10 February 2010

Bordello Red Velvet Cupcakes

I love romance. I love love. I love the giddy excitement that overtakes you body, mind and soul at the prospect of being near that special person.

It's just that
I dislike the artifice that surrounds 14 February. I loathe its commercialism and expectations. I sneer at forced restaurant menus and scowl at the gasoline-like price hikes for flowers and chocolates. I avoid storefronts designed by those enamoured with an imagined lovechild produced by Barbara Cartland and any of the Teletubbies.

This year my snarling came earlier than in previous years.

No, it's not because the prospect of being hit by a disabled Norwegian communications satellite is probably greater than the chances of finding a single, erudite, articulate, kind and interesting man who'd want to spend time with me.

A radio advert set off my jeers. Without going into too much detail, the messaging was "Men, (and it was aimed at men) if you have any hopes of making the beast with two backs with your special lady, then get her something for Valentine's day...because if you don't you'll probably never see her naked again."

I'd love to meet the 15 year old boy who came up with that one.

I'd also love to be there when some poor soul who doesn't have the sense gawd gave a goose finds out that no, most women don't want to be treated like one of the gals at Hooker Harvey's.

Good gravy.

When I ventured into my kitchen to bake Valentine's Day treats for my friends, my usual obsession with the tackily mundane became tinged by those women of of the night, turning my little kitchen into a scullery of slightly salacious repute...a bit of a bakery bordello, I suppose.

For many, the colour red is associated with passion and love and, as a result, Valentine's Day. To others it's associated with certain areas of Amsterdam. But to me, a deep, rich brownish-red has always been known as "bordello red." And what better way to celebrate the colour and the connotations than with red velvet cupcakes?

For those of you who haven't had one, all a red velvet cake is is a buttermilk-tangy chocolate cake dyed an almost unnatural shade of red. Some recipes call for beets, but most modern ones use copious amounts of liquid food colouring. I tried making a red velvet cake a few years ago, but I wasn't thrilled with it. It was too dry and not very chocolatey as the dye's flavour overpowered the cake.

After studying a number of recipes, I came up with this one. Like the others it uses buttermilk--essential, I think, for the tang, but I've also read it's acidity helps to redden the cocoa's natural brown; my experiment with yoghurt, although just as tasty, lacked the gaudy visual I yearned for. The combination of oil (well, a mix of oil and butter) and brown sugar keeps the cake moist; the brown sugar also gives it a deeper flavour that's missing from using granulated sugar alone.

It's a rather easy cake to make (and quite honestly the vinegar-bicarb component satisfies my latent mad scientist tendencies) but do not be alarmed by the almost violent plummy-brownish-red the the moussey batter takes on. As it bakes, the colour deepens to a luxurious deep, bordello red.

Bordello Red Velvet Cupcakes
yield 12 cupcakes

125g cake flour
1Tbsp cocoa powder
1tsp baking powder
0.25tsp salt
125ml buttermilk
30ml liquid red food colouring
50g butter, softened
135g brown sugar
2dspn (4tsp) vegetable oil
1tsp vanilla
1 egg
0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
0.5tsp red wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 170C/350F. Line a 12-bowl muffin tin with papers

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt.

Mix together buttermilk and food colouring until it is a rather vile but even shade of puce.

Beat butter for a few minutes until creamy. Add brown sugar and cream well. Mix in oil and vanilla. Beat in egg.

Alternate mixing in flour mixture with buttermilk mixture (dry-wet-dry-wet-dry), scraping down the bowl's sides between additions.

Mix together the bicarb and vinegar into a fizzy, volcanic solution and work it quickly into the batter. At this point, the batter will be almost mousse-like in consistently.

Working quickly to so as to not lose the lift, divide between the papered muffin bowls and bake for 20-25 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Top with cream cheese icing, and whatever gaudy or not-so-gaudy decorations if you wish.


I'm a quill for hire!

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Karen Baking Soda said...

Hmm this Dutchie loves to see that Amsterdam is famous for all the right reasons lol. I think I need to try my hand at a Red Boudoir cake, never did, looks mysterious Jasmine!

K and S said...

yummy! my favorite cake, happy valentines jasmine :)

Valérie said...

Oh, what a lovely colour! I have yet to try making or tasting red velvet cake, but I've been intrigued by it for some time. Maybe this weekend?

NKP said...

Wow, great colour! I have never had red velvet cake before.
Fortunately I was able to convince hubby quite easily this year that while flowers expire quite quickly, cast iron is forever. And Stokes had a sale..

Joanne said...

I don't really love V-day either. If you're going to be a good guy then be a good guy year-round. Is my motto.

But I found myself making red cupcakes as well. The key to moistness, I believe, is the oil. These are gorgeous.

Arlette said...

I agree with you 100%, about commercializing the event so cheapely, My man has to be good always and not only on this day.

Love your cake , never tasted red velvet cake , I must try my hand on one soon.

Lauren said...

Valentines or no Valentines, these look simply delicious!

Sarah R said...

Wow, Jasmine! That makes my cake look absolutely DRAB. Sigh!

Enjoy Toronto!