Red Velvet Cupcakes

Last week Ben and I went to the Channel Islands for his cousin’s wedding, which was the second of three weddings we’re attending this spring, and the reason why I didn’t post last week. What I’ve come to learn is that the traditional British wedding cake is fruit cake. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, and I agree.

So this week I was at the pub with some colleagues from work, following a trip to the Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican. I asked them if there were any requests for something they wanted me to make, and one of them asked about American traditional cakes. Instantly I thought of Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese frosting. There is nothing more Southern and more delicious than Red Velvet.

When you look at the list of ingredients, it seems like a strange concoction – buttermilk, cocoa powder, vinegar – but trust me, it all comes together to make a wonderful chocolate-y cake.

This recipe works well for cupcakes, but if you’d like to make a layer cake instead, double the amount of butter and leave out the water. Also, this batter rises a lot so you don’t really need to fill the cupcake tins more than halfway.

Ingredients

For the cupcakes:

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 one-ounce bottle of red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vinegar
  • 1 1/2 baking soda
For the frosting:
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, just barely softened
  • 1 1/4 cups icing sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Place cupcake liners into the pan.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt, then set aside.

3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add in the eggs, red food coloring, and vanilla.

4. Add the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture, alternating it with the buttermilk. Add about 1/3 of each part at a time, waiting until each part is fully incorporated before adding the other. After everything is combined, add the water.

5. In a small bowl or ramekin, mix together the vinegar and baking soda. Once the reaction begins, quickly fold it into the batter. Fill each of the cupcake tins with a couple spoonfuls of the batter until they are filled just over halfway – leaving plenty of room for them to rise!

6. Bake the cakes for approximately 20 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let them cool in the pan for about 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

7. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese until it is light and smooth. Gradually mix in the icing sugar and milk until it reaches the desired consistency. Spread onto your cupcakes with a spatula. If you’d like to pipe the frosting onto your cupcakes, adjust the icing sugar to milk ratio so that you add less liquid and get a stiffer frosting. It also helps if the cream cheese is still pretty chilled.

For this batch of cupcakes, I made a runnier icing and let it completely cover the top and run over the sides but these look amazing when they’re piped!

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Oreo Cheesecakes

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been craving making something with Oreos. They’re one of those cookies that once I get them on my mind, I have to eat one. They’re pretty much like crack.

These mini Oreo cheesecakes are simple and delicious! They’re from one of Martha Stewart’s recipes. Her version says that it makes 30, but I got quite a few more than that. Make sure you store these in the fridge until you’re ready to serve to avoid having them get mushy.

Ingredients

  • Oreo cookies, at least 30 (plus some extra in case you’re like me and manage to get a few more from the recipe)
  • 12 coarsely chopped Oreo cookies
  • 4 packages of cream cheese (about 900 grams)
  • 1 cup (225 grams) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • pinch of salt

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 275° F (135° C).  Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.  Place 1 whole Oreo cookie in the bottom of each lined cup.

2. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese on medium-high speed until smooth, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.  Gradually add the sugar, and beat until combined.  Mix in the vanilla.

3. Drizzle in the eggs, a little at a time, beating to combine and scraping down sides of bowl. Add in sour cream and salt, beat until combined.  Using a large spatula, fold in the chopped Oreo cookies. Do not use a mixer to mix in the Oreos, as they’re chop them up too much!

4. Fill each cookie-filled cup with a few spoonfuls of batter until each one is nearly filled to the top.  Bake, rotating muffin tins halfway through, until the filling is set, about 22 to 28 minutes.

5.  Transfer the cupcake pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Once cool, refrigerate them at least 4 hours (or overnight).  To help the cakes keep their shape better, leave them in the cupcake pan in the fridge.



Guinness and Baileys Cake Truffles

So to make my Guinness and Bailey’s cupcakes, I had to buy a 6-pack of Guinness and a decent sized bottle of Bailey’s. I couldn’t bear to let the rest of them just sit there, so I searched the interwebs for another Irish-themed treat I could make. I came across this recipe by See Brooke Cook and gave it a go. Just a word of warning though: this recipe made A TON of truffles. I used a cookie dough baller to make sure they were all evenly sized and I wound up with about 75 truffles. So I’d recommend using half of the recipe!

