My first introduction to red velvet cake as a child was that scene in Steel Magnolias where folks are hacking into the red velvet groom's cake shaped like an armadillo. The cake looks like the blood red innards of the hideous creature when exposed. Here's a screen shot for those of you who missed the movie (though you should certainly go watch):
The Red Velvet Armadillo from Steel Magnolias
Thankfully, I've had better red velvet experiences since then! As you may have read in the About Willow Bird Baking page, Paula Deen's delicious, fluffy red velvet cupcakes with decadent cream cheese frosting are what ignited my baking spark! My boyfriend, Mike, is absolutely in love with them, and for good reason. Mrs. Deen knows when to splurge on the fats, and this recipe definitely uses its fair share of oil and butter. The result is heavenly.
A family friend, Wanda, had a birthday this week and agreed to be my "taste tester" (I'm always looking for folks to eat my cupcakes -- let me know if you're a hungry Charlottean!), so I baked her up Paula's fantastic cupcakes as a birthday surprise. Check out the recipe below!
I bought a cute little gift box at Target, lined it with tissue paper, and popped in some cupcakes. Michael's also makes great little cupcake holders if you're thinking of baking up a food gift.
The gift box! What's inside?
Lots of cupcake goodness!
I wanted to add a little something special, so I used a chocolate candy melt to create some decorations. This is a simple and fun way to add a personal touch to cakes or cupcakes. I use chocolate CandiQuik that I buy at Super Target. I like the consistency and taste better than Wilton's candy melts (found at Michael's), but you could use those too. Simply melt a hunk of the candy melt per the package instructions, spoon it into a ziplock bag with a tiny bit of the corner cut off, and start piping designs onto wax paper.
Want to pipe out some letters, but having trouble making them look nice? A great trick I tried this time around is to print words out in your favorite font to place under the wax paper and "trace." There's only one issue: we'll want to flip the letters over when dry to use the smooth side, but they'll be backwards! To solve this issue, I typed my letters out in Microsoft Word (make sure to leave space between each letter!) and took a screenshot of them (easy instructions on how to take a screenshot: Windows / Mac). I then opened my screenshot in a photo program and selected "flip horizontally." This created a mirror image of the letters to trace. Then I piped on my candy melt, let it dry, and flipped the letters -- VOILA! Smooth and beautiful. Here are some pictures of the process:
Ready to trace!
Doesn't look like much here, on the "bumpy side."
Ta da! Okay, maybe I got carried away! But there are a LOT of cupcakes to decorate! Love the font idea for Wanda's name -- it worked so well!
Paula Deen's Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe By: Paula Deen
Yields: 24 cupcakes (see note)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries (or chocolate decorations!), for garnish
Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (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 about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.
BRIGHT red and fresh from the oven. The kitchen smelled great!
Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip (I used star tip 1M.) Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry (or chocolate decorations).
Frosting the cupcakes!
All finished and frosted.
NOTE: The frosting recipe makes a TON of frosting! I made 1.5x the original recipe of cupcakes, which yielded 39 total, and this frosting recipe frosted all of them.