Happy February!!

valentines day cupcakes
It’s the first day of February, and I am the quintessential “girly girl”.  I love shopping and jewelry, fashion and getting dressed up.  I love pampering myself, and being pampered.  To me, the start of February awakens this little girl inside me that is excited to send out Valentine’s Day cards, bake sweet treats, and wear lots of pink (even though it’s really not my color).
Kris and I are pretty low key, and don’t buy into the hype of it all – the past few years we have stayed home, made dinner together, and exchanged cards with sweet notes.  Regardless, I love day-dreaming about all the fun things about this totally commercialized holiday because let’s be honest, they are SO PRETTY!  To kick off the countdown to Valentine’s Day, let’s talk sweets.  How gorgeous are these pale pink ruffly confections above?!  So cute!
What I have been dying to try are these red velvet XOXO cupcakes.
From the sound of it, these cupcakes can get messy with the red food coloring, but how cute are they?!  A pet peeve of mine is TOO MUCH frosting on a cupcake (am I the only person in the world who doesn’t like too much frosting?)  These cupcakes have a thick cream cheese icing X or O, so its just the perfect amount!
It’s pretty funny to me – people think red velvet is a unique flavor of it’s own, but it’s really a combination of chocolate and vanilla cupcakes (look at the ingredients).  What makes them special is the red food coloring – I guess the saying is true.  We really DO eat with our eyes first 🙂
I’ve hunted down a good one – no brick colored Red Velvet here!  Find the recipe with instructions below, enjoy these treats, and let the countdown to February 14th begin!
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting:
Recipe from Pinch My Salt

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour – sift it before you measure it.
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz. red food coloring (two bottles)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake papers (really it only makes 20 – not 24). I made 12 regular sized cupcakes and 12 mini-cupcakes.

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Sift together the cake flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl; set aside.  In a small bowl, mix food coloring and cocoa powder to form a thin paste without lumps; set aside.

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

In a large bowl, using a hand mixer or stand mixer, beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about three minutes.  

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Beat in eggs, one at a time, then beat in vanilla and the red cocoa paste, scraping down the bowl with a spatula as you go.  Add one third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beat well, then beat in half of the buttermilk. Beat in another third of flour mixture, then second half of buttermilk. End with the last third of the flour mixture, beat until well combined, making sure to scrape down the bowl with a spatula.

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

In a small bowl, mix vinegar and baking soda.  Be careful – it will fizz up.  Add vinegar mixture to the cake batter and stir well to combine. Using an ice cream scoop, fill cupcake cups with cake batter (they should be 2/3 – 3/4 full).  Place muffin tins on the middle rack of a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake for approximately 20-22 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Check early and don’t over bake. In my oven – the mini cupcakes took 15 minutes and the regular sized cupcakes took 18 minutes.

Cool the cupcakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.  Frost cupcakes with cream cheese icing – recipe below.

red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting
16 oz. cream cheese (2 packages), softened
1/2 cup unsalted butter (one stick), softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
pinch of salt

With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth.  Turn mixer to low speed and blend in powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract.  Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, until ready to use.  If refrigerated, the frosting will need to be brought to room temperature before using (after frosting softens up, beat with mixer until smooth).

Et Voila! Bon Appetit!

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