Saturday, December 10, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

For years I have made my husband a special birthday cake on his big day.  And I always made the kind of cake that I like: a white cake with colorful sprinkles, vanilla frosting, candles, etc.  My birthday cake for him was a pony shy of an 8-year-old girl's birthday party.  Then one year he informed me that he would prefer a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting.  Oops. 

To my recollection, I had never had a red velvet cake.  So I didn't know what the big deal was or why he would rather have that than my traditional cake.  I didn't know how to make a red velvet cake, or really even what it was other than a red cake.  So I just bought a box or red velvet cake mix and a can of cream cheese frosting.  My husband liked it, but I was not that impressed. 

Fast forward to this week.  I'll give you a second.

Okay.  So I'm in the Christmas baking mood and trying to decide what my next treat will be.  I've made my favorite festive treats, Christmas Sugar Cookies and Cinnamon Almond Biscotti.  Now what?  Then it occurs to me to make something not traditionally associated with Christmas, but in a more festive manor.  I remember Christmas mornings as a child when my family made red and green colored waffles.  How about red velvet cupcakes with green colored cream cheese frosting?  Bingo!

I know I have a recipe for red velvet cupcakes that I have never tried.  I get out my cookbook and flip through the pages.  I can't find it.  I go through them again.  Nothing.  I go through them again.  I guess I don't have a red velvet cupcake recipe.  I get out my Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook.  It has a red velvet cake recipe with cream cheese frosting.  I use that recipe to make cupcakes.  They are cute and festive.  I eat one.  I almost faint.  These are so much better than the red velvet cake I made for my husband's birthday.  I must share these with you!

Start by sifting together the flour and salt.
 Then cream together the shortening and sugar.
Beat together the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and vinegar in a separate bowl.  If you don't have buttermilk, pour one tablespoon of vinegar in a measuring cup, then add milk to make 1 cup and stir.
 Alternate mixing flour mixture and egg mixture into the shortening and sugar.
Stir the food coloring and cocoa powder together in a small bowl.  Food coloring ain't free so use as little or as much as you would like depending on how red you want your cake to be.  I used a lot. 
Dump it into the cake batter.  I apparently didn't mix my cocoa powder with the food coloring very well.
Stir in the food coloring until it's mixed it.
Pour the batter into the cupcake liners and bake.  As I said in my intro, this is actually a cake batter that I used to make cupcakes.  If you want to make an actual cake, pour batter into 2 greased 10-inch round cake pans and bake for 25 minutes.
While you are waiting on the cupcakes (or cakes!) to cool, make the frosting.  Start out by beating together cream cheese and butter.  I like to use reduced fat cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, especially in something like frosting where it won't be heated.  Even I draw the line at fat free cream cheese.  It's yucky.
Sift powdered sugar and add it to the cream cheese/butter mixture.
Add the salt and mix.  Then add the vanilla and mix again until the frosting is nice and smooth.
If you are going for the festive look, stir in the green food coloring until it is thoroughly mixed.  
This frosting was so good I decided that putting it on top of the cupcakes wasn't enough.  It needed to be inside them as well.  With a pastry bag and a Wilton #230 tip, it is really easy to add a filling to your cupcakes.
Fill the pastry bag with frosting.  Insert the tip into the center of the cupcake until you hit the bottom.  Squeeze the bag as you slowly lift the tip out of the cupcake.
Take these cupcakes to your next Christmas party.  Don't tell anyone these babies are filled with frosting.  As the other guests gobble these up, they will discover this:
Tell them that hidden frosting is their gift wrapped in red velvet cupcake.  Merry Christmas, indeed!
To frost the tops of the cupcakes, I would usually use a 1M tip.  But I had already put my frosting in the pastry bag with a coupler for the filling.  So I just took the tip off and used the bag as is to frost in a spiral pattern.  
I did have some leftover frosting.  If you don't want any leftovers, you can scale back the frosting a little bit.  Or if you want to be on Santa's naughty list, just get a spoon and make that frosting disappear!
I really meant to top these with some red sprinkles for a little extra Christmas cheer, but somehow I forgot.  Because of the cream cheese frosting, these need to be refrigerated.  By the time I remembered the sprinkles these had been in the refrigerator for a while and the frosting was too stiff for sprinkles to stick to.  The only thing that would have made me love these more would have been red sprinkles.  There's always next time, I guess!
Red Velvet Cupcakes
1 cup shortening
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp vinegar
1-2 oz red food coloring
1 1/2 tsp cocoa powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pan with liners.
Sift together flour and salt.  Set aside.
Cream together shortening and sugar with electric mixer.  Set aside.
Mix the eggs, buttermilk, vanilla, baking soda, and vinegar in a separate bowl.
Alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk mixture to the shortening mixture in the mixing bowl, mixing after each addition.
In a small bowl, mix the red food coloring and cocoa powder.  Pour into the mixing bowl.  Mix just until combined.
Pour batter into lined cupcake pan, filling each about 2/3 full.
Bake about 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into center of cupcakes comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.
Makes about 16 cupcakes.

Cream Cheese Frosting
12 oz low fat cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 lbs powdered sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
Green food coloring, optional
Place cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl and whip until smooth.  Sift the powdered sugar and add it to the bowl.  Add the salt and mix.  Add the vanilla and mix until smooth. 

Recipe adapted slightly from The Pioneer Woman Cooks


  1. They're so cute! I love red velvet-we had it for our wedding cake. And I love this line "a pony shy of an 8-year-old girl's birthday party" :P

  2. Very festive! I love the "gift wrapped in red velvet cupcake" line! Who could resist that?