It's red... it's dramatic... it's red velvet cupcake!!
I can finally strike off one item on my to-bake-this-one-day list, thanks to the Bake Along hosted by Joyce from Kitchen Flavours, Lena from Frozen Wings and Zoe from Bake for Happy Kids (check out their sites for really beautiful red velvet cupcakes!)
There's no official records on the true history of red velvet cakes. A very popular urban legend was that a lady had dinner at the Waldorf-Austria and had such a delicious piece of red cake that she wrote to the chef requesting for the recipe. Subsequently she received a letter containing the recipe and a bill of, I don't know - various websites have various amounts, $100 - $350. Her attorney advised her to pay the bill and she decided to get even with the chef by giving out 3 x 5 inch cards with the recipe, Red Velvet Cake, on them to everyone - even strangers. I have actually heard a similar story about the Neiman-Marcus cookies before, have you?
After some digging, I found another version of the history of the cake written by Stella Parks and it's much more convincing than the one above. Velvet cakes came first, before red velvet cakes. Back in the days in 1873, people have the tendency to name things to give them a nice and smooth effect - hence they have named cakes Velvet Cakes and creams Velvet Creams etc. So essentially, Velvet Cakes are cakes that has an exceptionally fine crumb.
So how do the "Red" come about?
That will be in 1888, when this John A. Adams fellow started a food colouring and extracts business. Sales slumped during the Great Depression and in order to boost sales, he set up displays in groceries throughout the Midwest and the South, featuring a huge colour photo of a really striking and bold Red Velvet Cake. His recipe was modified to include Adams Best Vanilla, Adams Butter Flavour and two full bottles of Adams Red Colour and the recipe is given away free with every purchase. And that was how the cake became a huge sensation and spread throughout America and eventually, the whole world. I guess that's also how people claim that Red Velvet Cake is a Southern tradition.
Frosting is a bit too runny to pipe... but it still looks ok... right? Right?
Phew, what a long introduction to this cake, eh?
So now we know there's no magic involved in the cake - some say it's the reaction between natural cocoa and the vinegar and baking soda and buttermilk that caused the redness in the cake - from the meagre amount of cocoa used - it's impossible that it will yield such a bright, red cake (maybe I should go do an experiment!).
After reading several red velvet cake recipes, I also have doubts over the vinegar-baking soda portion. Vinegar is an acid while baking soda is a carbonate - both reacts to form carbon dioxide, a chemical salt and water. The reaction between vinegar and baking soda is really fast - most carbon dioxide produced would most likely escape before the mixture even hits the cake better. So I'm not sure whether it really aids in the rising of the cake.
The second doubt is that the ratio of vinegar to baking soda used is 1:1. Based on chemical formulas, the baking soda would most likely be used up during the vinegar-baking soda reaction and there won't be any more baking soda left to react with the acidic cocoa and buttermilk in the cake batter. Why not just add the baking soda into the flour mixture and let it react with the cocoa?
Can someone please enlighten me on this food science? I think some experiments need to be conducted soon...
Despite all the doubts, the cupcakes are still delicious.
Coming back to the recipe, I've used a recipe by Pinch My Salt and I think it's a pretty good recipe. Looking at the ingredients, it's essentially a buttermilk cake with a slight hint of cocoa powder and tons of red food colouring. The reason I've not baked this cake before because... it's not red naturally. I was tempted to reduce the amount of red food colouring (it's a freaking 2 oz, about 55ml!) but decided to just stick to it.
The cupcakes are slightly moist (I think they could use a bit more liquid), really light and soft with a cocoa taste that's not too overpowering that makes you think that you are eating a chocolate cake. The cream cheese frosting is tangy and not too overly sweet (hence the more runny icing).
Overall I think the red in this cake is over-rated. Don't get me wrong, I love the recipe and it's definitely a keeper for me, but the red food colouring is a no-no. It's artificial and has no additional value to this cake recipe in terms of taste and texture! So I'm going to omit all the red food colouring the next time I bake this and substitute with a bit more buttermilk - unless I get a dying request... but unlikely I'm sure!
On to the step-by-step photos!
Cast of ingredients: plain flour, cornflour, baking powder, natural cocoa powder, red food colouring, buttermilk, vanilla extract, eggs, butter, sugar, vinegar, baking soda and salt (missing)
Place the flour, corn flour (flour + cornflour = cake flour), cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
Whisk them up to mix them altogether.
Measure a cup of buttermilk...
Add in the two bottles of red food colouring,
and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
See the layers?
Mix the liquid ingredients up until you get a shocking red. The consistency is really thick... like paint!
Dump the butter and sugar in a bowl.
Cream it until pale, light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, one at a time.
The cake batter will be really smooth and creamy.
Sift in a third of the flour...
Fold in gently (I used a figure-of-eight method to fold, but you can always use the cut-the-batter method)
Add in half of the red
And the "magic" is about to begin!
