Happy Valentine's Day!

2/15/2008 03:10:00 PM

Hello everyone! I am back home!

I still have heaps of Japan and German blogs to put up, but this might take some time while I organise my photos and come to terms with Australia's crap internet speed. Meanwhile, let's all have a look at my Valentine's Day '08 baking project - red velvet cupcakes. Red Velvet Cake, for those of you not in the know, is a light chocolate cake, dyed a deep red with a generous amount of colouring. It is traditionally a 3-layered affair, covered in white icing. This gives you a surprising visual contrast when you slice into the finished product.

I made some heart shaped ones (above), and, so as not to lose the visual-surprise-thing completely, made some miniature stacks. I recently acquired a snazzy silicone heart-shaped muffin tray - a total impulse buy - at Leo's supermarket, and for the stacks, I used a Chicago metallic 6-cup Molten N' More pan. This specialised pan, designed for molten chocolate puddings (N' more!), has 6 straight-sided holes (not slanted like a muffin tray). The pan is totally non-stick, with loose bases. How awesome! I have to admit I had my eye on this pan for quite a while, but could never justify the ridiculous price. ($60 for a baking pan that'd only get used once or twice a year? *AHEM*) However, shopping with my mum before Christmas last year, she surprised me with an uncharacteristic display of impulse shopping. She saw the pans in an expensive homeware shop, and without any prodding from me, decided she loved them, and proceeded to explain to me why we needed this pan.

"Hey Sarah, you know ah, this pan would be good for my fruit cakes!".

Then she bought it. My mum rocks.

Ta-dah. Miniature red velvet cakes.

I got the idea for making red velvet cakes partly from my friend Lisa, partly from the gorgeous Little Cupcakes bakery shop on Flinders Street. I love Little Cupcakes - their cupcakes are cute and delicious, unlike some of the other much-hyped, dry, sickly-sweet cupcakes around Melbourne. Yurgh. The recipe for the cake base comes from The Buttercup Bakeshop Cookbook, whilst the icing is from More from Magnolia. Bizarre, I know, to use 2 separate books, but the Buttercup cake recipe had less sugar, and the red velvet icing in More from Magnolia had clearer instructions. So there you go.

The cake, apart from its striking red colour, is rather plain tasting - not that this is a bad thing. I think of it as a crowd pleaser that could be called into service for birthdays or whatever. However, it is quite tedious to make, not least of all because red colouring gets everywhere. The icing is also a palaver - you first cook flour and milk in a pan until thick, and let it cool before adding it to a buttercream mixture. Then you gotta refrigerate it for 15 minutes exactly and then use it straight away!!! Or else! The resulting icing is beautifully white and very smooth, and - OMG - not migraine-inducingly sweet. The icing worked very well for the stacks, but wasn't so great for the cupcakes. I think the ratio of icing to cake was wrong. Anyway, if I were to make red velvet cupcakes again, I would take the lead of Little Cupcakes and make a cream-cheese based frosting. Yum.

I took the cupcakes to a friend's house in the afternoon for a catch-up session. And if you're transporting cute cupcakes, you need a cute box to transport them in! Check out this fantastic cake box I picked up at the Daiso 100-yen shop in Harajuku. Only 100 yen!!! (That's approx $1.10). It really spoke to me when I saw it in the store.

Yes, I DO like cake! How did you know?
Aww... how sweet!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Adapted from The Buttercup Bake Shop Cookbook (Jennifer Appel)

1/4 c red food colouring
2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c (112.5g) unsalted butter, softened
1.5 c sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
2 1/4 c cake flour
1 c buttermilk
1 tsp salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease 12 muffin moulds.
In a small bowl, whisk together the food colouring, cocoa powder and vanilla until well combined. Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Add the flour in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, beating well after each addition. Add the salt.

Beat in the cocoa mixture until thoroughly incorporated.

In a small bowl, mix together the vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter at the end, mixing well.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, before removing from the pan and letting them cool completely on a wire rack. Be careful not to break them, as the cooked cakes are quite soft and delicate.

When cold, ice with Creamy Vanilla Frosting.

Creamy Vanilla Frosting
More from Magnolia (Allysa Torey)

3 tbs plain flour
1 c milk
1 c (225g) unsalted butter, softened
1 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, whisk the flour into the milk until smooth. Place over medium heat and, stirring constantly, cook until the mixture becomes very thick and begins to bubble, 10 -15 minutes. Cover with waxed paper placed directly on the surface and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.
In a large bowl, beat the butter on the medium high speed of an electric mixer for 3 minutes, until smooth and creamy. Gradually add the sugar, beating continuously for 3 minutes until fluffy. Add the vanilla and beat well.
Add the cooled milk mixture, and continue to beat on medium high speed for 5 minutes, until very smooth and noticeably whiter in colour. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes exactly (set a timer). Use immediately.

Happy Valentine's Day!

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  1. Hi Sarah!

    I'm glad to see you are back from your jet-setting adventures. I have missed reading your blog in the last few weeks! What's the nicest thing about being home again?

    Your Valentine's Day baking project looks adorable! I'm not big on cake myself, but I do enjoy your baking stories. In an uncharacteristic move, I am making a Mexican Chocolate Cake tonight for a Valentine's Day dinner (yes, I'm a day late, but that's okay). I'm pretty excited about it because there's a warm, spicy, drizzly chocolate sauce to go along with the cake. Excellent.

    Oh, one more thing. I know you are a huge Nigella fan, so I thought I would tell you I received Nigella Express as a birthday gift after lusting after it in the bookstore. I've made a modified (vegetarian) version of her Mexican Chicken Salad, and it was amazing. I also made the Avocado Bruschetta using French bread (instead of sourdough), and it was fantastic. I think I am falling in love with Nigella!

    Happy cooking!

  2. I like cake! And you! And your cupcakes! Sooo pretty!
    Happy Valentine's Day to you and your Beloved!
    Lisa xoxo
    p.s. hmmm...what about cream cheese frosting next time, Miss?

  3. The frosting alone looks luscious, and I love the idea of little individual cakes. That must have taken quite a while to layer each one! Just adorable though.


  4. I need that cake box!

    Love red velvet cake, even though my singular homemade effort also didn't turn out as planned (it was more like mauve velvet cake with droopy icing). The one from Magnolia Bakery was, however, the best thing I ate in New York.


  5. 60 bucks? wowzer, your link shows 17.99 US. Thats a huge price difference. I totally want that pan now and a muffin top pan.

  6. YAY new post! Lol. Those cakes look awesome - the red colour is gorgeous and that icing looks sooo good, despite being unlike any icing recipe I've ever seen...

  7. Interesting to read that you liked the cupcakes from The Little Cupcake! I was going to blog about them but 3 of the 4 I bought were horribly stale. I'm sure yours were delicious.

  8. Anonymous12:16 AM

    I know this is random, but whenever I am in Melbourne, I find time to go to Leo's in Heidelberg and purchase all the sliced roast beef from the deli counter. It's medium rare, with a tinge of red in the very centre. It's my most favourite thing!!! I wish I could find something as good her in Adelaide. Oh, and love your blog very very much!




My email address is sarahcooks [at] hotmail [dot] com.