Red Velvet Disco Cupcakes

It has been some kind of week. Unusually, every night this week involved a commitment. Auction committee meetings, travel to Seattle, Portland Monthly events. There was a point at which I didn’t know if we were going to make it through, but Friday finally arrived.

All that glittered was, in fact gold at my friend Marti’s 40th birthday party last night. My contribution to the evening was dessert. I have always wanted to try my hand at red velvet, and this was the perfect occasion.

They were disco cupcakes. 40 years of retrospective cupcakes. If only Denny Terrio could’ve presented them.

This recipe will deliver delicious, buttery flavor with a hint of chocolate. I turned up the vanilla volume by using this Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla Bean Paste that I found at Sur la Table as opposed to extract. If you look closely at the picture you can see the vanilla specks in the paste.

The vanilla really came through in the end, which again proves that quality ingredients do make a difference! If you have vanilla in your cupboard that’s been sitting unused for 6 months (or spices for that matter) it probably won’t deliver optimum flavor. What you CAN do with spices however, is put them in the palm of your hand and rub them around firmly with your fingers. This releases the oils and livens them up. I digress, but my point is that this paste was slammin’ and created a great depth of flavor. You’ll be able to smell the bourbon while mixing — yum.

I’ve developed a fascination for the science of baking and in this recipe you actually need a bit of white distilled vinegar fizzing with baking soda to get the cupcakes to stay red. The chemical reaction makes it so — kinda cool.

I had a small window to make 50 cupcakes and there was no room for error!
I watched a video on The Joy of Baking and followed it step by step.

Here’s the video:

Here’s the recipe to make 12:

Red Velvet Disco Cupcakes
1 ¼ c sifted cake flour
¼ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ c unsalted butter, room temp
¾ c granulated white sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla bean paste OR extract
½ c buttermilk
1 tbsp red food coloring
½ tsp white distilled vinegar
½ tsp baking soda

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz cream cheese, room temp
½ tsp vanilla extract or vanilla paste
½ c confectioners sugar
⅔ c cold heavy whipping cream (double cream: 35-40% butterfat)
Optional: Gold Pearl Dust (found in specialty shops like Sur La Table)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl sift the flour, baking powder, salt and cocoa powder.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.

In a measuring cup whisk the buttermilk and the food coloring, being careful not to spill. With the mixer on low-speed, alternately add the flour mixture and the buttermilk.

In a small cup, combine the vinegar and the baking soda. Allow the mixture to fizz and quickly fold into the cake batter.

Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups and bake for 18-23 minutes.

For the frosting, add the cream cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Add the vanilla and confectioners sugar and beat until smooth. Using the whisk attachment, gradually add the heavy cream and whip until frosting is thick enough to pipe (or spread, whichever.) Add more sugar or cream as needed to achieve the desired consistency. Frost when the cupcakes are completely cooled and top with a sprinkling of baker’s gold dust for extra disco fever!


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