I’m not a fan of Valentine’s Day. I believe it is merely a marketing ploy by the greetings card industry, in collusion with florists and confectioners, to swindle people out of their hard earned cash. Frankly, I don’t need a specific day of the year to tell my husband how much I love him. Plus it has always seemed a bit odd to profess love for someone you admire, whether from near or far, with a tacky card or half dead red roses. I’m pretty sure the real St Valentine would be horrified at the commercial atrocities committed in his name.
However, it is hard to avoid the deluge of sentimental drivel which bombards our lives in the post Christmas lull. When I was approached by Baking Mad to make one of their recipes for a Valentine’s campaign I almost jumped off the nearest bridge (OK this is a slight exaggeration) but then I thought maybe I could use this as an opportunity to try a recipe I’ve been toying with making for some time.
So this is how I’ve arrived at Red Velvet Cupcakes. Various incarnations and recipes for these scarlet hued confections have been around for years. Often they contain eyebrow raising quantities of red food colouring. Enough to make even the most chilled out person become a gibbering maniac. Eric Lanlard’s version relies on a reaction between the acidity of the buttermilk and vinegar to produce the reddish-brown colour. This is not as dramatic as the artificial colouring but at least you can eat them without any fear of people thinking you’ve taken a hefty dose of amphetamines before doing the school run.
I was a little concerned about the small quantity of raising agent in this recipe but my fears were groundless. The cakes rose beautifully although the texture was not as moist as I had expected it would be. The topping is a bit convoluted to make but is seriously delicious. If you really can’t be bothered to make it just use regular butter icing. In ‘honour’ (I type this word through gritted teeth) of Valentine’s Day I made mine in heart shaped muffin cases but regular ones would do the trick as well.
So let the schmaltz begin!
Eric Lanlard’s Red Velvet Cupcakes
For the cakes
- 40g pure cocoa powder
- ¾ tsp vanilla extract
- 65g unsalted butter, softened
- 125g golden caster sugar
- 2 large egg yolks
- 120ml buttermilk
- ½ tsp salt
- 165g plain flour
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ½ tsp white wine vinegar
For the topping
- 120ml whole milk
- 1½ tbsp plain flour
- Pinch salt
- 110g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
- 100g unsalted butter. softened
- 150g icing sugar
- 1 tbsp pure cocoa powder
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan 160°C)/350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper or silicone cupcake cases.
- Sift the cocoa and mix with the vanilla in a small bowl. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl, using an electric hand mixer set on medium-high speed, or a free-standing mixer.
- Once the butter and sugar mixture is pale, light and fluffy, add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat until everything is combined. Add the cocoa mixture and beat well for another minute to combine.
- Stir the buttermilk and salt together and add it to the butter and sugar mixture, a third at a time, alternating with the flour. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the vinegar and blend into the batter. Then, with your mixer on high, beat everything together on a high speed for about 5 minutes, until you have a smooth, glossy batter. It is really important that an electric hand-held or freestanding mixer is used to blend the cupcake batter thoroughly, so that a loose, glossy mixture is achieved.
- Fill each cupcake case to three-quarters full. Bake for 15–20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the cupcake centre comes out clean.
- Cool in the tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes and cool completely before icing.
- For the topping: whisk the milk, flour and salt in a small saucepan over a medium heat until the mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 1–2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and allow to cool.
- Put the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water until melted. Set aside to cool slightly.
- Beat the butter, sugar and cocoa together until fluffy. Add to the cooled chocolate followed by the milk mixture and vanilla extract . Beat together until smooth, then spoon into a piping bag with a small plain or star tube. Pipe immediately on to the cupcakes.
You can see the original recipe here.