I don’t mean bows, dresses, or shoes – although red velvet shoes would be stunning, now that I think about it. No, I’m talking about Red Velvet cake – or in this case, cupcakes!
The history behind this baking concept which truly earns the name of Red Velvet if done correctly, is a bit convoluted. Velvet cakes, in general, are thought to have been created during the Victorian era. The term “velvet” was used because the cake would be soft and crumbly from ingredients like incorporating cocoa into flour, which gives it a finer texture. At some point, chocolate was used, and those cakes became known as Devil’s Food cakes, and there is the thought this is where the Red Velvet cake originated.
The Adams Extract Company has claimed to also have a hand in the creation of this famous cake trend. They’re the creators of red food coloring and in the 1920s, the company declared they made the first Red Velvet cake. They can certainly take credit for having brought it into households across America during the Depression, as one of the first to use point of sales posters and tear off recipe cards for their food coloring and other flavors.
Then there is the famous Waldorf Astoria in New York City who considers it their own creation, and introduced it in the 1950s. Here, to this day, the cake actually goes under the name of the Waldorf Astoria cake.
Even Canada has a stake in it. In the 1940s and 50s, Red Velvet cake was served as a popular dessert at Eaton’s Department store. Employees were bound to secrecy over the recipe, which some thought was devised by the Lady Eaton herself.
But, while all of the above may be true, many consider it a Southern recipe. This is likely due to the resurgence in popularity after the 1980s movie, Steel Magnolias, which featured a Red Velvet armadillo cake as the groom’s cake. Y’all remember that scene don’t you, with “Ouiser” whacking off the tail end and serving it to Drum Eatenton? (played by Tom Skerritt) He followed up that serving with a classic line I can’t repeat here.
I know in my own family, there isn’t a year that goes by where we don’t have Red Velvet cake, cupcakes or a version made into cookies for the holidays, Valentine’s, or even a birthday celebration. If you’ve never tried this cake before, I feel certain it would become a favorite with your family too. There is a very light, delicate hint of chocolate, and it’s a true centerpiece for a special celebration due to its brilliant color.
The traditional icing for a Red Velvet cake is called ermine frosting. You create a roux and slowly add confectioner’s sugar, beating it all the while. The taste is creamy sweet, and a perfect addition. Ermine frosting takes time, but is oh so worth the effort. However, if you’re a bit intimidated by it, there is another very good icing using cream cheese that is often used, and has become perhaps even more popular than ermine.
Red Velvet cakes have become so popular once again, there are other creations that use the idea of Red Velvet as a flavoring or scent, sort of like the Pumpkin Spice rage that is so popular in the Fall. There are Red Velvet Pop-Tarts ™, protein powders, teas, waffles and Red Velvet scented air fresheners and candles. Personally, I’m not crazy about cross-over products. I much prefer to have the cake (and eat it, too), but I think if I had to choose something else that is Red Velvet flavored, that isn’t the cake or cupcakes, Red Velvet Crackle cookies come in a close second.
That’s the post for the next time!
RED VELVET CUPCAKES with CREAM CHEESE FROSTING
- 1 1/2 cups of sugar
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, room temperature
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 2 1/3 cups of cake flour
- 2 tablespoons of Dutch-processed cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1 cup of buttermilk*
- 1 1/2 tablespoons of red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of distilled white vinegar
DIRECTIONS for the cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer for 3 minutes on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each is fully incorporated. Be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
- In a large bowl, sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In another bowl whisk together the buttermilk, vinegar, vanilla extract, and red food coloring.
- Add a fourth of the dry ingredients and mix, then add a third of the wet. Continue adding in a dry, wet, dry pattern, ending with the dry ingredients.
- Scoop into cupcake papers, about 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Rotate the pan after the first 15 minutes of baking to ensure even baking.
- Allow to cool for one minute in the pan then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
- 1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature
- 8 oz of Philly cream cheese (1 package), room temperature
- 2 – 3 cups of powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- Crushed pecans for garnish (if desired, or other decorations!)
DIRECTIONS for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
- Beat the butter and cream cheese together, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl to ensure even mixing.
- Add the vanilla extract and mix.
- Add the powdered sugar, continually taste to get to desired sweetness. Spread onto cooled cupcakes.
- Sprinkle the tops with the crushed pecans, or decorate with red, white and pink sprinkles, or whatever you choose!
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For twelve-year-old Martha “Sonny” Creech, there is no place more beautiful than her family’s cotton farm. She, her two brothers, and her parents work hard on their land—hoeing, planting, picking—but only Sonny loves the rich, dark earth the way her father does. When a tragic accident claims his life, her stricken family struggles to fend off ruin—until their rich, reclusive neighbor offers to help finance that year’s cotton crop.
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