Red Velvet Comeback Cupcakes

A couple of years ago, I started an official committee at work to help me test out cupcake recipes in advance of our wedding.  The experiment was so popular that peer pressure led me to bring it back again, though in a more cooperative fashion, early last year.  Now that I am back at work in St. John’s after my research stint in Ottawa, it is my turn to bake for the Cupcake Committee.  What better comeback cupcake than red velvet?

Now, the reason the red velvet cake is red is very interesting.  Crucial ingredients in this batter include white vinegar and buttermilk.  The acid in these ingredients reacts with the anthocyanin that is naturally found in cocoa, creating a lovely red tint (anthocyanin, by the way, is the same stuff that makes leaves turn red in the autumn). 

Modern cocoa, usually Dutch processed, is much more alkaline than its predecessors, and reacts less with the acid, so contemporary bakers generally adjust the tint of their red velvet cakes with beets or food colouring.  While beets would help to retain moisture in the cake, I have opted to use food colouring instead, because I believe beets taste like dirt, and I don’t want a cake that tastes like dirt.  If you want dirt, go eat dirt.  Or a beet.

This recipe is cobbled together from a bunch of different sources.  I hope you enjoy it.  It makes about 2 dozen large cupcakes.  Because the batter can stain, I recommend you make the kiddies wait to help until the frosting stage.

Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two muffin tins with cupcake cups.  I apologize in advance for the lighting in these photos.  It’s been raining for a month.

In a bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 cups sifted flour and 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder.

In a larger bowl, cream together 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar and 1 1/2 cups softened butter until fluffy. 

Crack in 2 room-temperature eggs, one at a time, and mix well.  Make sure to scrape down the bowl when needed.

To that add in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 oz red food colouring.  If you are using gel-paste, use half a teaspoon, as that stuff is concentrated.

Wow.  That is RED.

Reduce the speed of your mixture to low.  Grab 1 cup buttermilk.  Add in your flour mix in three separate additions, alternating with two additions of buttermilk.  Whisk well after each and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda and 2 teaspoons white vinegar.  Stir that foamy goo into the batter for ten seconds.

Divide the batter among the lined cups, filling them about 3/4 full.  Bake, rotating halfway through, until a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cupcake comes out clean, which for me was around 25 minutes

Cool the cupcakes completely before removing them from the tins, because if you drop a hot cupcake, it will explode.  This happened to me.

While they are cooling, chop up 6 oz chocolate and melt that stuff in a double boiler.  We are going to fill these cupcakes with a ganache.

Whisk in 2 cups cold heavy cream (whipping cream) until smooth and glossy and chill that for a spell.

I’m sure you’re still waiting around for the cupcakes at this point, so why not cream together 1 cup softened butter with 2 cups room temperature cream cheese?  Slowly mix in 4-5 cups icing sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and there you have your cream cheese icing.

Now that your cupcakes are cool, insert a toothpick into the centre of each one, going about halfway down, and wiggle it around.  Try not to make the hole at the top too large, but wiggle the toothpick enough so you get a wee cavity in the centre of the cupcake.

Using a piping bag, fill each cavity with cooled ganache.

Now you can spread on your icing with an offset spatula, or you can pipe it on.  I chose the piping method, as you can see.

Sprinkle each cupcake with red sugar.  You can dye sugar yourself by adding a few drops of food colouring to a sealed bag of granulated sugar and shaking it around, or you can just buy it.  In this case I had some on-hand already.  Clever me.Then make sure to share them with all your friends!

 

Fountaining Fiasco – Elizabethan Explosion

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It's hard to see, but the street is more or less flooded.

Sunday night: a raging downpour that continues to Monday.  Kº hears a steady dripping sound in his bathroom ceiling.  Is it the rain, or is it something else?

Monday evening: the dripping continues, despite the fact that the rain has stopped.  All Elizabeth residents, Il Principe included despite his age, are called in for consultation.  The bathroom ceiling is noticeably bulging.  The Pie, given his freakish height advantage, gives the ceiling a good poke.  Everything is squishy.  The dripping can be heard by all present.  This is obviously an internal leak, and as our bathroom is directly above KK’s bathroom, the culprit is either our ancient sink or our even more ancient toilet, which our landlord has decided not to replace, as the matching green fixtures are kitschy and cool.  Landlord and contractor are notified.  We wait.  I didn’t take pictures, sorry.

Tuesday morning: the ceiling, full of water, gives way (obviously).  Elizabeth is full to the brim with unintelligible Newfoundland handy men and their tools.  The carpenter’s pickup is pulled into KK’s driveway (the bed is full of pieces of wood, that’s how I can tell), and the plumber’s pickup is pulled into our driveway (the bed is filled with tubes and piping, that’s how I can tell).

Plumber's truck

Tuesday afternoon: the ceiling comes down and is taken away.  KK’s bathroom is full of people fixing it, but the water is turned off in our apartment, because the pipe behind the toilet is spraying water everywhere downstairs.  Nobody can pee.  My research proposal takes a back seat to the chaos that reigns in the house (and the fact that my new kitchen scales and artisan bread book have arrived).  At one point the plumber comes in and drills a hole in my bathroom floor, and sticks a tube in it.

The new tube.

Later he comes back and attaches a small pipe to the toilet.

A little pipe to bypass the old burst one.

Later, the water comes on and spurts and burbles all over the place.  Then it goes off again.

Air in the water pipes.

Tuesday evening: the super-nice plumber leaves for the night.  KK’s ceiling is completely missing but nothing is leaking.  The contractor will replace the ceiling in a couple days.

The new white bypass pipes.

Interesting information: the carpenter tells Kª before he leaves that Elizabeth is actually one of the oldest houses on the whole street (which is a freaking long street, for that matter), and that back in the day (this is circa 1920 or so), it was quite the fancy establishment.

You can see the high old ceilings in this distance shot.

More interesting information: you can see the old crown mouldings in the bathroom after they removed the ceiling.

The contractor told me there was a double floor there that they have removed.  Lending credence to my belief (judging from the decor of my kitchen) that the house was converted to apartments in the 1960s, the carpenter found a beer bottle in the ceiling, an old one (India Beer is a local brew – the logo is a Newfoundland dog – it’s not bad).

The date on the inside of the label says 1 63 5 (5 January 1963? 1 May 1963?).  The modern stuff is made by Molson and looks like this, but I just found a link that told me bottles like this from the sixties are selling on eBay for $20.  Go figure.  Kª saved it for me, and it’s on my mantle now.  I think my dad might get a kick out of it.

What’s awesome is I took a ‘before’ picture of the bathroom to get a good perspective if they were going to take out the floor or whatever.  Aside from that little pipe, nothing has changed.  I feel bad because the leak was all because of our toilet, and it’s KK’s bathroom that got destroyed.

KK's chaotic bathroom.

Kª has taken some pictures, too – I’ll post them if I can get ’em.

Stay tuned!

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