Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Red Velvet for Your Sweetheart... or Sweet Tooth

*Just Braise has moved. Please visit me at www.justbraise.com!*

It's getting to the last hours, do you know how you'll be spending your Valentine's Day?

If I had a fireplace mine would be spent in front of a roaring fire. Rather, that's how I would spend every night if I had a fireplace. If you're without fire, there are plenty of other options for this day of Hallmark-forced romance. I discussed many in this piece printed in the Queens Chronicle.

While your best bets are to keep the eats of the day light and healthy, who doesn’t love a little sugar high?

I had my first bite of the sweet seductress known as Red Velvet a few years ago. A yellow cake with a hint of cocoa and a strikingly white exterior, the cake won my heart from the first beat. I could soon be found getting my individual servings of Red Velvet cupcakes around town (my favorite are from Billy’s Bakery since they stick with a cream cheese based frosting).

A good recap of the red in Red Velvet can be found here, though I would like to amend the fact that baking soda and cocoa powder do still react to form red, it is a mere blush and these days we help our cakes along with a hefty dose of red food coloring.

I searched a number of online recipes for Red Velvet cakes and finally found a tried and tested one in Saveur's March 2006 issue. My boss, who swears by her local bakery, The Cake Man, in Brooklyn, will pick up a slice of his Red Velvet almost daily on her way home. Low and behold the recipe in Saveur is based on The Cake Man’s and after some slight tweaking of ingredients on my part, I have come up with a consistency of redness I like and a deliciously seductive cream cheese frosting.

This cupcake is sure to win the hearts of many. It is fast and easy to make and creates a perfect last minute cupid’s arrow.

Prep time= about 20 minutes. Makes about 18 cupcakes.
for the cake:
* 2-½ cups cake flour
* 1-½ cups sugar
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1-½ tablespoons cocoa powder
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 2 eggs
* 1-½ cups vegetable oil
* 1 cup buttermilk
* 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) red food coloring
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar

1) (Set cream cheese and butter for the frosting aside to soften.) Preheat oven to 350F. Line 18 cupcakes tins with cupcake liners.
2) In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa and salt.
3) With an electric mixer, beat eggs, oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar together until evenly combined.
4) With the mixer on medium, slowly add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Fill cupcake tins about ¾ full and bake on middle rack 20-25 minutes, until toothpick comes out clean. Remove from tins and cool onracks about 10 minutes. While cooling, make the frosting, below.

for the frosting:
* 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
* 1 stick butter, softened
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 2 cups confectioner’s sugar

* 1 cup chopped pecans

1) Beat cream cheese, butter and vanilla in a bowl with an electric mixer until well combined. Add sugar, beat until frosting is fluffy, about 5 minutes.
2) Cover each cupcake with about 1 heaping spoonful of frosting, spread with a knife. Sprinkle pecans over frosting and press in slightly so they stick.

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