Monday, September 14, 2009

Red Velvet

(I'm totally sitting here trying to think of a creative title for this blog post, but creativity is severely lacking at the moment.  That, or there really isn't anything witty to say about Red Velvet cupcakes)

Speaking of which, why DO they call them Red Velvet cupcakes (and why do I feel the need to capitalize it every time)?  I've always wondered.  I've read a little bit of the history of them (I'm nerdy and like to learn about things like that), and I guess it simply comes from the color... but velvet?  Are they supposed to be smooth or something?  Anyway...

I'll be honest, I've never really been a huge fan of red velvet cupcakes (I'm over the capitalizing, as you can see).  They're good, but they're not that good.  They've always felt a little overhyped and underwhelming to me.  That is, until I had Sheree's red velvet with her yummy whipped light fluffy frosting.  You see, I've got no problem with the cake per se.  I prefer a more clean white or yellow cake buttery flavor or a very rich chocolate flavor, but red velvet does tend to be just as good even though I can't quite place the flavor (they say slightly chocolatey, but I don't ever feel like it really comes through).  It's the frosting, however, that always gets to me.  Red velvet's frosting tends to be dense, overly cream cheesy, and sometimes it's good but most of the time I feel like it just overshadows the cake.  Or maybe that's just Sprinkle's way of doing things... because that's really the only other red velvet experience I've had.  That's all to say that when I was introduced properly to red velvet (in a form that I enjoyed, with frosting that I adored), I got a glimpse into why this is recently such a fad cake.  And I determined that I would make it myself one day.

Now, I won't post the recipe until I do a little research about copyrights (or can find a link online), but Martha does have a wonderful red velvet recipe in her book.  One of the things I particularly enjoyed about it is that it uses vegetable oil instead of butter.  Normally red velvet (and every other type of homemade cake) requires a good amount of butter.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that this one doesn't.  And despite it's lack of butter, it still turned out light, fluffy, and quite delicious.  After baking the recipe myself, I think I've determined what the flavor of red velvet is supposed to be and why it's always paired with cream cheese frosting.  I think it's the slight tartness of the buttermilk in the cake and the cream cheese in the frosting, coupled with the light vanilla and chocolate flavors in the cake and the vanilla in the frosting that come together very nicely.  Very nicely indeed.  I didn't have all of the ingredients to make Martha's cream cheese frosting (I will do it eventually, and plan on using it with the pumpkin cupcake recipe that Ginson sent me), so I went with the recipe in my America's Test Kitchen Cookbook and love Love LOVED it.  It has the same lightness of Sheree's frosting with a little more butteryness to it.  It's seriously just cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and sour cream.  A little heart attack waiting to happen.  Good thing you consume small quantities of frosting with cupcakes :)

It's official people.  I'm in love with red velvet.  Well, red velvet on my terms, I suppose.  It's too bad I won't be making them again any time soon, as I hope to not repeat a recipe until I'm done with all of them... unless there's a special request... or a trip to visit Karis (since I've promised her some the next time I see her).  We'll see!

Oh yes, one last thing... Often when I make these cupcakes I make an entire batch, bring some to work, leave some at home for my family to eat, and give out the rest to random people I know who enjoy cupcakes.  So if you have a favorite, holler and I'll send some your way the next time I make some :D

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