Friday, November 15, 2013

Perfecting the Red Velvet Cupcake (Part 1)

My family is absolutely sick of red velvet cupcakes.  Even the mere sight of them.  I think we got tired of the cupcakes more from seeing them so often in our kitchen rather than from actually eating them.

I baked plenty of ugly red velvet cupcakes in the beginning - sunken centers, lopsided tops, overflowing, cracked domes, etc.  Many bakers (even professionals!) say it doesn't matter what the top looks like because you are going to cover it up with frosting anyway.  I don't agree.  I needed to find out how to do it right.  The first step, of course, was to find the "best" recipe.

If you type in "best red velvet recipe" on Google, you will get countless matches. The label "best" is very relative after all.  I did a Google search a few years ago and it led me to this recipe.  It is the one I have been using ever since.  I like that it uses butter rather than oil as I find cupcakes with oil too wet, moist and heavy.  A minor change I have done was lessening the red food colouring to 40 mls (from 60 mls or 2 oz). 60 mls just seemed too much for me. One thing I'd also like to mention is that I have been strict with using only real buttermilk.  I found that when I used a substitute of milk and vinegar or lemon juice, the result wasn't as good.  But that's probably just me.

Having a good recipe is not the be all and end all.  Correct technique is as essential.  To help you make great red velvet cupcakes, I will show you a step by step plus give you some tips!  NOTE: I will not write the recipe here.  It is not mine.  Personally, I don't like it when people copy my recipes onto their own websites.  Even with a link back, if the recipe is already here, then there is no reason for you to check out the link, is there?  Having said that, I urge you to head on over to Pinch My Salt when you're ready to bake.

Here goes!

1.  Mixing the dry ingredients.

Sift the cake flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder together into a bowl then use a whisk to combine thoroughly and to aerate.  Note that I mix in the cocoa powder at this point instead of with the red food colouring (as stated in the original recipe).

2.  Creaming the butter and sugar.

New bakers usually get confused as to what "creaming" means.  It simply means beating the butter and sugar together until it becomes light and fluffy and the colour becomes a very pale yellow.  Start at a slow speed then gradually increase to medium high. If you use caster sugar, the process will be shorter as the sugar dissolves more quickly into the butter.

TIP: If the weather is cold and your butter and sugar is taking forever to reach that fluffy texture, try hovering a hair dryer on low setting over your bowl.  This will warm up your butter and bowl and will speed up the process.  Trust me, I do this all the time.  Just be careful not to melt it!

3.  Adding eggs, vanilla extract and red food colouring.

Add the eggs one a time.  Beat at medium-low speed only. Add the red food colouring gradually with mixer speed down to low.

4.  Adding the flour mixture and buttermilk.

With mixer on low speed, alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Do this in three additions and mix only until combined. You may find that the flour mixture has a tendency to fly all over the place so it is a good thing to probably cover the mixer bowl with a tea towel before you turn the mixer on.

5.  Mixing the baking soda and vinegar.

When you mix these two ingredients together, the mixture should fizz and foam.  If it does not, your baking soda must be old.  Discard and quickly buy new baking soda!  Better yet, if you haven't used your baking soda in a while, check it first before even thinking about baking,.

6.  Final mixing.

After you have poured the baking soda/vinegar mixture in, beat your cake batter for about 30-40 seconds only.  The longer you beat, the tougher your cupcake will become.

7.  Filling your cupcake cases.

The best way to ensure your cupcakes will be the same size, more or less, is to use a 2" ice cream scoop.

You will be able to make about 20-22 cupcakes.

8.  Baking.

Check your oven's accuracy with an oven thermometer.  Bake your cupcakes in the middle rack, one tray at a time.  You can also turn your trays around halfway through to ensure even baking.

Following the steps and tips I have outlined here, you will hopefully get beautiful-looking and wonderful tasting cupcakes like these.



  1. Many thanks, as always, for sharing your talent and expertise.

  2. Corrine, my muffin trays are teflon/non-stick. Do you think there's a need for me to decrease the temperature by 10 degrees even though I'll be lining each cup with a case?

    1. I sometimes use nonstick but never lowered the temperature. I suppose it is
      not crucial when lined with cupcake cases.

    2. I see. A lot of my cupcakes have come out with a very pointed and high dome. I was thinking it could be because of the non-stick surface. I always bake them in the suggested temperature. What do you reckon?

    3. If that happens to you all the time, then you might benefit from lowering the temperature. Sometimes "doming" occurs because the heat from the metal cooks the outer edge a lot faster than the center.

      For this red velvet cupcake recipe, I never get domes or cracks. At most, I get a nice, slightly, rounded top. :)

    4. May I just ask, is your oven conventional or fan-forced? If it is fan-forced, then you should really lower the temperature by 10 degrees.

    5. It's conventional, but it's manual. You let the dial stay on minimum for a certain number of minutes, then jack it up to maximum for a shorter time, then back to minimum again and so on until the stuff inside is baked. I've rarely had similar problems with the other stuff I've done though. I'll give your suggestion of lowering the temp a try next time.

  3. Hi Corinne, I admired your patience preparing those ensaymadas. Can I use bread maker to do the ensaymada? Rising is always a problem to me because of the weather much more now. They are so yummy hope you can help me. Thanks in advance.

    1. I'm sorry I don't know how to alter the recipe to suit a bread machine.

  4. Corrine, have you ever tried making just half of this cupcake recipe? Did it work well for you?