You do the math, I’ll bake cupcakes

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Not too long ago, MC Senior came home from school with this cryptic message  -  “I have to cook something for homework.”


After reading the homework note properly, it turned out that she was learning about fractions at school and could do an optional assignment at home. The suggested item to make was playdough, but where’s the fun in that? We needed something edible.

Enter these Red Velvet Cupcakes. I’d never had a “proper” RV cake, although I’ve seen them on a lot of blogs and even attempted a beetroot version last year. This time, I wanted to bake from an authentic recipe to find out what all the fuss was about.

I stumbled upon this recipe by Amy Butler at Design Sponge, after visiting Cannelle et Vanille one day. (See, I knew all that blog-reading would pay off). We followed the recipe faithfully, with one exception. I just couldn’t bring myself to add that much food colouring into the cake, so we used a little bit of Wilton red “no-taste” gel and about a capful of liquid food colouring. The resulting cake wasn’t as red as the original.

Overall, the recipe was really easy to understand except for the part about adding the food colouring to the cocoa but “do not stir”. How confusing - I stirred gently with a toothpick and left the crumbly colour/ gel / powder mix it to sit. (We were using less that the required amount of colouring though, so there may be a reason there we didn't quite grasp).

The final results looked very pretty, and we did learn about fractions along the way – quarter cup, half cup, one cup etc, but I have to admit that I don’t really get the appeal of this cake. Yes, the texture is quite incredible but the flavour is a bit commitment-phobic for my tastebuds. I can taste a tiny hint of cocoa but then it sort of waffles around and morphs into something else - mostly it just tastes sweet. I guess if I’d grown up with this cake, it would probably be a different story.  The MC’s loved it so it does have a lot of kid-appeal.

As for the frosting, I’d read a few forums along the way, and purists insist that the only true frosting for Red Velvet cake is the type of cooked frosting given in the recipe. I must say the whole idea of cooking flour and milk together to make the frosting was a teeny bit off-putting. Also, I got a little confused and used powdered sugar / icing sugar instead of caster sugar. In the end, I swore I could still taste flour, but this was because I knew it was there. Nobody else had any problems with it.

 Quite the opposite was true in fact. I’d sent a batch to Mr. Kitchen Hand’s office and the response was so overwhelming, I had to make another batch to send in. This time, I reduced the flour in the frosting to about 4 tbsp and used caster sugar. The general consensus was that this frosting was perfect. And just for the record, there were a couple of expat Texans in the judging panel.

Who knew that homework could be this much fun ☺


3 hungry tummies said...

Very fun homework indeed...I got a little confused with the sugar and flour thing since I don't bake but the end result is fantastic!

Xiao Yen Recipes said...

I absolutely love red velvet but really hate the use of so much red food coloring to produce the red color of the cupcake. I haven't come across an organic version but so far, the best that I've ever made was from a health food store. I forgot what's the brand of the package. I'll definitely try this recipe and like you, will reduce the actual amount of the red coloring too.

Hungry Dog said...

Now that's the kind of homework I can get behind! Sounds fun. Although the recipe does seem weird, particularly the frosting with flour...what...? They look gorgeous and arty, as do all of your confections!

Valen said...

Good lookin cupcakes. I've only had red velvet cake once, I need to give it another go.

Anh said...

So much fun indeed. Your kid must be so proud

grace said...

play-doh is edible (although not what i'd call delicious...)! :)
i really only like red velvet cake if it's covered with cream cheese frosting, so i rarely make it. that much artificialness can't be good for the system.

msmeanie said...

These cupcakes look great and sound much yummier than play-doh. I, too, am a bit put-off by the food coloring in red velvet cake, but I really want to try making it. Thanks for the recipe.

Barbara said...

I do like red velvet cake (the few times I have made it) and if you shut your eyes it tastes like a chocolate cake, at least I think so. However, I really have to have a cream cheese frosting on mine. I don't quite understand the "French" cream frosting made with flour. Red Velvet cakes are often used as a groom's cake at weddings in the south.

Bonnie said...

I like the "idea" of red velvet. The frosting; not so much. Yours were the perfect color. Thanks for the adaptations. I might have to try this one again.

shaz said...

Thanks for your comments everyone, I thought I'd responded earlier but life has been pretty hectic round here lately!