Friday, February 11, 2011

All's Fair in Love and (Cupcake) Wars

Coming up with a dessert to serve a ladies' group is always a challenge. Ladies love dessert, even though it's probably not too lady-like to admit it. But if we're going to partake in a calorie-laden treat, it had better not disappoint.

So I usually pull out my recipe box and search through several cookbooks, looking for the perfect dessert to serve. Should I do a tried-and-true recipe? Or should I throw caution to the wind and try something new?

When I was looking for a dessert to serve my PEO group in January, I didn't have to think very long. I decided to do a recipe reenactment.

When we were in Columbia, South Carolina, we visited a downtown shop called Cupcake. I decided I wanted to try my best to replicate those delectable treats.

I didn't get the frosting piled as high as the South Carolina professional versions, but they were still a hit.

To accomplish the sky-high versions, I think I need to invest in a decorator bag instead of my old-fashioned decorating set. I'm used to it, and it has served me well, but maybe it's time for an upgrade.

I sure had to stop and refill the tube a bunch of times. Rolling down a bag like they do on the Food Network show Cupcake Wars looks quicker, though I can also envision frosting squirting out the top of the bag until I get the hang of it. I am not the neatest cook, as you will see in Exhibit A:

I used an ice cream scoop to make sure I got the same amount of batter in each cupcake liner. And, yes, I had it all over the place.

The recipe called for 2 ounces of red food coloring. That's two whole bottles. It made them nice and red, but I think 1 bottle would probably be sufficient.

Just like our Columbia snack stop, I gave the ladies two choices: red velvet or chocolate.

We had a small group at PEO that day, and every single person chose red velvet. Randy was glad to do his part in consuming the leftovers. He got to sample plenty of both kinds.

Since I made the cupcakes for a January meeting, I used snowman cupcake liners and snowflake sprinkles. But these vibrant red cupcakes would be the perfect way to treat your Valentine. I stashed a cake pan full of them in the freezer, and I just might pull them out for my Valentine this week. I don't think he'll care that they have snowflakes instead of heart sprinkles.


Red Velvet Cake or Cupcakes

1 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. cocoa powder
2 oz. red food coloring
2 1/2 cups cake flour
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vinegar
Cream cheese frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In mixer bowl, cream together shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. In a separate bowl, mix together cocoa and food coloring. Add the paste to the shortening mixture. Sift the flour and salt together over waxed paper. Add to the batter alternately with the buttermilk in 3 additions. Add the vanilla extract. Fold in the baking soda and vinegar.

Pour batter into 24 cupcake cups or into 2, 9-inch-round layer pans. For cupcakes, bake 18-22 minutes or until test comes out clean. For cake, bake about 30 minutes or until tester comes out clean.

Let cool on cooling rack. Frost.

Cream Cheese Icing
1 lb. cream cheese, softened
4 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mix cream cheese, sugar and butter on low speed until incorporated. Increase speed to high, and mix until light and fluffy. Occasionally turn the mixer off, and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the vanilla; mix until it's incorporated.

This makes enough to frost a 3-layer cake. If making cupcakes, use a decorator tool, and pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes.

If you aren't piling up the frosting, you could probably get by with half a recipe. Leftover frosting can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

This cake does need to be stored in the refrigerator because of the cream cheese icing.

I'll save the Chocolate Cupcake recipe for another day. But, in the meantime, Happy Weekend!


  1. I may have to make these for my Valentine! He loves cake! Thanks for posting! :)

  2. Hope your Valentine loves them as much as mine did!

  3. Cupcakes are so fun... I love to watch "Cupcake Wars," but I'm not motivated enough to try those odd flavors they come up with sometimes. The bags are nice to work with - the trick is to give them a twist at the top before you start. But they do give you the flexibility to add tons of icing. Also, you might try the gel colors they sell at Decor - they're cheap and are more intense than regular food coloring so you don't have to use so much. They sell the bags, too.

  4. Thanks for the tips, Patsy! I have used the gel to color frostings, but I didn't know if it would work for the cake recipe, since it would change the amount of liquid. Maybe an experiment is in order! I love Decor, too.