Wednesday, April 6, 2011
A red velvet cake uses cocoa-based cake batter, typically with red food coloring added. It is the dye that gives the cake its red color, which together with its velvety texture gives the cake its name. The amount of red dye can vary, depending on desired hue, usually from 1 to 4 tablespoons. As a result the color will vary from baker to baker from stop-sign red to dark burgundy. I have heard somewhere that the acidity from the buttermilk and vinegar which is used in the recipe, combined with baking soda, gives the cake a reddish-brown color. In my experience, without some hint of red dye, the color of the cake comes out light-chocolate or russet-brown.
I generally don't like to use food dyes. In light of the recent news that food coloring may cause hyperactivity, here is a version of the red velvet cupcake recipe without the dye, measured for 24 cupcakes. The absence of dye does not take away from integrity or texture of the cupcakes; in my opinion it improves them. The recipe is followed by a tasty lemony frosting.
No-Dye Red Velvet Cupcakes (Chocolate Velvet)
(Makes 24 cupcakes)
You will need:
2 1/2 cups cake flour*
3 oz unsweetened cocoa (regular, not Dutch-process)
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large brown eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
*If you do not have cake flour, you can substitute it by using all-purpose flour and cornstarch. For each cup of cake flour, use 2 tbsp of cornstarch and about ¾ cup all-purpose flour (or just add 2 tbsp cornstarch into a measuring cup and then top with all-purpose flour to measure 1 cup). Therefore, for the amount of cake flour in this recipe you will need 5 tbsp of cornstarch and slightly less than 2 cups of all-purpose flour.
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line two regular-sized twelve-cup muffin pans with fluted paper liners.
2. Whisk cake flour, cocoa and salt in a medium bowl until well-blended. In a separate large bowl, mix canola oil and granulated sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, 2-3 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add vanilla. Then, with the mixer on low speed, add alternating, half of the flour mixture and half of the buttermilk, then add the remaining flour mixture and remaining buttermilk. Beat, scraping as necessary with a wooden spoon, until just combined.
3. In a separate small bowl, mix baking soda and vinegar. The resulting mixture will fizz. Add to the batter and mix with an electric mixer until just combined.
4. Divide the batter between the 24 lined cups (fill each cup 2/3 full). Bake cupcakes for 20 to 22 minutes, until toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven and let stand for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. While the cakes cool, prepare the frosting.
Lemon Cream-Cheese Frosting
(frosts 24 cupcakes if spreading with a rubber spatula, double the recipe to pipe it)
You will need:
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 tablespoons unsweetened butter, softened (not melted)
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 tsp freshly grated lemon peel
Mash softened cream cheese and butter with a fork until combined. Stir in confectioner’s sugar and grated lemon peel (this will prevent a large poof of sugar dust when you turn on the electric mixer). Turn on the electric mixer and at medium speed mix until the frosting is smooth, creamy, and slightly increased in volume, about 3 minutes. Spread with a rubber spatula, or pipe using a bag and a tip, onto the cooled cupcakes (rounded tip was used in the photos). Serve or refrigerate.