My Recipe Box

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Yields approximately 18 cupcakes

  • by Adam Roberts from Secrets of the Best Chefs

Unlike many red velvet cake recipes, this cupcake from San Francisco pastry chef Elizabeth Falkner is about so much more than the bold color: it’s packed with flavor to match. The raspberry vinegar and the pomegranate molasses give everything a slight tang, and the dehydrated berries add a fruity kick. These cupcakes are destined to raise a small fortune at your next bake sale.

For the cupcakes
  • 1-3/4 cups sugar
  • 8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbs. cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbs. red food coloring (about 1/2 small bottle)
  • 2-1/2 cups sifted cake flour (measured after sifting)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbs. raspberry vinegar
For the frosting
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 Tbs. pomegranate molasses (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 drop red food coloring (to turn the frosting pink; optional)
  • 1 Tbs. dehydrated or freeze-dried blackberries or raspberries, ground to a powder in a food processor or clean coffee grinder (optional)
Make the cupcakes

Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Spray 2 muffin tins with cooking spray, then line them with cupcake liners; lightly spray the inside of the cupcake liners too.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, cream the sugar, butter, and canola oil until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and mix well. Add the cocoa powder and red food coloring and continue to mix to incorporate.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt with a whisk. Mix the buttermilk and vanilla in another bowl. With the mixer on low speed, starting with the flour, alternate between adding the flour and the buttermilk, ending with the flour. Combine the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will fizz) and add it right away to the mixer bowl, blending just until incorporated.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop the batter into the muffin tins, filling them up two thirds of the way. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out completely clean. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the frosting and frost the cupcakes

In a clean bowl, add the butter and cream cheese and beat with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the powdered sugar in two additions, beating until just incorporated. Add the pomegranate molasses, vanilla, salt, and, if you’re using it, the food coloring.

When the cupcakes are cool, spread the icing on each with an offset spatula or, to make them more professional, use a piping bag.

Finish by sprinkling the cupcakes with the blackberry or raspberry powder, if using.

Photo: Johnny Miller

This was the first time I have ever made cupcakes, but I have eaten plenty. The cake was light and flavorful, and the recipe was fairly easy. I made a few changes - for the cake, decrease the sugar, increase the vinegar; for the frosting - increase the cheese and butter, decrease the sugar, and add some lemon zest. I didn't have time to buy pomegranate molasses from the Middle Eastern market, so I don't know how that would have turned out, but it is a great idea. Also, the recipe says 18, but it yielded 25 cupcakes. They were a success at the party.

Absolutely delicious. I did not have the vinegar they called for so substituted strawberry balsamic. Also added an extra tablespoon of cocoa to the batter (I love chocolate). Next time I will add a little coffee and cinnamon to enhance the chocolate flavor. The icing is fabulous also and just the right amount. I found the pomegranate molasses at Fresh Market. It added a wonderful tang to the icing. By far the best red velvet I've ever had.

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