 150g plain flour
60g unsalted butter teaspoon of vanilla extract 120mls buttermilk
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1½ teaspoons white wine vinegar
And a cupcake or muffin tin lined with 12 cases.
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 170°C and line up two bowls. Into the first bowl put your sugar and butter and beat them until they're well combined and fluffy – probably easiest if you use an electric mixer or whisk. Add your egg continuing the beating until everything is well mixed.
Step 2: Into your second bowl goes your cocoa, colouring and vanilla extract, which you only need to mix with a spoon until it's a thick paste. This then goes into the egg, sugar and butter mix, and should be whisked up with the electric mixer until all the colour has mixed though and everything is thoroughly combined.
Step 3: Turn your electric mixer onto a lower, slower setting and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Once this has been absorbed slowly pour in half the flour. Then repeat with the second half of the buttermilk and the second half of the flour. Keep beating until your mixture is smooth, not just combined, you'll probably want to rev your mixer up to high again – this will help your cakes to 'fluff up'.
Step 4: Turn your mixer back to slow and add the salt, vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, then rev it back up for a couple more minutes before spooning your mix into your pre-prepared muffin cases – fill them about two thirds of the way up.
Step 5: Bake them in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes until they spring back when touched and any skewer you prod into them comes out clean.
Then leave them to rest while you make your cream cheese icing. For that you need:
300g of cream cheese at room temperature
60g of butter, also at room temperature
340g icing sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.
Step 6: Sift your icing sugar in to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Get our your electric mixer and let it do its thing until everything is well combined. Then pop it in the fridge for an hour before icing your cupcakes – generously, remember!
Once your cakes are iced you might want to sprinkle some red velvet crumbs over the top to add a bit of colour. This is how they sometimes serve them at Hummingbird and is a good way to make use of any slightly defective cakes... Though I'm hoping all of yours came out perfectly!