I’ve never really understood the fuss about red velvet cakes and couldn’t figure out what could be so special about a normal cake batter that has some red colouring added to it. Hence, I’ve never been inspired to bake a red velvet cake, but my niece recently turned sixteen and asked for a batch of red velvet cupcakes to take to school on her birthday, so I started to do some research and to my surprise there’s a lot more to red velvet cakes than meets the eye. First of all the chocolate used is always cocoa powder which I love for its deep chocolate intensity and the addition of buttermilk and vinegar give this cake a lovely tangy moistness and density that’s unlike any other cake I’ve tried. As for the red colour I think it somehow tricks the mind when eating the cake to expect something other than a normal chocolate cake and it works. After trolling through a lot of recipes I decided to try Martha Stewart’s and I really hit the jackpot – these red velvet cakes were incredibly moist and had a wonderful crumb and just the right amount of sweetness. I’m not a fan of adding artificial colouring to food and suggest you try to find a high quality food colour gel if possible as you’ll use a lot less of a paste/gel than a cheap liquid food dye. I am now a red velvet convert and I can see myself making this batter again, next time in a normal cake tin or bundt tin for a fabulous dessert.
Ingredients – makes 24 cupcakes Adapted from Martha Stewart
2 ½ cups plain cake flour, sifted (to make cake flour you can use normal plain flour and remove 2 ½ tablespoons of flour and replace with cornflour)
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon red gel-paste food colour – if you use normal liquid food colour you will need more
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
Cream Cheese Icing
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
180g cream cheese, room temperature
250g (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 180C. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food colour and vanilla.
Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.
Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centres comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before icing. To make the icing, beat the butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, a little at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth.