Sunday, October 18, 2009

Un-Red Velvet Cupcakes

Crumbs cupcakes have hit the school by storm. Mackenzie, one of my advisees brought them in, and then my daughter Christina, who had had them in her advisory, begged me to take her to Crumbs so she could get a red velvet cupcake.

I was all in, until I saw that Crumbs charged $3.75 a cupcake and $18 for a pack of 12 mini-muffins.

Are you kidding me?

And true to the name, crumbs were all over the front seat of the car after Christina ate her cupcake.

I decided I would try to make some red velvet cupcakes to bring to advisory and make them Halloween-themed eyeball cupcakes, an idea I got from Annie's Eats.

I was going to make them from scratch, but then thought I would take chocolate cake mix and add buttermilk, a little vinegar, red dye, and vanilla. If the experiment was a disaster, I wouldn't cry about it since the cake mix was only .44 on sale.

The results:

They were delicious -- chocolatey, moist, and a little tangy from the buttermilk and vinegar. Paired with the cream cheese frosting, the cupcakes were a homerun.

BUT, I needed a lot more red food coloring. I used up one whole container of the red food coloring they sell in packs with other colors (yellow, green, blue), and then I used some Wilton burgundy frosting tint, probably about 3 tbs. of coloring, but it still wasn't enough turn the cupcakes an eye-popping red. In fact, they looked like really dark brown chocolate cupcakes.

Next time, if I use the 6 tbs. of red food coloring I wrote below, I would add it to the buttermilk/water mixture, so that they all add up to the 1 1/3 cup of liquid called for in the recipe on the box. I wonder though if it's impossible to dye chocolate cake mix red since perhaps there is brown coloring worked into the mix. I'd only know if I made it from scratch and saw the difference, or if a friendly reader shared his/her knowledge.

Perhaps it would be better to use vanilla cake mix with 2 tbs. of cocoa powder for the chocolate flavor. Since that would be a lot lighter in color, the dye would probably take rather well.

By the way, The Way the Cookie Crumbles blog did a really interesting comparison of four red velvet recipes. It's worth looking at.

Un-Red Velvet Cupcakes

Duncan Hines Chocolate Cake Mix
1 tsp. white vinegar
3 1 oz. (6 tbs.) bottles of red food coloring
3 eggs
1/2 cup oil

Follow the recipe on the back of the box, except for the 1 1/3 cups water called for, combine the vinegar, food coloring, 3/4 cup buttermilk, and water until it adds up to 1 1/3 cup.

Cook as directed and let cool.

Cream Cheese Frosting

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix cream cheese, butter and vanilla together. Slowly add sugar until fully incorporated.

Halloween Eyeball Decoration

Cream cheese frosting (white and red)
Gummy lifesavers
Brown or black M&Ms

To make the Halloween eyeball cupcakes, make the cream cheese frosting. Set a bit aside and add some red food coloring. To make it super easy, you can just buy white frosting in the tub at the grocery store and/or a little squeeze tube of red writing gel (also in the baking section).

Frost the cupcakes. Put a gummy lifesavor in the center with a brown M&M in the center of that. Pipe little squiggly pink lines to make the eyes look bloodshot.

Cream cheese frosting does need to be refrigerated.


Ravenous Couple said...

Crumbs and the like can't are overpriced and not much better than good homemade cupcakes..great job!

Trissa said...

Very good! I never buy cupcakes when I can make them - this is a great one for halloween!

La Table De Nana said...

How cute!!!The plate w/ the frown made me smile..I had heard that everyone needed so much red food coloring.. would beet juice work ?

The Little Teochew said...

HAHAHAHA! That last pic is classic! I LOL-ed instantly. Who's idea was it? ;)

Ninette said...

Hi Nana and LTC, yes, you can use beet juice, and the plate thing was my idea. I wonder if that is the pic I should have posted to Foodgawker and Tastespotting. The cupcakes are now gone, having been gobbled up by my advisees and workmates.