Thursday, December 18, 2008

Cupcakes. (red velvet).

I am not sure when or where I first ate red velvet cake, but it filled me with wonder (and red dye) and remains (mainly for the cream cheese frosting) one of my favorite cakes. I have never made it, since I am not very good with cake, but I came across a recipe for red velvet cupcakes a few weeks ago, and vowed to make it my next project. My recent jaunts into baking - the black bottom cupcakes, that bourbon-chocolate bundt cake - had given me a new confidence. And I had found these adorable dinosaur-printed cupcake liners in a small bakeware shop in Ballard. I really wanted to use them, as well as my new muffin pans. Not to mention my latest toy, a nifty two-level cupcake carrier, complete with plastic cover and a handle, which would protect each and every cupcake, preventing them from getting squashed in transit.

After work yesterday I ran down the street to the supermarket a few blocks from my apartment, list of ingredients in hand. I had butter, eggs, flour, sugar; I needed cream cheese, cocoa, red food coloring. Soon I was home, and ready to bake. This time I would use the standing mixer - making the chocolate-bourbon cake had been hell on my wrist, holding the hand mixer - and cream the butter longer. But first, I got everything else ready - the dry ingredients sifted into a bowl, the cream cheese and butter for the frosting coming to room temperature on the counter. It was hypnotic, watching the white paddle of the mixer beating away at the butter, the pale yellow getting lighter and fluffier by the minute, rising up the sides of the bowls. When it was nearly white, I poured in the sugar, and it became a fluffy cloud. In went cocoa power, vanilla, the red food dye that was shockingly blood-like. In went buttermilk, and the flour mixture, and soon I had a bright red batter ready to be scooped into the paper liners.

The scoop I use for batter is smaller than the one recommended by the author of the blog where I found the recipe, and instead of twenty-four cupcakes, I had thirty. Oops. More for me. I had to adjust the baking time for the smaller cakes, and pray that they wouldn't be overbaked. They weren't, and I did a silent dance of victory around my kitchen as the second tray of cupcakes went in the oven. But first, the frosting. A. likes frosting. So do I. I would be generous, using my smaller ice cream scoop to measure out the cream cheese frosting, but after the first two cupcakes, I realized I would need more. Time to run to the store again, three blocks away. As I dash out the front door I drop off the first two cupcakes to the doormen, calling over my shoulder that I had made too many, and needed more frosting. Ten minutes later, I was back, and the cupcakes were gone, which I felt boded well for the rest of the cupcakes. And I had only missed five minutes of Pushing Daisies.

I felt that the cakes could have been moister; I could have baked them just a minute or two less, perhaps not mixed the batter quite as long. But they were delicious all the same, soft cake, creamy frosting, not too sweet. I frosted my cupcakes while watching tv, packed them carefully in the trays of the carrier, left them by my door so I wouldn't forget them. Then I woke to snow as thick and white as cream cheese frosting, and wondered how on earth I was going to get all my cupcakes to work. Or if there would be anyone there to eat them. I got a lot of strange looks, bundled up as I was, holding a cupcake carrier while tiptoeing cautiously through the snow as various cars slipped and slid down the street. But it was worth it.


Juanita said...

1. I want a 2-level cupcake carrier!

2. Does red velvet cake make your teeth turn red? I've never been able to get over that scene in (I think it was) Steel Magnolias when the groom's cake was a red velvet cake shaped like an armadillo.

3. I hope your stand mixer is a Kitchen Aid.

4. You have a door man? Wowza!!

kairu said...

Juanita -

1. I bought my cupcake carrier from Crate & Barrel. It comes with a twelve-cup muffin tin and another plastic tray with legs that fits on top, with a locking plastic lid that has a handle. It's very cool.

2) I don't know about the teeth-staining thing, but I will check it out next time. I have heard that armadillo-shaped red velvet groom's cakes are a Southern thing. Actually, red velvet cake is a Southern thing anyway, isn't it?

3) Yes, it is a KitchenAid. I stole it from my mother. She wasn't using it. Besides, her oven in Taipei isn't big enough to bake anything bigger than a small pan of brownies.

4) One of the nifty things about my swishy condo building (aside from the pool on the roof) is having doormen. They deal with the avalanche of packages that result from my internet shopping addiction. The least I could do is offer up the occasional baked treat.