Monday, August 22, 2005

She Wore Blue Velvet, But Ate Red

Borrowing Zarah's idea for making both miniature and regular sized cakes, I made a batch of red velvet cake. We all know that everyone likes cupcakes these days. Adults can relive a moment of their childhood and children can, well, experience a moment that they can relive in the future.
The origins of red velvet cake are shrouded in urban legend, just like Neiman Marcus cookies or any other recipe urban legends. Be suspicious of the origins of any recipe that someone "was charged $250!" This is not to say that the recipes aren't good ones. They are.
The name for red velvet cake comes from its red color. The most common story about the origin of the color cites a chemical reaction between the baking soda and the cocoa powder in the cake. If this were true, I think that most of my chocolate cakes would come out red. Leite's Culinaria has some more information on the science behind the cake.
My personal belief is that some chef dumped red food coloring into his cake to suprise people or to be festive for a holiday. The outside of the cake browns enough to disguise the real color. Whatever the origin, I quite like this cake. I like the flavor of buttermilk, the hint of chocolate and the raspberry red interior of the cake. Even more than the cake, I like this icing. Mascarpone cheese makes it creamier and more interesting than an ordinary cream cheese icing. I love it with this cupcake because it lends an adult touch and makes the icing the star.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 1/8 cups sifted cake flour (10 tbsp)
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cups sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp red food coloring
1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease cupcake tins or line with paper liners.
In a medium bowl, sift together cake flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla extract.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add in egg and beat until smooth. Add dry ingredients in 4 additions, alternating with 3 additions of the buttermilk mixture, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir until just combined.
Spoon batter into prepared cupcake tins. Fill them 2/3 to 3/4 full, which will create nice, rounded tops.
Bake mini cupcakes for 15 minutes and regular cupcake for 20-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Yield: 7 large and 12 mini cupcakes, with more than enough frosting to top each one thickly.

Mascarpone frosting
8 oz mascarpone cheese, room temperature
2 tbsp butter, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla paste (extract is fine)
1 tbsp milk
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar

Beat together mascarpone and butter until well combined. Beat in vanilla and milk. Add in confectioners sugar, scraping down the bowl as you go. When it has all been incorporated, beat on high speed for 1-2 minutes, until icing is smooth.