Monday, February 8, 2010

Kissed Red Velvet Mini-Cupcakes

Ahh kisses. This is the week to be thinking about pecks on the cheek, secret love letters, blushing, all things pink and red, and of course sweets.  This week here at Pots & Pans I will be focusing on tasty treats to celebrate Valentine's Day. 

What I love about this sugary holiday is that, unlike Halloween, most of the sweet offerings are homemade. What I don't like about it, and all the other holidays for that matter, is that it has become lost in a sea of marketing and retail fluff. Thankfully only one of my children wants to send out Sponge Bob Squarepants Valentine Cards to all his first grade classmates. The other has decided she's going to make hers the old fashioned way. 

Normally, my husband and I skip heading out to dinner on February 14th because it seems to have turned into a gimicky restaurant circus out there. We instead have celebrated the night before or after to avoid the fixed menus and herd like service. This year, with Valentine's Day falling on a Sunday, we will be making it more of a family event. 

There may not be a better way to start off the week than with Red Velvet Cake. A cake that has been around seemingly forever and has its fair share of theory and speculation. Despite what you may think, this is not a white cake with red food coloring. The cocoa powder gives the cake a mild chocolate flavor and yes, food coloring does play an important role in its color but theory would have you believe that was not always the case. It is thought that in the early to mid-twentieth century, the use of unprocessed cocoa powder along with the buttermilk caused the batter to turn slightly reddish. The unprocessed cocoa powder contains anthocyanin, a food pigment, that when combined with an acid, like that found in buttermilk, reacts, turning the mixture slightly red. Nowadays, we use Dutch Processed cocoa powder which does not contain anthocyanin and so we must use some kind of food coloring to achieve the red batter. With all that said, contemporary kitchen experiments have not shown much proof in this pudding so we can't say with complete certainty that it was the anthocyanin and buttermilk that made the red in Red Velvet Cake. The cake recipe I use can be found on However my favorite buttercream frosting recipe is from a 2001 issue of Food and Wine.

Cake Batter
  • 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour (sifted, then measured)
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350°F. Add liners to 2 muffin pans or 3-4 mini-muffin tins. Sift sifted flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into medium bowl. Whisk buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in small bowl to blend. Using electric mixer, beat sugar and butter in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating until well blended after each addition. Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk mixture in 3 additions. 
Fill liners. Bake cupcakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of your cupcake. Cool in pans on racks 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto racks; cool completely.

Bon Appétit  | June 2003

Buttercream Frosting

  1. 1/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large whites)
  2. 1 1/2 cups sugar
  3. 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  4. 3 sticks (1/4 pound) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons and softened  


  1. In a double boiler, beat the egg whites with the sugar over simmering water until the sugar has dissolved and the whites reach 160 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 7 minutes.
  2. Pour the egg whites into the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the whisk and beat at medium speed until stiff, glossy and cool. Beat in the vanilla. At medium-low speed, beat in the butter, a few tablespoons at a time; continue beating until the buttercream is fluffy yet firm.