Fold in gently until the colour is even.
Sift in half of the remaining flour.
Fold it in - in my mind I'm like "oh my god, I can't believe I'm making this weird red paint thing"
Add in the rest of the red
paint buttermilk mixture.
Fold and sift in the rest of the remaining flour mixture.
Fold, fold, fold.
It's a luscious, dangerous bright red - I licked some of the cake batter - pretty good actually...
Baking soda in a small bowl.
Ready for some "magic"?
See all the fizz!
Fold the vinegar-baking soda mixture in.
Get the cake batter into the cupcake liners - do not overfill them! ⅔ to ¾ is enough, overfilled cupcakes are nasty.
Bake until well-risen - over-baking will result in the domes to turn brown, so don't.
Time for the cream cheese frosting - butter, icing sguar, cream cheese and vanilla extract.
Softened cream cheese and butter...
In goes the icing sugar and vanilla extract.
Red Velvet Cupcakes
- 225 grams plain flour
- 60 grams corn flour - Note 
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon Hershey's cocoa powder - Note 
- 250 grams/ml, 1 cup buttermilk, room temperature - Note 
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 55 grams/ml red food colouring - Note 
- 115 grams unsalted butter
- 200 grams sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- 225 - 250 grams cream cheese, softened - Note 
- 60 grams butter, softened - Note 
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 140 grams icing / powdered sugar
- Preheat the oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Prepare 24-25 cupcake liners.
- In a small bowl, place the plain flour, corn flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder together. Whisk it with a wire whisk until it's all combined
- In another bowl / measuring cup, stir the buttermilk, vanilla extract and red food colouring together.
- In a third large bowl, cream the butter using an electric mixer - on low for 30 seconds. Add in the sugar in three portions, beating on medium speed for one minute after each addition and scraping the sides occasionally.
- Add in one egg into the butter-sugar mixture. Beat on medium for a minute. Scrape the sides and beat in the other egg. Beat on medium for a minute.
- Sift in a third of the flour mixture and fold in gently until all the flour mixture are almost incorporated into the cake batter. Add in half of the buttermilk mixture and fold in until all the liquid mixture has been incorporated. Sift in half of the remaining flour mixture and fold it in. Add in the rest of the buttermilk mixture and fold it in. Fold in the remaining flour mixture. The cake batter will be slightly thick.
- Place the baking soda in a small, clean bowl. Add in the white vinegar and watch the chemical reaction! Stir the mixture using a small spoon and add in the mixture into the cake batter. Fold it in until fully incorporated.
- Fill the cupcakes to ⅔ to ¾ full. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the top springs back when touched and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Do not over-bake as the top will darken and you'll lose the red colour top, so check the cupcakes frequently after 15 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool completely before frosting it.
Frosting and Assembly
- Place the cream cheese and butter in a large, clean bowl. Beat them with an electric mixer on low for 30 seconds. Sift in the icing sugar and add in the vanilla extract and beat until the icing sugar has dissolved into the frosting. Refrigerate the frosting to let it firm up a little.
- Transfer the frosting into a piping bag and pipe onto the cupcakes. Decorate with coloured sugar or sprinkles.
- This cream cheese frosting is not very sweet and it's a bit soft to pipe (given the warm temperature here in Singapore). You can choose to add more sugar, but you'll lose the tang of the cream cheese!
And on a separate note, Happy Valentine's Day everyone!
Easy as Cakes says
Hi, wow look so soft and delicious red velvet cake. Can I try your recipe?!!
Jasline N. says
You definitely can!
Shrey Patel says
Amazing Recipe you shared with us.
Rainbow Buttermilk Lemon Cupcakes with Rainbow Cream Cheese Frosting « Food Is My Life says
[...] and not just normal cupcakes, but buttermilk cupcakes that have a soft and velvety texture (think red velvet cupcakes) with a slight hint of lemon. And to top it off, I used a cream cheese frosting – a [...]
烘焙这门技巧 « 寶° says
[...] Red Velvet Cupcakes。 分开两批进烤箱烘焙。 心里算盘好要是第一批失败， 第二批免烘了。 [...]
Hi thank you so much for your compliments! I usually keep my frosting in an air-tight container in the fridge for maximum 1 week. I'll try to plan to bake a simple cake the next weekend so that the leftover frosting can be used. I've not tried to keep them longer than that as I always worry whether they can still be eaten... and I've searched online that they can be kept for maximum 10 days! I hope this helped!
Love your blog, love how you picture the steps. It's very helpful for a noob like me. I tried out one of your chocolate cake, it's a hit for me! Now very keen of trying the frosting, but wondering whether I can keep the remaining cream if I couldn't finish using it for the first time. How long can I keep, if I can keep it the second time. Many thanks for answering:).
Hi Mariel, thanks for dropping by!
I used a large star tip, unfortunately I don't have the size because I'm not using a branded tip.
Mariel Veloso says
What piping tip did you use for the frosting? Thanks!
