The first time I made red velvet cake was in back in law school, around the time I started this blog. It was my friend Jill’s birthday, and red velvet was her favorite, so I decided to surprise her with a homemade birthday cake. I hadn’t made a lot of non-box mix cakes at that point, but I figured it couldn’t be too hard. After all, red velvet cake was basically just chocolate cake with a ton of red food coloring, right?
Wrong. So very wrong.
The cake was a disaster.
I used a basic chocolate cake recipe, which would have been fine, but I really wanted a gorgeous red cake so I kept adding more and more food coloring to the batter. As it turns out, it takes a lot of food coloring to turn a dark brown cake red. So yeah…the end result was a semi-red cake that tasted like chemicals and made Jill poop red for a week. Gross, on so many levels.
From then on out, I avoided all red velvet cake recipes. I had to hide my shame. Can’t have everyone thinking I’m such a great baker after all these years and then destroying their impression of me with another red poop-inducing cake bomb, you know?
I would have been content to only eat red velvet cakes and cupcakes made for me by pros for the rest of my life but this past summer I got it in my head that I needed red velvet cupcakes at my wedding (red was one of my colors!). Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any bakery near our venue that made tasty yet reasonably priced cupcakes (when did cupcakes get so @#$!% expensive???), so…it was time to face my personal baking Mt. Everest.
Enter: Charlene, my awesome bridesmaid, who not only housed 90% of the wedding party at her new house and took a day off from work to help me bake 300 cupcakes for the wedding, but also generously shared her kick ass red velvet cupcake recipe with me.
Seriously guys, this recipe is amazing – even with me involved, the cupcakes turned out moist, tender, gorgeously red, and super yummy.
All my wedding guests raved about them (no red poops that I know of)! And, unlike the lemon cupcakes we also made for the wedding, this recipe is straightforward, easy, fuss-free, and doesn’t involve zesting and juicing a billion lemons. I’d say this is a keeper, don’t you?
I’m still riding high from my success with the wedding cupcakes, so I decided it was safe to make these cupcakes again this weekend for my friend Robin’s holiday party. Happy to report that attempt #2 was also a success. I didn’t get to try one myself, but Robin’s guests all seemed to like them. And you know, I never really thought of red velvet cakes/cupcakes as being particularly festive, but their colors really are very Christmasy. Beautiful, dark red cakes piled high with creamy white frosting and sprinkled with shiny white pearl sprinkles – I think Santa would definitely approve, don’t you?
** It’s rare that I follow recipes exactly, but Charlene has spent years perfecting this recipe and it’s amazing, so here’s her recipe verbatim.
- 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1-1/2 cups sugar
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1-1/2 cup buttermilk, room temperature
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 tbsp red food coloring
- 1 tsp white distilled vinegar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 pound cream cheese, softened
- 2 sticks butter, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
- In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.
- In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer.
- Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
- Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins (tins should be about ⅔ filled).
- Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. (Bake for ~13 minutes for mini-cupcakes.)
- Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness.
- Remove cupcakes from oven and cool completely.
- While your cupcakes are cooling, combine the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together in a large bowl and beat until smooth.
- Add the powdered sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated.
- Increase the speed of your beaters/mixer to high and mix until frosting is whiter in color and very light/fluffy.
- Spoon your frosting into a piping bag with your piping tip of choice (I used a large round tip from Bake It Pretty), and pipe thick swirls of frosting on top of each cooled cupcake.
- Sprinkle with white pearl sprinkles (optional), then enjoy at least one immediately.