Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Sam's Favorite Red Velvet Cupcakes

Sam's favorite color is red, so he's naturally (or is that unnaturally?) predisposed to liking red velvet cupcakes.  So when he asked for red velvet cupcakes for his third birthday, I wasn't surprised.  But I wanted to make them good!  Even if I had to use red food coloring...

To find a good recipe, I did some research online.  Luckily, Crumbly Cookie helpfully did a taste test of a whole bunch of recipes.  They settled on this one from Apple a Day (adapted from Saveur).  It looked like a solid place to start.  But I wanted something with a bit more chocolate punch.  (And while Becky may like cream cheese frosting, I don't.)  So I added the Cook's Illustrated chocolate ganache from their incredible "Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes" (adapted here.)  (If you want chocolate cupcakes, these are the best.)  And some quick "foolproof" chocolate frosting from the Cook's Illustrated yellow-cake recipe.

Some time before his fourth birthday, Sam discovered rainbow sprinkles.  The perfect topping!  Putting it all together, I think I have the Ultimate Red Velvet Cupcakes with Chocolate Inside and Out.

The Ultimate Red Velvet Cupcakes with Chocolate Inside and Out
Makes 12 cupcakes.  Can be easily doubled to make 24.

For the cupcakes:
1 1/4 cup cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 Tbs dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbs red food coloring
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp distilled white vinegar

For the ganache:
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate.  I recommend Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips.
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbs confectioners' sugar

For the frosting:
5 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup (1 oz) confectioners' sugar
3 Tbs dutch-processed cocoa
pinch salt
3 Tbs light corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 ounces chocolate, melted and cooled slightly.  I still recommend Ghirardelli 60% cacao chips!

For the Pièce de Résistance:
Rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350F.

Put cupcake papers in your cupcake tin.

First, prepare the ganache.  Put chocolate, cream, and sugar in microwave safe bowl.  Microwave on high 20-30 seconds until warm.  Whisk until smooth.  Place into fridge for more than 15 minutes but less than 30 minutes.  (If it solidifies too much, leave it out for a few minutes before using.)

Now, prepare the cupcake batter.  Mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa, salt) in a medium bowl and whisk to combine and aerate.  Put wet ingredients (egg, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar) in the bowl of a kitchenaid or equivalent electric mixer.  Beat until well combined.  Add dry ingredients and mix on medium speed until well combined (about 2 minutes).

Divide batter among 12 cupcake papers.  Take the ganache out of the fridge and spoon ~1-2 tsp dollops on each cupcake.  When baking, these will sink into the middle and will be awesome.

Bake for 18-22 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean), rotating pan halfway through.

Remove cupcakes from in immediately and put on cooling rack.

When the cupcakes are cool we can prepare the frosting!  In a food processor, combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt until smooth (about 30 seconds).  With the small volume for 12 cupcakes you'll spend a lot of time scraping the sides.  This is easier with a double batch.  Add corn syrup and vanilla and run until just combined, 5-10 seconds.  Scrape sides of bowl and add melted and cooled chocolate and pulse 15-20 seconds until smooth.

Use a spatula to put frosting on the cupcakes, and top with rainbow sprinkles.

"Patriotic" Red-White-And-Blue Red Velvet Cupcakes

For July 4th, I thought it would be fun to do a red (velvet)-white-and-blue variation.  The cupcakes are the same, the frosting is now white, and red and blue sprinkles instead of the rainbow.  Happy July 4th!

For the frosting I used the same recipe as above but replaced the chocolate with Ghirardelli "White Chips".  Which I hadn't noticed aren't white chocolate chips, but are instead chips of sugar, palm oil, and vanilla.  No cocoa butter.  However, according to Cooks' Illustrated, in a blind taste-test these fake white chocolate chips came in second, ahead of many real white chocolate options.  Who knew?  In any event, it made some tasty icing, though perhaps a quick buttercream would have worked just as well?  I reduced the sugar since the chips are pure sugar, and also removed the cocoa powder to keep the nice white color.

For the frosting:
5 Tbs unsalted butter, softened
1/8 cup (0.5 oz) confectioners' sugar
pinch salt
3 Tbs light corn syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 ounces white chocolate or substitute, melted and cooled slightly.

For the Pièce de Résistance:
Red and blue sprinkles

Follow instructions as above.

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