Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes with a "well" of cream cheese filling

Debbie's Dazzling Red Velvet Cake - made April 13, 2011 from Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn (book #84)

I'm trying to beat the clock again on some buttermilk that's got an expiration date for this week so that's determining what I make right now.  Anything that uses up milk and/or buttermilk or both is a plus.  I haven't done a red velvet in awhile so I pounced on this easy recipe.  Cake mix was on sale for $1 at Target and after having seen a similar box on the shelves of a grocery store in Australia for 5 times that amount, I can't help but feel grateful that food is still comparatively cheap in the US.  Even if I'm not a believer in a box mix.  So don't ask me why I have several recipe books that base almost all of their recipes on box mixes.  What can I say, I went through an insane acquisitive period in my not-so-distant youth.

The pinnacle of red velvet cupcakes to me is the one from Sprinkles.  It was the first cupcake I'd ever tried from there and what they seemed to be most well-known for.  It's not to everyone's taste but I happen to like it, 550 calories and all.  I even like their frosting for it even though I'm not a frosting person and I don't happen to like the frosting on all of their cupcakes.  But I do on their red velvet cupcake.

The original recipe for this was supposed to be a red velvet cake frosted with cream cheese frosting but I decided to make it into cupcakes for easier distribution. I also wanted to see if I could make a "well" in the center of the cupcake that would house a dollop of cream cheese batter with mini chocolate chips instead of frosting it.  The risk was the batter wouldn't hold a dollop of anything and it'd be a cream cheese center instead of a well but I was in the mood to experiment so I went for it.  The only thing is I didn't think an actual cream cheese frosting would bake well in the cupcake so I made it more like the cream cheese batter that gets swirled through a brownie.  I used the cream cheese filling recipe from the Double Fudge Cream Cheese Brownies instead of the cream cheese frosting recipe below.

When using a box cake mix, always sift or strain the cake mix first to get rid of any lumps.  Anne Byrn's recipe directions call for combining all the ingredients at once and mixing.  I find if I do that mixing together all the dry ingredients and all the wet ingredients at once sometimes produces more lumps and I have to spend more time mixing to smooth out the batter.  So what I do is combine all the dry ingredients first then add the butter, mix a bit to form a paste then add the eggs, mix then slowly add the buttermilk.  I add the red food coloring right after the eggs and before the buttermilk to gauge the color before all of the wet ingredients are incorporated.  I don't like pink velvet cupcakes so I was prepared to add more red food coloring if the batter wasn't a sufficiently impressive red color at the end.  Fortunately, I didn't have to.

As you can see from the picture, the "well" concept didn't work out.  Ideally, the dollop of cream cheese filling would've remained intact in the middle of each cupcake top.  It didn't turn out  that way.  Instead, the cream cheese filling sank into the cupcake and the cupcake rose, baking up around it.  It's not quite a center filling but more like a swirl on top hinting at the filling in the middle.  When I tried a cupcake, I also saw that  the cream cheese had sunk to the bottom so it wasn't even a center filling.  That's likely because the weight of the cupcake batter wasn't dense enough to hold the cream cheese well.  Oh well....

In taste, the cupcakes were pretty good, at least for something with a box mix base.  The texture was light and cakey like we traditionally like our cakes to be and they were moist.  Sprinkles has no competition to worry about here though.  Since the well experiment didn't work, I think they would've been better without  the cream cheese filling but that's me.  Next time, I'm better off trying to make more of a frosting-type center that's sweeter and lighter rather than a filling recipe and see if that does any better.

1 package (18.25 ounces) white cake mix with pudding
1 cup buttermilk
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 large eggs
2 bottles (1 ounce each) red food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, at room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
3 ¾ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus additional if needed
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1.    Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350⁰F.  Generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray, then dust with flour.  Shake out the excess flour.  Set the pans aside.
2.    Place the cake mix, buttermilk, melted butter, cocoa powder, eggs, red food coloring and vanilla in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute.  Stop the machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.  Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping down the sides again if needed.  The batter should look well combined.  Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula.  Place the pans in the oven side by side.
3.    Bake the cakes until they spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 28 to 30 minutes.  Remove the pans from the oven and place them on wire racks to cool for 10 minutes.  Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert each onto a rack, then invert again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up.  Allow to cool completely, 30 minutes more.
4.    Meanwhile, prepare the Cream Cheese Frosting.  Place the cream cheese and butter in a large mixing bowl.  Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until combined, 30 seconds.  Add the confectioners’ sugar, a little at a time, blending with the mixer on low speed, until the sugar is well incorporated, 1 minute.  Add more sugar as needed to make the frosting spreadable.  Add the vanilla, then increase the mixer speed to medium and blend until the frosting is fluffy, 1 minute more.
5.    Place one cake layer, right side up, on a serving platter.  Spread the top with frosting.  Place the second layer, right side up, on top of the first layer and frost the top and sides of the cake with clean, smooth strokes.

Store this cake, tightly wrapped or covered, at room temperature for up to 3 days.

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