Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Red Velvet Mini Cupcakes

I thought I might have to encourage, bribe and generally cajole my kids into learning to cook.  I needn't have worried - my 3 year old clearly sees baking as some kind of magical alchemy or advanced chemistry where you get to eat the results of your experiments...which can't be bad!  Of course he finds food colourings endlessly fascinating and asks for rainbow cake on a weekly basis, I'll include a recipe for that soon.  Meanwhile, he helped me develop my own version of Red Velvet Cake - which is light and fluffy while still maintaining that deeply seductive crimson crumb.  Since he would much rather have several teeny tiny cupcakes than one standard sized one, I made them in the smallest cupcake liners I could find: they are about 3cm or 1 inch in diameter...perfect for little hands and mouths, but please feel free to make them in a more grown up size!  When it comes to the food colouring I find that red (in general) has a bitter after-taste.  So, I would recommend that you use either Wilton No-Taste Red or Americolor Tulip Red, neither of which have any after-taste at all.

Now, I started with Nigella Lawson's recipe which can be found here and I tinkered with it a bit (of course!) and my version of it is below:
For the cake:
50g / 2oz unsalted butter, softened
100g / 4oz caster or superfine sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
60 mls / 4 tblspns natural yogurt
30 mls / 2 tbspns milk
125g / 5oz plain or all purpose flour
25g / 1oz dark cocoa (dutch process is good here)
2 tsps concentrated red colouring gel (such as Wilton or Americolor)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp white balsamic vinegar (or dark balsmic if you can't get the white one)

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C / 320 F and line at least 24 mini muffin cups with cup cake cases.
  2. Beat together the butter and sugar until they are pale and fluffy - about 2 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla, beat again until well combined. 
  3. In a small bowl or cup mix the yogurt, red colouring and milk together well until they are smooth, then add to the batter and mix thoroughly.  At this point I recommend you take the bowl off the mixer and continue by hand as you really don't want to overmix the batter.
  4. Add the flour and cocoa and stir thoroughly until they are incorporated, be particularly careful to scrape the bottom of the mixing bowl as you stir, to ensure that there are no scraps of white batter left down there.
  5. In a small bowl or cup mix the baking powder and balsamic vinegar - while it is still foaming mix it into the cake batter working quickly.
  6. Now, tip teaspoons of the mixture into the prepared muffin tins and cook for approximately 10-12 mins depending on your oven.  The tops of the cakes should be springy when you press them lightly.
For the icing:
250g / 2 cups icing sugar or confectioners sugar
75g / 3oz Philadelphia (or other) cream cheese - this MUST be soft
50g / 2oz unsalted butter softened
A variety of sprinkles, dragees, or pre-made icing sugar shapes** to decorate

  1. Place the sugar, cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a mixer and (using the paddle attachment) beat together on slow for about 30 seconds until everything is well combined.
  2. Increase the speed to medium and beat for a further 2 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy.  
  3. The plain white icing looks great on these cakes but if you would prefer a bit of contrast, take a couple of tablespoons of the icing and add a drop of pink food colouring.

To decorate:
I prefer a softer look for these cakes, so I just take a teaspoon of icing and swirl it on top of each cupcake.  However, if you would like a more defined/piped effect, I would recommend that you refrigerate the icing for at least 1 hour before proceeding.  Finally, sprinkle over your adornment of choice.  **Every so often I like to make decorated sugar cookies, and I always have royal icing left over.  I pipe this onto pieces of waxed parchment paper and leave them to dry for future use as cupcake toppers etc.  In the photo above, you'll see that I also sprinkled edible glitter on the wet royal icing...sometimes more really is more!!!

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