Aww thanks Marie! I hope this recipe will become your favorite red velvet cake recipe! 🙂
OMG! I have been wanting to try baking red velvet cupcakes but I don't seem to have a trusted recipe. I'll definitely try baking using your recipe 🙂 You remind me of friends I have in Singapore 🙂
Thanks for the reblog! All the best baking this cake! 🙂
Reblogged this on Hola soy virina. and commented:
I'm gonna try baking this soon!
Thank you! (: Your blog's amazing! (:
Carolyn Van Lang says
Yummy recipes. Like your post about Brussels. Thank you for visiting my blog.
Red Velvet Cupcakes « The Cupcake Blog says
[...] and recipe available at Food is My Life Posted by The Cupcake Connoisseur in Themed Cupcakes and tagged with cupcake, cupcake recipe, [...]
Tia: Thank you!
Simply Tia says
Love the step by step photos!
Hi Shiksha, thank you for the complements! Beetroot juice sounds interesting! I think I'll have to attempt it again soon! (: Thanks for the suggestions!
Hi 🙂 your cakes look awesome love the pics! I think if you're feeling adventurous you should try another Red Velvet cake recipe just for comparisons sake. I've tried a couple different recipes and the one that I love uses oil and beetroot juice instead of butter and food colouring. The result is a reeeeeally moist tender cake. I was never a fan of Red Velvet cakes until tried that recipe- now I'm hooked and so are my friends! So far I've made a layer cake, cupcakes, a swiss roll and whoopie pies all using that recipe! Happy baking 🙂
Thanks for stopping by, kitchenriffs! Well it took me several years before I decided to bake red velvet cake... maybe it's time to bake yours too! 😉 Take care!
Great post. Loved all the history and the details. I've never actually made Red Velvet cake - odd, isn't it? Anyway, thanks for this.
Zoe: I find the history of the cake very interesting too! Thanks for liking the cupcakes (: Your cupcake pops are beautiful too!
Sugaredpecan: Thank you! (:
Bobbi (Bam's Kitchen): Happy belated Valentine's day to you! Thank you for the lovely comments 🙂
Sibella: Happy belated Valentine's day! Thank you, I'm glad all the photos turn out really pretty 😉
Baking with Sibella says
These are such little works of art - so pretty! I love how you posted photos of the whole preparation process. Happy Valentine's Day! 🙂
Bam's Kitchen says
I am a history buff and you know I love food.... Beautiful red velvet cupcakes and the yellow frosting shows it off nicely. Happy Valentines Day. BAM
I have heard the story involving the Neiman-Marcus cookie recipe...go figure. Love the cupcakes!
Pardon me for being ignorant... I didn't know that red velvet cupcakes comes with a little bit of history. This is interesting to know.
Like you, I'm taking Bake-Along as an opportunity to strike out lots of my to-bake list. Glad that you enjoyed baking these cupcakes! Love all your pictures!
Joyce (Kitchen Flavours): Thank you! I think it's very interesting, knowing the history of food! (: Thanks for hosting this bake along, had lots of fun and learned a lot while baking these cupcakes. Happy Valentine's day to you too!
Ann: Thank you Ann! Happy Valentine's day!
Wendy: I agree... it's super red!
Lena: Thank you Lena! Thanks so much for hosting this bake along. I'll try using the new script when it's out! (: Wow 4 times the leavening effect? This is incredible. Guess I'll really need to experiment baking more versions of this cake one day!
hi jasline, really nice to see your participation again! i just read joyce's comments here and understand that you are unable to use the blog hop links. I just checked the codes and actually there are 3 codes given to bloggers to use and there is one for wordpress who doesnt accept script tags but it may appear on a new page..i'm not too sure, you can try using that and see if it works for you once the code is given out.
as regards to the usage of vinegar and baking soda, oh..i also hope there's a food scientist here to do some explanation. I actually never thought of that! it's good that you pointed out. But since it said that the purpose of the reaction of b/soda and vinegar is to create a rise in the cakes, why do we need baking powder as well? i was also checking for some answers since you pointed it out here that baking soda also reacts very well with buttermilk with a ratio of 1/2 tsp to a cup of buttermilk and the leavening effect is 4 times greater than just baking powder alone.
Very red....very very red.
Ann@Anncoo Journal says
Pretty red velvet cake. Love your decoration 🙂
kitchen flavours says
Hi Jasline, me again! Since you can't use the blog-hop link for all our future Bake-Along, no worries, just link as what you usually do, via any of the hosts' linky. Hope to see you again in Bake-Along! Thank you!
kitchen flavours says
Beautiful post with interesting "history" of red velvet cake! Your cakes looks beautiful and I think you have done a perfect job with the frosting! And a wonderful step-by-step pictures! Glad that you have finally strike Red Velvet Cake off your list, I know how that feels! 🙂
Thank you for baking along with us!
Happy Valentine's Day!