cream cheese

Red Velvet Ginger Cream Cheese Cupcakes – An Improved Red Velvet Recipe

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As I mentioned in my prior red velvet cupcake post, I hoped to come up with an oil-based recipe that I could recommend. With this recipe below — mission accomplished!

From my experience, oil-based cakes, as compared to butter cakes, have a better texture and more moistness, at least for cupcakes. Butter cakes are a little denser (and drier?) and seem to work better for layered cakes.

This red velvet cake is topped with ginger-white pepper cream cheese, candied ginger and chocolate shavings. My mom had recently been to some fancy restaurant and was raving to me about a red velvet doughnut dessert she had eaten, with a ginger-pepper-chocolate cream cheese filling that had a kick to it. I took that as a challenge to come up with a cupcake version 🙂

Red Velvet Cake

Ingredients
Makes 22-24 cupcakes

  • 2 ½ cups flour
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. 
  3. Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until smooth paste forms. 
  4. Mix buttermilk, oil, vinegar, vanilla and eggs in stand mixer.
  5. Add half of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add remainder of flour mixture, scraping down side of bowl.
  6. Add cocoa mixture and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated about 30 seconds. Use a rubber spatula to scrape sides and bottom of bowl to make sure red color is evenly distributed.
  7. Scoop into lined cupcake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 18-20 minutes.

Ginger Pepper Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients
Makes about 3 cups

  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 oz. (1 package) cream cheese, softened 
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger (+/- to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper (+/- to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups powdered sugar (+/- to taste)

Directions

  1. Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Add sugar one cup at a time and beat on low speed until incorporated.
  3. Add vanilla, ginger and pepper and increase speed until frosting is fluffy. Note: the amount of spices noted above results in a mild kick. Add more for stronger flavor, or mix in a ginger syrup or chopped crystallized/candied ginger.
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Lemon Red Velvet Cupcakes – Red & Gold

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It’s homecoming weekend! For a reunion potluck with my syzsters, I made these red velvet cupcakes, filled with lemon curd and topped with lemon cream cheese frosting and a gumpaste yellow rose, as a nod to our sorority colors of red and gold.

I’ve actually never made red velvet cupcakes before, so I decided to try out two recipes, one from Cook’s Illustrated (which I can almost always count on), and one from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook (via Joy the Baker). Neither blew me away, as I thought both were slightly dry and not particularly flavorful on their own. Although both held up well and tasted great once assembled with the frosting and curd, I think a good cake should stand on its own.

Cook’s Illustrated on left; Hummingbird Bakery on right 

Initially, out of the oven, I liked the Hummingbird recipe better, because it used more cocoa and food coloring, resulting in a deeper red color and a stronger chocolate flavor. But once the cupcakes were assembled and sat overnight, I thought the Cook’s Illustrated recipe was more balanced. The Hummingbird recipe had a little too much cocoa, such that the cake tasted more like a chocolate cake (which, unless you are mixing in melted chocolate into the recipe, often has a slightly bitter aftertaste), and was overpowering the lemon and cream cheese flavors.

In the future, I hope to tinker with a oil-based recipe, rather than a butter-based one, as I generally prefer the texture and moistness of oil cakes (at least for cupcakes). Will update if I succeed there!

Cook’s Illustrated Red Velvet Cake – from Holiday Baking 2010

Ingredients
Makes 20 cupcakes

  • 2 ¼ cups flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder (regular, not Dutch-processed, for proper rise and color)
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. 
  3. Whisk buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla and eggs in large measuring cup. 
  4. Mix cocoa with food coloring in small bowl until smooth paste forms. 
  5. With stand mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar together until fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down bowl as necessary. 
  6. Add one-third of flour mixture and beat on medium-low speed until just incorporated, about 30 seconds. 
  7. Add half of buttermilk mixture and beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. 
  8. Scrape down bowl as necessary and repeat with half of remaining flour mixture, remaining buttermilk mixture, and finally remaining flour mixture. 
  9. Scrape down bowl, add cocoa mixture and beat on medium speed until completely incorporated about 30 seconds. Using rubber spatula give batter final stir. (Note: make sure the red color is consistent throughout batter, especially at bottom of bowl.)
  10. Scrape into lined cupcake pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. 

adapted from Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook Red Velvet Cupcake – via Joy the Baker

Ingredients
Makes 20 cupcakes

  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature 
  • 1 ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 tablespoons red food coloring 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 ¼ cups flour 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar

Directions

  1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. 
  4. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
  5. In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined.
  6. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.
  7. Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.
  8. Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For the lemon cream cheese frosting, beat together 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, 12 oz. cream cheese, 1 lb. (4 cups) confectioners’ sugar, ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract, and the juice from one lemon (to taste, about 2-3 tablespoons). Note: the acidity from the lemon juice may slightly break up the consistency of the frosting, so don’t make this too far in advance.

For the lemon curd, combine 2 whole eggs, 8 egg yolks, 1 cup sugar, and ⅔ cup lemon juice in a heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmer water. Cook and whisk constantly until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, whisking until smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a small bowl to remove lumps. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing the wrap against the surface to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate until chilled and firm, at least 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

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Strawberry Cupcakes – Is It Springtime Yet?

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I have a sweet tooth, no doubt about that. But don’t worry mom, I do eat food categories other than “dessert”. When I say I love desserts, it’s not so much about eating desserts, as it is about appreciating that intersection of culinary science and art. So it’s probably no surprise that I love Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego and would go work with Karen Krasne in a heartbeat if I were to ever attend pastry school. She never fails to deliver art and beauty (and incredible flavor) in her creations.

This Toutes Fraises (translation: all strawberries) from her cookbook is a sour cream cupcake containing freshly diced strawberries in the batter. The cake is filled with a strawberry jelly, and topped with a strawberry cream cheese frosting. Extraordinary Desserts is known for decorating desserts with fresh flowers and petals. Here, I decided to work on my gum paste skills and came up with these gum paste rosebuds for decoration. Tedious, but very satisfying to make. I definitely eyed some flower bouquets at Safeway in case my efforts failed, but fortunately these were presentable enough (although a bit on the “toxic pink” side in color).

I’d venture to say that the 250 degree oven setting may have been a typo in the recipe, as 350 is typical for cakes, and 250 definitely did not get the job done. The cupcake was yummy, but perhaps next time starting at 350 degrees or closer to 350 will avoid temperature adjustments and give me better control over the cake’s texture.

Can’t wait to try more of my favorites from the cookbook!

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