The Red Velvet cake, to me, is quintessentially American. I became especially fascinated by it after I learnt about how the red colour of the cake was traditionally developed. Simple molecular food science harnessed brilliantly! Most avid bakers would have already celebrated this classic recipe in various ways and I have eyed this recipe in Martha Stewart’s Cupcake cookbook for the longest time.
For those who may be curious, the crimson hue of the Red Velvet cake was originally achieved through the natural chemical reaction between an acidic component, such as buttermilk/ vinegar and cocoa powder. The acidic environment created by the acid promotes the manifestation of the naturally occuring red pigment, Anthocyanin in cocoa powder. What I am curious about is the intensity of the reddish hue that was originally developed through this chemistry. It is common nowadays to find red velvet cakes in an intense chili red colour that screams food colouring – I guess just like red lipstick, the scarlet hue in a sweet has its irresistible allure, whetting one’s appetite with passion, boldness, sin and of course sex….
Martha Stewart’s Red Velvet cupcake recipe is not spared of any food colouring. Even though the dose of colouring is already more than what I would normally use in a recipe of this scale, it did not even come close to yield the ruby shade I so very often see in this American classic. What I got was more of a burgandy brownish red hue. The colour could have developed better if I had used non-Dutch processed cocoa powder which is less alkaline or if I had used buttermilk instead of normal milk but nevertheless, it does make you conscious of the amount of colouring in that slice of Red Velvet – but what the heck, we can all afford to live a little dangerously once in a while.
I have no complaints about this recipe. Loved the moist fine tender crumbs and because it uses liquid oil instead of butter, the texture was light and was perfect with the rich cream cheese frosting. Definitely another keeper from Martha Stewart’s cupcake book.
- 2½ cups(280g) Cake flour
- 2 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1½ cups (340g) sugar (I used 200g)
- 1½ cups vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- ½ tsp red gel paste food colour
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk ( I used normal milk)
- 1½ tsp baking soda
- 2 tsp distilled white vinegar
- Cream cheese frosting
- 1 cup (225g) unsalted butter
- 12 oz (340g) cream cheese
- 4 cups (453g) powder sugar (I used 300g)
- ¾ tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350F (175C). Line standard muffin tins with paper liners. Sift togehter cake flour, cocoa and salt.
- With an electric mixer on medium high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.
- Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in 3 batches alternating with 2 additions of milk and whisking well after each addition. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl and add the mixture to the batter and mix on medium speed for 10 seconds.
- Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each ¾ full.
- Bake for 20mins until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Transfer tin to wire rack to cool before frosting with Cream Cheese frosting.
- Cream Cheese Frosting
- Whisk together cream cheese and butter until creamy and fluffy.
- Add sugar in 3 batches and continue to whisk until pale. Add vanilla extract and mix to combine.