Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Ensconced in Red Velvet

Motivation?  HA.  Summer is about to expire, my new job is sucking the life out of me, and the last couple weeks have been a blur of "squeeze the last bits of fun out of vacation season", all of which has left me feeling like I was drug through a knothole backwards.  But I will not give in yet....my personal goal for this summer was to work up to bicycling the entire Banks-Vernonia Linear Trail and Handsome Stranger and I are going to attempt it this coming weekend.  No guts, no glory, and unless I get some of those padded bike shorts you will know exactly why I'm walking funny next week.

HS and I went on an impromptu road trip to San Francisco week before last, and had a wonderful time....I would like to say we relaxed, but I doubt it would hold up in court....but he did more than I because he has his Kindle Fire and will read anywhere.  Even when there is a beautiful swimming pool and spa next to him, mountain bikes begging to be ridden around Pickle Spit or into the charming little boho town of Mill Valley where he went in the summers to visit his Great Gramma Foster and look at the hippies in the town park, or even sitting in bed while his smokin hot wife lathers herself with aloe because she spent too much time in the pool/spa/biking in the California sun.  And I really MEAN smokin hot...ouch.  I am antsy, always gotta be doing something and can NOT waste time when enjoying my relaxation, dammit....too much like Mom.

Speaking of Mom, she turned 75 yesterday....we took her to dinner at a lovely brew pub in the area and had a really great time with 4 generations of the Swaja family there, probably much to the horror of the restaurant staff.  But they were good sports, no one got thrown out, and more importantly, Mom had a great time.  I could have bought a cake, but NO.....if I don't throw at least one roadblock in my own way for every event that comes down the pike you can bet I am an imposter and the real me is tied up in a closet somewhere, struggling mightily to free myself from the duct tape and dishtowel gag so I can get BACK TO THE KITCHEN AND FINISH FROSTING THE CUPCAKES.  I know I'm sick....

So after posting the pix of the glorious results of my OCD riddled existence, I received a fb message from my beautiful niece Belle in Texas for the recipe.  She even said if it was a secret I could kill her, but she drooled on her phone over the pic and wants to bring them to an event of her own.  No prob, missy...and it is not a secret, I found it online - joy of baking is a GREAT place to find good recipes.  Now mind you, I did not tweak the cupcake recipe one iota, but the frosting is from another place....this is my new, and definitively the best cream cheese icing I have EVER had...it also has a bit of a twist that improves the texture and shocked the hell out of me - it was years before I would try it, and then I was mad at myself for not doing it sooner.

So here ya go, sweetie....and even if you can get them to look EXACTLY the same mine will still be better because they are on my tin reproduction powder coated tray from a set of three I had your Handsome Uncle buy me for my birthday for a ridiculous sum of money....those I would have to kill you for.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, line at least 20 muffin tins with preferably foil or some nice heavy duty muffin papers if you can find them.

2.5 cups sifted cake flour (didn't have it, used AP and they were light as a feather)
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. cocoa (I always use uber dark, but whatev)
1/2 cup butter (unsalted blahblahblah...I use what I eat and that crap is gross)
1.5 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 T. red food coloring (look for stores that have it in separate bottles...the little ones take two)
1 tsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. baking soda

Ready?  OK.  sift the flour over wax paper, then carefully pour it in cup or scoop with a spoon into it and level off.  Mix with salt and cocoa powder in a medium bowl and set aside.

In your Kitchenaid mixer (oops....hahaha, or a big bowl and your wimpy hand mixer), beat butter until soft.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, then add eggs and beat well.  Add vanilla and combine, scrape bowl.

In measuring cup, whisk buttermilk with food coloring , then add buttermilk and flour mixtures alternately in 3 additions, beginning and ending with flour.  Just so you know, I realize that is not mathematically correct but the stupid recipe said it and I was compelled to write it down.

In small cup, combine soda and vinegar and stir - it will fizz up, then quickly fold into the batter.

Divide evenly in the muffin tins, I use a 1/4 cup ish scoop, and don't over fill like I did...if you do and they mushroom you need to use a knife to push them off the pan before they cool and cement themselves there.  Pissed me off....little cupcakes are better than spready ones.  Bake in oven 20-25 minutes, check with a toothpick for doneness and let cool in the pan about 10 minutes before removing.  Cool completely before frosting.

Next, pick the ugliest cupcake, peel off the wrapper and TAKE THAT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH!  Break it up in small bits and distribute in one of the empty muffin tins.  Put back in the oven you should already have turned off and ignore it for a bit...you want to dry the crumbs out, not brown them.  While you're ignoring them make the frosting.

Cream Cheese Icing

This was at the bottom of a kick-ass recipe I use for carrot cake...you will see in a sec why it took me so long to use it.  I think this method was used during the depression, but I doubt they had access to a lot of cream cheese so who knows....it just works, altho it's hard to pick which is better, the carrot cake or the icing....

1/4 cup soft butter
12 oz. cream cheese (I even used Neufchatel and it still works)
2.5 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup flour.  Yes, I said it....flour.

Whip butter and cream cheese until fluffy, work in powdered sugar and flour.  REALLY.  No vanilla either...go ahead if you want, but it's not necessary...cream cheese has a lovely tang so why muck it up?  Because of the flour, this icing holds up beautifully - if you pipe it with a frosting tip with the sharkey looking points on it the ridges stay nice and firm...it also forms that delightful "crust"...I know it's not a nice adjective for icing, but it is what it is....my fave kind of frosting has an ever-so-thin dry layer that has a spectacular mouth feel when you bite through it and into the squoosh below.  Yup, that is my new word...squoosh.

Now either use an offset spreader, a butter knife, a spoon or even a frosting bag with a giant sharkey tip on it and frost those completely cool cupcakes!  When they are perfect, take the cake bits out of the oven, put them in a ziploc and smash them to oblivion.  I dumped mine into a wire strainer and rubbed them through the mesh onto a paper towel, which was brilliance.  Then sprinkle with your fingers over each freshly iced cupcake so they will stick and voila!  Red Velvet is not my fave because I swear I can taste the food coloring, but man does everyone else go gaga for it....my lactose intolerant sister lost sight of the fact that she was so afflicted and ate a whole one, for which she paid dearly later that night.  But I don't believe she regrets it....