02 Jun

red velvet and cream cheese

Today’s post was going to be about sabbatical preparations and why it’s a good idea to start a non-work, non-research blog at the start of a dissertation writing sabbatical.

But then I made red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing and I felt it was my duty to share with you the extremely simple but amazingly delicious recipe I used to make these little morsels of chocolatey goodness.

I’ve made a few red velvet cupcakes in my time. Most recently, I used the Cake Boss recipe to make cupcakes and two full size cakes but they were an unmitigated disaster… Not because of the recipe, but because I attempted to bake them in my sister’s non-fan forced over. I know. They exist. I was flabbergasted too. One of the full size cakes looked like it was going to be okay. But then my sister dropped it on the kitchen floor while checking to see if it was cooked. I felt like I spent $50 on ingredients, two hours cooking, and got no cake for my troubles. The full size cakes were supposed to be the kindy birthday cakes for my niece and nephew, so that was pretty disappointing. It was a seriously good looking cake mix, too. Silky (or velvety!) smooth and a really lovely consistency.

So anyway, this weekend I decided to have another crack at it. I scoured the web for a recipe with only one selection criteria in mind: low fuss. I made these with the kidlets so simplicity is important. They just don’t appreciate the whole vinegar and bicarb chemical reaction thing, or the sift it five times for maximum smoothness ritual. The aim is to get as much of the ingredients into the bowl as humanly (or kiddly) possible, with minimal egg shell, and minimum beater spray. The first thing I look for in a cake recipe when I’m cooking with the kids is whether the butter and sugar needs creaming. Because that is Just Not Fun with four year olds. Also, pro tip: never suggest to a four year old that they tap the measuring cup on the bench to level it out – really, it’s just better to live with some variation in quantities rather than derail the whole process to clean up a kid who’s covered head to toe in cocoa.

So, I used a recipe from taste.com.au. 10 ingredients, no creaming, chuck it all in the bowl and away we go. It made 24 (recipe says 18). And they were 24 of the most perfect little cakes ever. Not too sweet (making them a perfect vessel for a mountain of icing), and just the right amount of chocolate. Even my substitution of pink food colouring for the red I should have used didn’t make these babies any less pretty.

Now you can’t have a red velvet cupcake without cream cheese icing. My niece and nephew reminded me of this when I offered them icing-less cupcakes not long after these came out of the oven (late yesterday afternoon). I didn’t have time to make the icing last night and when I rocked up at their place this morning, the very first thing out of their mouths was “Where’s the icing?” (at 9am – aka cake o’clock).

Putting icing on a red velvet cupcakeMy niece and I got round to making the icing this afternoon. I didn’t follow the recipe for the cream cheese icing. Partly because all my unsalted butter was in the freezer and I didn’t have the foresight to defrost it; partly because I like my cream cheese icing to be cream cheese icing (as opposed to butter, vanilla and cream cheese icing). So we mixed up a block of cream cheese (250 grams) with about a cup of icing sugar (not quite because the lumps were driving me crazy so I ditched the last of them). After we finished licking the beaters (which involved double dipping them, I will confess), my little sous chef and I loaded the cakes with mountains of icing.

The thing is, kids don’t eat cake. It’s like this universal rule. They love icing but they couldn’t care less about the crumbly stuff. So here is my second pro tip on baking with kids: make double the icing, because at the end of the day, they’re just going to lick it off their cakes and hand them back to you. You’ve got to have extra icing in reserve (preferably hidden) or you can bet you’ll be eating icingless remnants while they proceed to eat every bit of icing in sight.

30 posts in June: 2/30