Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
The gift box! What’s inside?

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Lots of cupcake goodness!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

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:

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Ready to trace!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Doesn’t look like much here, on the “bumpy side.”

Red Velvet Cupcakes

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)

Cupcake Ingredients:
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

Directions:

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.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
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!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
All finished and frosted.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Aww.

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.


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Strawberry Jam Cupcakes

Jam — even the word is delicious.  It reminds me of comfort, home, thick slices of bread, thick slices of butter!  So I was very grateful when the mother of one of my students gave me a thoughtful and personal gift at the end of this school year: homemade strawberry freezer jam.  As soon as I saw the jar, I knew that jam was destined to be in the middle of some big, fluffy strawberry cupcakes.  My little school just put on a fantastic performance of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and after trying these cupcakes, I feel quite sorry for the citizens of that crazy world:

“It’s very good jam,” said the Queen.
“Well, I don’t want any to-day, at any rate.”
“You couldn’t have it if you did want it,” the Queen said. “The rule is jam tomorrow and jam yesterday but never jam to-day.”
“It must come sometimes to “jam to-day,””Alice objected.
“No it can’t,” said the Queen. “It’s jam every other day; to-day isn’t any other day, you know.”
“I don’t understand you,” said Alice. “It’s dreadfully confusing.”

No need to worry, because it must be an “every other” day here!

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes

I made these Strawberry Jam Cupcakes at the same time as the Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes below, using the same batter with a few minor changes.  The note at the end of this recipe will explain how to do that if you’d like to.  Because of my aforementioned love of cream cheese, I decided to frost these with a smooth and creamy cream cheese frosting instead of buttercream. It was a great combination!

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes


Recipe By: Compiled and adapted by me, from:

Gloria Bradley (cupcakes, adapted)
Paula Deen (cream cheese frosting)

Yields: 12-15 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
1.5 cups (about 6 3/4 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, thawed
Fresh strawberry jam for filling

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. Place 12 decorative paper muffin cup liners into muffin cups. To prepare cupcakes, lightly spoon 1.5 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Measure 1 tablespoon flour; level with a knife. Sift together 1.5 cups flour plus 1 tablespoon flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine melted butter and egg in another large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk, milk, and vanilla to butter mixture; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Toss chopped strawberries with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Fold berries into batter. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of the cupcake part comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack. When cool, core a hole out of the middle of each cupcake. Spoon in fresh strawberry jam.

Strawberry Jam Cupcakes
That one lonely little cupcake on the bottom right got a dollop of cream cheese as an experiment — that’s why he’s jamless!

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 completely cool cupcakes, using a pastry bag if available. I used star tip 1M.

NOTE: Use fresh, homemade strawberry jam for filling if possible. See note at the bottom of Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes recipe for instructions on how to make these two batches of lovely cupcakes together.

Mmmm, enjoy!
Strawberry Jam Cupcakes

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes

Cream cheese can make anything amazing, in my opinion.  Bagels, frosting, a root canal… I’m betting that cream cheese could even fix the economy.  So when Mike and I were at the grocery store awhile back and saw blueberry cream cheese muffins, we had to try them.  They were good, but not as delicious as they should’ve been — not homemade delicious, and not cupcake delicious.  I thought I’d try my hand at my own version — blueberry cream cheese cupcakes, with some lemon added in for good measure.

These cupcakes are fresh, creamy, and sweet.  They are especially delightful straight from the icebox — that’s right, the icebox, because their cool and refreshing taste reminds me of the William Carlos Williams poem:

This Is Just To Say
by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums

that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
saving
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes


Recipe By: Compiled and adapted by me, from:

Gloria Bradley (cupcakes, adapted)
Joy of Baking (cheesecake filling)
-Mom (buttercream, slightly adapted)

Yields: 12-15 cupcakes

Cupcake Ingredients:
1.5 cups (about 6 3/4 ounces) plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons lemon juice
3/4 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, thawed

Cheesecake Filling Ingredients:
8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup (65 grams) granulated white sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Lemon Buttercream Frosting Ingredients:
1/2 cup crisco (white) shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (can use clear if you want the frosting to be snow white)
1/2 teaspoon imitation almond flavoring
1/2 teaspoon imitation butter flavoring
1 tablespoon lemon juice
lemon zest, if desired
2-4 tablespoons sweet milk for thinning
4-5 drops yellow food coloring

Directions:

Cream Cheese Filling: In your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the sugar, egg, and vanilla extract and beat until creamy and smooth. Set aside while you make the cupcake batter.

Blueberry Lemon Cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350°. Place 12 decorative paper muffin cup liners into muffin cups. To prepare cupcakes, lightly spoon 1.5 cups flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Measure 1 tablespoon flour; level with a knife. Sift together 1.5 cups flour plus 1 tablespoon flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a large bowl. Combine melted butter and egg in another large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk, milk, vanilla, and lemon juice to butter mixture; stir with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until moist. Toss blueberries with remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Fold blueberries into batter. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups. Spoon a couple tablespoons of the cream cheese filling in the center of each cupcake. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center of the cupcake part comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Fresh out of the Oven!
Fresh out of the oven!

Lemon Buttercream frosting: Finally, make the buttercream frosting. Cream all ingredients except food coloring together. Can add more sweet milk if needed. Add food coloring and mix. Frost completely cool cupcakes, using a pastry bag if available. I used star tip 1M.

Frosted top!
All frosted!

NOTE: I wanted to make both these and the strawberry cupcakes in the above post together out of the same basic recipe. If you’d like to do this, double the recipe shown here. Make the batter as described, except omit the lemon juice. Before folding in the berries, separate the batter into two bowls. Add the lemon juice and floured blueberries to one bowl, and fold floured strawberries into the other. Bake as described. I didn’t use the cream cheese filling with the strawberry cupcakes because I wanted to fill them with jam, but you could if you wanted.

These cupcakes were so yummy — and as I mentioned above, even better after being refrigerated overnight in an airtight container. They are a little sweet in places — you might want to cut down the sugar in the cupcakes a bit if you’re not big on lots of sweetness. If you wanted the cheesecake filling to be a more pronounced part of the cupcake, you could use the filling and top with some streusel instead of frosting. Another nice thing to try would be simply piping sweetened cream cheese into the middle of the cupcakes post-baking.

Enjoy! Hope these cupcakes inspire poetry in you!

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