Thursday, 29 September 2011

Red-velvet and chocolate-hazelnut cupcakes

A long, long time ago, back in January before-the-blog, there was a red velvet cake. I don’t remember where the recipe came from, but I did buy The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook for the occasion and then didn’t use it. So I felt it time to put it to use and enter into the world of cupcakes, albeit years after the rest of the world.

I find mildly interesting the whole circulation of hand-me-down wisdom surrounding achieving the greatest redness – whether the cocoa shouldn’t be dutch-process, and what the whole vinegar–bicarb soda relationship is all about. I wish Harold McGee would weigh in, but to my knowledge he hasn’t.
There’s a million red-velvet cake recipes out there, so I had a look around on the internet before quite committing myself to just one. And the upshot was that I took a leaf out of Hummingbird, and also smitten kitchen, who is always great at doing her own roundup of the best of all the offerings out there. Amid all my tweaks I kept more or less to the Hummingbird quantities, which promised 12 cupcakes, but met SK halfway in substituting oil for some of the butter in pursuit of greater moistness, and ramped up the cocoa quantity very slightly.

I found that the mixture was barely enough for 10 cupcakes, let alone the promised 12, and the wrappers didn’t end up quite full.

Red-velvet cupcakes
Adapted from smitten kitchen and The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

150g cake flour
15g unsweetened cocoa (SK suggests not Dutch process, Hummingbird doesn’t say)
½ teaspoon salt
100mL vegetable oil
60g melted butter
150g sugar
1 large egg
½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon Wilton’s red gel food colouring
120mL buttermilk
¾ teaspoon bicarb soda
1 ½ teaspoons white wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. Beat together the oil, butter and sugar, then add the egg, vanilla and food colouring to produce a brilliant red batter.

Add the sifted dry ingredients and buttermilk in two alternating stages, beating on low. The colour will now be dull.

Combine the bicarb and vinegar in a cup so it fizzes like mad, adding it to the mixture as it does so. Three-quarters fill cupcake papers and bake for about 25 minutes.

Allow to cool before even thinking of icing them.

60g butter
200g icing sugar
150g cream cheese
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Beat butter and sugar together, then add cream cheese and vanilla and beat for a few minutes until smooth and fluffy. Put into a piping bag fitted with a generous star tip and swirl it on. I found this quantity a bit small for my ten cupcakes, even though it had more cream cheese than Hummingbird suggested (but less than their 300g sugar). It might have been fine for their spreading with a spoon, though; I was getting all fancy-pants swirly.

I dipped the tip of a teaspoon in more red food-colouring gel and bashed it around a tablespoon of turbinado sugar in an espresso cup to produce the red sugar crystals to sprinkle on top.

I felt this batch of ten wouldn’t be enough for the office, so got up early this morning to do another batch from Hummingbird that had caught my eye, despite it being a bit too closely related in the chocolate area and not overly complementary. Again, I tweaked it to add the Nutella straight into the mix rather than dig holes out of the cupcakes to fill with Nutella after baking.

And this amount of batter made a paltry six cupcakes! Six! What could be up with their quantities? Twelve might work for mini-cupcakes, not a good honest afternoon-tea-sized cupcake of which my colleagues are deserving.

Hazelnut and chocolate cupcakes
Adapted from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook

100g plain flour
20g cocoa (I used Dutch process this time)
140g caster sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
40g butter, room temperature
120mL milk (I used leftover buttermilk instead)
1 egg
about 50g Nutella

Preheat oven to 170C. Beat flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt and butter to a sandy, combined consistency. I found it curious to involve the flour at the outset rather than adding it to the beaten butter and eggs and sugar and only just beating it in, as Maida would do, but followed it to the letter.

Slowly pour in the milk and beat well before adding the egg; again, beat well. I was becoming wary of all this beating of flour, and hand-stirred this bit, along with the scoop of Nutella I’d decided to add.

Spoon the mixture into 12 6 cases and bake for 25 minutes.

I wanted to involve the leftover cream cheese in the icing rather than Hummingbird’s recipe, so I borrowed from Tartelette to make my own. 

100g cream cheese
50g butter
150g icing sugar
50g Nutella
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
I couldn’t help but add a splash of Frangelico.

Same process as for the icing above, but with chopped hazelnuts sprinkled over.

They were both pretty okay. What the hazelnut version lacked in looks over the red-velvet, it made up for in chocolatey, buttery delightfulness.

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