Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In the Pursuit for the BEST Red Velvet Cupcake

There are a lot of recipes out there that claim to yield "the best" Red Velvet Cupcake, but in my search I have yet to find that one that just pops. I think the thing that bothers me about these cupcakes in particular is their lack of definition- are they chocolate? are they vanilla? are they vanilla pretending to be chocolate? are they just red? and what does red velvet really taste like exactly!? So many questions!

Anyways.. the fact of the matter is, my friends requested this particular cupcake at their wedding and since I'm in charge of their traditional cake and groom's cake/cupcakes I am in pursuit for the perfect, made-from-scratch, Red Velvet Cupcake.

I have searched the inter web far and wide for what seems like hours in attempts to find the perfect recipe- reading almost every comment or review the recipes have to offer. I thought it was a sure thing when I came across Joy's (of Joy the Baker) post for her favorite cupcakes using Hummingbird Bakery's recipe only to be highly disappointed in a dry and crumbly cake...maybe I did something wrong, but it just didn't do it for me.

Then the other night I caught Bobby Flay throwing down with Cake Man Raven and thought to myself, "That has to be it, Cake Man Raven is known for this famous Red Velvet Cake"...but alas, after reading over 50 reviews everyone said the cake was super oily and actually leaked as it sat.. gross. I didn't even decide to try it after reading this.

This weekend I again searched the internet and came upon a few recipes that claimed to be "the best" recipe and the reviews all agreed that this was indeed one of the best, from scratch, cupcake they had made, so I decided to take my chances. Just as I was getting everything ready I noticed a few recipes on the back of my box of Swans Down Cake Flour- it was the same recipe! This gave me a little more faith that maybe, just maybe I had found it....

After preparing the recipe I waited patiently for the oven buzzer to go off and gave them just enough time to cool before breaking into one.. not bad. They were definitely moist and the texture was nice, just a little crumby which could have been from my over baking them slightly (woops). But definitely a keeper.

Of course I forgot that I didn't have any cream cheese in the fridge so I whipped up some 7 minute icing and iced a few for the girls as a mid-movie treat for when we went to see the latest installment of the Twilight series (yes, I will admit I love the Vamps and Wolves- go team Edward!) and after the movie I had Mountain Man taste-test one (OK, three). All agreed it was a pretty tasty cupcake.

Since 7-minute Icing only lasts one day I decided to make the rest of the cupcakes into cake balls for the folks at the office. I whipped up a small batch of butter cream and got to work- below you'll find the Red Velvet Cupcake recipe and step by step instructions for cake balls..

but I'm not done yet!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Recipe on back of Swan Down cake flour box
Oven: 350 Bake time: 40 minutes
Yields 18 cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour (sifted)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 TBS cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350. Line cupcake pan with paper liners and set aside.
In a bowl whisk sifter flour, salt and baking powder.
In a large bowl cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.
In a small bowl mix food coloring and cocoa powder and add to butter mixture.
Alternating with buttermilk, add flour mixture to butter mixture, beginning and ending with flour.
In another bowl mix baking soda and vinegar and gently stir into batter.
Using an ice cream scoop divide batter evenly among cupcakes (filling about 2/3 way full).
Transfer to oven and bake for 40 minutes.
Once removed from oven, allow to cool on cooling rack for 15 minutes before removing from pan.

To make cake balls you'll need:
1 batch of cupcakes (about 12)
A small batch of buttercream* recipe to follow
1 bag Wilton's Vanilla Candy Melts

Make a small batch of buttercream-
1/2 cup crisco or shortening
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1-2 TBS water
Place all ingredients in a bowl and beat for a few minutes until smooth and creamy.

Remove liners from cupcakes and crumble into a large bowl.
Add dollops of frosting...
And mix until incorporated and balls can be formed.
Using a teaspoon as a guide for size, roll into small balls using the palms of your hands and place on parchment paper lined baking pan.
Place in the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour or flash freeze for about 20 minutes. They can also be kept in the freezer in an airtight container for 2 or 3 weeks.

In a double boiler, melt a bag of Wilton's Vanilla Candy Melts and 1/4 cup crisco, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula until smooth and creamy. 
You can get these melts at Michael's or other craft stores.. the good thing about the melts is that you can refrigerate the final project and not have to worry about melting as soon as they're out, they're also easier to work with than chocolate because they're made for melting and hardening again.

Drop balls one or two at a time into melted candy and roll around until covered completely- this can be done with the help of your spatula or fork. Lightly lift the balls with a fork (it will allow for extra coating to fall off) and place gently back onto baking pan.

After all balls are coated place back in the fridge. Allow to set for about 10-15 minutes and then try not to eat them all at once!
I'm not done yet though.. I have one more recipe to try out later this week and will make my final decision based on how this next batch turns out. Wish me luck! 

Happy Baking!