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 1 1/2 cups Guinness
  • 1 1/2 cups (345 grams) butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2/3 cup sour cream

For the frosting:

  • 8 ounces (227 grams) cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) butter, at room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons Bailey’s Irish Cream
  • 3 cups icing sugar (sifted)

Extra stuff:

  • 3 cups dark chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (approx 175°C). Grease two round cake tins and line the bottom with baking paper and set aside.

2. Stir the butter and Guinness in a small saucepan over medium heat until the butter melts, then whisk in the cocoa powder until smooth. For an extra kick, you can add 1/2 tablespoon of espresso powder as well. Remove the mixture from the heat and set aside to cool.

3. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. In a separate large bowl, mix together the eggs and sour cream. Once combined, add the cooled beer mixture into the egg mixture, stirring constantly so as to avoid scrambling the eggs. Gradually add in the dry ingredients until just combined. The batter should be a fairly runny consistency.

4. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepped cake tins and bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cakes to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. While the cakes are cooling, prepare the frosting. Start by creaming the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl, add in the Bailey’s Irish Cream until smooth. Then gradually add in the icing sugar, and mix until everything is combined.

6. Once the cakes are cooled, crumble it into a large mixing bowl. You can do this by hand using a pair of forks. Line a few cookie sheets with wax paper or baking parchment and set aside. Add the frosting to the crumbled cake and mix together (the easiest way to do this is with your hands) until it reaches a thick dough-like consistency.

7. Using your hands, or a cookie dough baller, roll the dough into small balls and place on the lined cookie sheets. Place them in the freezer for about 15 minutes to set up, but don’t freeze! You can also place the dough balls in the fridge for a few hours instead.

8. Temper your chocolate by melting half of the chocolate chips over a double boiler (I use a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water) – be sure not to let the water boil, or the steam may drip into your chocolate and make it seize and it will be ruined! Once melted, add in the remaining chocolate chips and stir until smooth.

9. Using a fork, dip each of the chilled dough balls into the chocolate and coat completely. Lift them from the chocolate and allow the excess to drip off before replacing onto the cookie sheet.  Repeat until each of the cake truffles have been coated. Place the cookie sheets back into the fridge to allow the chocolate to set before serving.

When storing these truffles, I found it worked best to keep them in an airtight container in the fridge, otherwise if the room got too warm, they had a slight tendency to melt a bit and go soft. These are realllllyyyyy rich, so one or two makes a perfect treat!

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cake

This. Cake. Is. Amazing.

There’s simply no other way to put it. In fact, I’m pretty sure that chocolate and peanut butter is the best food combination on earth. After having one slice of this decadent cake, I found myself dreaming about having another one! In fact, days after the cake was gone, I was still jonesing for it – which is a little sad really.

The triple-layer cake itself is super moist and rich, and the peanut butter frosting goes really well with it. And the chocolate ganache is just an extra treat that really, well, takes the cake! Big thanks to Smitten Kitchen for this recipe, as it has shot it’s way up to the top of my favorite foods list!

My only complaint for this cake is that it was incredible difficult to photograph, because the ganache kept reflecting all of the light. After spending about an hour trying to get one decent photo, I’ve added a pop-up photography studio kit to my Amazon list. So hopefully future cakes won’t be as temperamental.

Ingredients

For the cake:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
For the frosting:
  • 10 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 5 cups icing sugar, sifted
  • 2/3 cup smooth peanut butter
For the chocolate ganache:
  • 8 ounces semisweet chocolate chips (I happened to have some from my last trip to the US, but you can use a mix of milk and dark chocolate.)
  • 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup (I substituted with vegetable oil, since the UK is lacking in corn syrup)
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half (again, substituted by using a 1:1 mix of milk and whipping cream)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350° F (approx 175°C). Butter three 8 or 9-inch cake tins and line with baking paper.

2. Sift together all of the dry ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Whisk in the vegetable oil and sour cream, then gradually add the water. Once everything is combined, whisk in the eggs, vinegar, and vanilla. Divide the batter evenly amongst the three prepared tins.

3. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Let the cakes cool in their pans for 20 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. Place the cakes in the fridge while you prepare the frosting so that they will be easier to work with.

4. To make the peanut butter frosting, cream the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl using an electric mixer. Gradually sift in the icing sugar and mix until it’s light and fluffy. Once all of the sugar is mixed in, gradually add in the peanut butter.

5. Remove the cake layers from the fridge and assemble by using 2/3 cup of the frosting between each layer. Then put a thin layer of frosting on the top and sides of the cake – called a crumb coat. Place the assembled cake back in the fridge to let the crumb coat set up. This will prevent any of the dark-colored chocolate crumbs from the cake showing through your frosting layer. After about 15 minutes, remove the cake and use the rest of the frosting to completely cover the cake. (Because you are covering the top with the ganache, I would concentrate more on making sure the sides are covered well and do a thinner job on the top.) 

6. Place the cake back in the fridge while you prepare the ganache.

7. In a double boiler (essentially, use a glass bowl over a pan of simmering water), gradually melt the chocolate chips. Be sure to stir often to prevent them from burning and to help them melt evenly! Add the peanut butter and the corn syrup (or oil, whichever you’re using). Be sure not to let any steam or water get into your mix, or else the chocolate will seize and be ruined.

8. Once the mixture is smooth, remove from the heat and whisk in the half-and-half.

9. Quickly remove the cake from the fridge and pour the ganache over the top, while the ganache is still warm. Don’t worry about it dripping down the sides – it adds a sense of whimsy!

 

When storing this cake, be sure to keep in the fridge until about 15 minutes before serving. This makes it easier to cut, because it gets quite gooey and messy if left out at room temperature for awhile.

Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

For Valentine’s Day, I decided to make heart-shaped whoopie pies after seeing the recipe on Annie’s Eats. The hardest part of this recipe was trying to pipe all of the heart shapes the same so that the sides would (hopefully) match up.  It’s actually a lot harder than it looks!  I made these pies pretty small (about 1.5 inches across) to make them more of a bite-sized treats, and I think it worked quite well.

Ingredients

For the cookies:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup (115 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons red food coloring
For the cream filling:
  • 10 ounces cream cheese
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2½ cups icing sugar

Directions

1. Cut out a heart shape from an index card for whatever size whoopie pie you want to make. Then trace the hearts onto sheets of baking paper or parchment. Lay the sheets pencil side down so that you don’t get graphite into your dough!

2. Preheat oven to 375° F (approx 190°C).

3. In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar. Once they’re light and fluffy, mix in the egg, followed by the vanilla.

4. Mix in about a third of the dry ingredients, followed by half of the buttermilk. Mix then scrape down the bowl. Add another third of the dry ingredients, followed by the rest of the buttermilk, mix then scrape the bowl, then mix in the final third of the dry ingredients. Once everything is incorporated, mix in the red food coloring.

5. Transfer the dough to a pastry bag with a large round piping tip. Pipe the dough onto your heart stencils, taking care to make them as even as possible. I kept my dough slightly inside my lines to allow for the cookies to flatten out. Take your time with this part, and if you mess up, scrape off the dough, put it back in the bowl, then try again.

6. Bake the cookies for 7-9 minutes until set. Allow them to cool on the trays for 10 minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool the rest of the way. Be sure to let these cool COMPLETELY, or else your cream filling will melt and be super messy.

7. Lay out all of your cooled cookies, then match them up as best you can. Set each pair together on the cooling racks, one side facing up, the other down. This will make things a lot easier when assembling the pies.

8. Make the cream cheese filling by creaming the butter and sugar. gradually sift in the icing sugar. Once everything is combined, add the vanilla. Transfer to a second pastry bag with another round piping tip.  I found it easier to use the filling after putting in into the fridge for about 5 minutes before piping.

9. Pipe the cream filling onto one cookie, then top with the other. Don’t press them together too much or your filling will squish out the sides! Once all of the pies are assembled, place the racks in the fridge for a few minutes to allow the cream filling to set before stacking them up – again, to prevent them from getting squished.

10. Once the filling is set, store the pies in an airtight container in the fridge.