I know that red velvet cake is generally considered to be a southern dessert.  That’s “southern” as in “below the Mason-Dixon line”, and not “Windsor” – being within spitting distance of the Ambassador Bridge doesn’t count, but I really, really wanted some sort of red velvet cupcake for Canada Day.  It’s red cake!  With white icing!

Silly me: if I wanted a patriotic dessert, I should have stuck with something simple like Nanaimo bars or butter tarts (again).

See, I’ve got issues with red velvet cake.  The Crimson Velveteen cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World are moist and delicious, but, well, darkish.  (The authors fully own this colour issue, arguing that their dessert is much classier than some of the day-glo red versions you see.  Very well, but what if I want bright red?)

Last year I tried the recipe on the Brown Eyed Baker.  Those puppies were nothing short of fire-engine in the picture on her site, but were just as dark as my original recipe and much less flavourful once baked.  Talk about your bait-and-switch!

When I happened upon the red velvet recipe on Sally’s Baking Addiction, I thought I had died and gone to baker’s heaven.  Sally is a full-on baking geek who understands the chemistry and technique involved in making a truly spectacular dessert.  I followed her recipe to the letter, and was rewarded with lovely, brighter-red cupcakes.  (The secret is using about half the cocoa called for in other recipes I’ve seen.)

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They’re red and gorgeous and perfect!  They look exactly like the ones on the blog (piping techniques notwithstanding).  They rose, and formed these perfectly rounded tops upon which to pipe scads of icing

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And they’re just as beautiful under the wrappers, too.

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This is as striptease-y as it gets.

I so appreciated the methodology of the recipe: there’s butter for flavour; oil for moisture; buttermilk to make them tender; and two eggs, the whites of which were whipped and folded into the batter separately to keep things light and fluffy.

There was just one problem…they were kind of dry.  Okay, really dry.

My test audience was split about 50/50 as to whether or not this was a dry cake.  One conceded that “they were fine at first” and only got dry after a few days.  On the other hand, whenever I ate one, I felt like I was playing that old party game wherein one tries to whistle while eating crackers.  And I’ve made hundreds of moist cupcakes, so believe me, I know a dry cupcake when I taste one.  So disappointing!  The only thing I can figure is that the cornstarch in the batter dries them out – there’s cornstarch in the vanilla cupcakes from VCTOtW, and they’re nowhere near as moist as the other varieties.

It’s back to the drawing board for a red velvet recipe that’s at once moist and red; in the meantime, I think I’ll have to order a piece from Sals when the craving hits:

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(Now that’s a red velvet cake!)

Update: After this fiasco, I tried the Betty Crocker red velvet cupcake mix-in-a-box, and once I got past the shame of using a mix, was forced to admit that they’re pretty darned good.  Darker in colour than my scratch-baked cupcakes, above, they’re moist and light.  And I still made my own icing from scratch, so that makes them practically homemade.

Happy Canada Day! 🙂

 

Because it’s 2016

April 21, 2016

I should preface this by saying that back before the federal election last October, I had had visions of baking cupcakes inspired by each of the three major parties, and holding an informal “election” at work.  Life and stuff got in the way, and it never happened.  (That’s okay; I think this was fueled primarily by a latent desire of mine to make Harvey Wallbanger cupcakes, dubious motivation at best.)  Fast-forward six months, and with the victor clearly apparent, I had my work cut by 2/3.  Score one for procrastination!

Some time ago, I had tried the Black Velvet Cupcake recipe in Hannah Kaminsky’s Vegan Desserts.  It was a neat idea, using blackberry puree for colour and flavour not normally found in pedestrian red velvet recipes, but didn’t work so well in its execution.  The blackberries commercially available in grocery stores taste like absolutely nothing, yielding black-ish, flavourless cakes.

For whatever reason, a thought had been brewing for the past few weeks: why not substitute raspberries for the blackberries, and have an all-natural red velvet without all the Red #40?

Red Velvet 1Red Velvet 2

Clearly, Red #40 exists for a reason, because these don’t quite rock the vivid crimson I was hoping for.  However (and this is a big however), the raspberry puree pairs wonderfully with the hint of cocoa for a chocolate-raspberry dessert that doesn’t taste like sugary Torani syrup.

It just goes to show: Better is always possible.