Did you have a favorite birthday cake flavor when you were a child?
We American kids are pretty passionate about this topic. Becca and our friend Saro are of the cult of Carvel ice cream cakes and refuse non-frozen confections. Others are passionately cookie cake kids. Yet others prefer the comfort of yellow cake with chocolate frosting.
Meanwhile, my birthdays cakes were always chocolate-vanilla marble, with white frosting to enable as many ridiculous decorations as possible—as I was usually more concerned with how the cake would be decorated (no surprise there).
Somewhere along the path to adulthood—college in the South—I discovered red velvet cake and never looked back. Perhaps it’s the pinkish red cake, or the cream cheese frosting, or the chocolatey flavoring, but I am obsessed with red velvet. Every birthday cake in my 20s has been red velvet, much to my mother’s dismay as she has yet to find perfect bakery.
Seems like I fit in well here in D.C., where everyone’s favorite cupcake is Red Velvet.
It’s actually quite challenging to bake red velvet correctly. The buttermilk-vinegar-coco powder balance is a difficult one to strike. The first time I made red velvet cake, it was for a cute boy’s birthday. It turned out far too dry, and, needless to say, our relationship did not last long.
Two years later, I’m now on my fourth recipe, and I think I’ve struck gold. This recipe produces fluffy, moist cake and smooth, rich cream cheese frosting. Please don’t judge a book by it’s cover—I refuse to use food coloring so the cupcake could be lovelier. C’est la vie.
This recipe is adapted from Ina Garten, also known as the Barefoot Contessa. Usually when I adapt a recipe, and this case is no different, it entails more using more vanilla, less flour, and substituting whole-wheat for all-purpose flour. In this instance, I also used more cream cheese in the frosting.
- 2 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
Cream Cheese Frosting:
- 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar (3/4 pound)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute, until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients alternately in 3 parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mix until combined. Stir with a rubber spatula to be sure the batter is mixed.
4. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups with a 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop or large spoon. Bake for 25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool completely in the pans and frost the cupcakes with Red Velvet Frosting.
5. Place the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on medium speed just until combined. Don’t whip! Add the sugar and mix until smooth.