I keep hearing bakers on Cupcake Wars (I *heart* that show) say that red velvet cake is “Southern.” I’ve never attributed a regional quality to red velvet cake, but according to my research (reading 1/8th of a Wikipedia article), the original recipe, colored red with beet root, was made popular by the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. In 1989, the film Steel Magnolias revived the cake’s popularity. Apparently in the movie, someone makes a red velvet groom’s cake in the shape of an armadillo?! I see plenty of those here in Alabama!
Animal-shaped cakes and regional origins of sugary foodstuffs aside, I’ve never met a person who doesn’t like red velvet cake. To be honest, I can’t understand why it was ever made red in the first place (perhaps I should have read the whole Wiki article!). And what’s up with the negligible amount of cocoa powder? If you’re going to make a chocolate cake, make it CHOCOLATE! Two tablespoons feels like a lazy chocolate cake. Or maybe the original baker ran out of cocoa?
Nevertheless, my sister adores this dessert, so I made her red velvet cupcakes for her birthday and died the cream cheese frosting lavender (or should I say “lazy purple”?). This is a slightly adapted version from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Moskowitz.
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 cup sugar
2 rounded tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 ½ tablespoons red food coloring
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 ¼ teaspoons chocolate extract
Preheat the oven to 350 and line a cupcake pan with paper liners (I always end up with 14 cupcakes when I use this recipe, so I line an entire cupcake pan and then line an additional 2 cups of a second pan.)
Mix the milk and vinegar together and set aside. Sift the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the rest of the wet ingredients together. Combine the wet and dry ingredients (including the milk mixture) and mix until just combined and most of the lumps are gone.
Fill your cupcake liners ¾ full and bake for 18 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting:
¼ cup Earth Balance buttery spread, softened
¼ cup vegan cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
NOTE: Do not microwave vegan butter or cream cheese to soften it! The easiest, quickest way I’ve found is to place the cream cheese and butter in a mixing bowl on top of the stove and let it soften from the heat of the oven while the cupcakes bake. You don’t want the butter to start melting though, so just check it every few minutes.
Beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer until combined. Add the powdered sugar ½ cup at a time, beating well in between each addition. Use a rubber spatula to scrap down the sides of the bowl as you mix.
Once you’ve added the last bit of powdered sugar, your mixture will be very thick. Add the vanilla and beat until it’s incorporated and your frosting is creamy and smooth. Fill a pastry bag and pipe the frosting in pretty swirls onto completely cooled cupcakes.
Or… if you’re like me and can’t wait, slap a bit of frosting on a cupcake with a butter knife and cram it into your face while it’s still warm…. Then, proceed calmly and make the rest of them pretty for other folks to enjoy. : )