Thursday, April 26, 2012

Red Velvet Cupcakes

As Easter approached, I remembered I had these beautiful cupcake wrappers my mom had purchased last year and knew I couldn't let this year pass without using them. But which cupcake to choose? A delicate vanilla bean? A strawberry cupcake with strawberry buttercream? A rich chocolate with ganache? There were too many choices, so I asked my girls what kind of cupcake they wanted for Easter.

Here's how the conversation went down:
Me: "So girls, what kind of cupcakes should we make for Easter?"
My Big Girl (without missing a beat): "Red Velvet!!"
Me, knowing she had never had a red velvet cupcake before wondered how on earth this could've possibly entered her subconscious: "Red velvet? Really?"
MBG: "Yes, that's what I want. It has to be red velvet. Easter is about Jesus and His death on the cross, so we need a red cupcake. You know, for his blood."
Me (also never having had a red velvet cupcake and worried about how much it would dye the cupcake papers): "Are you sure you don't want a nice vanilla with chocolate icing?"

I couldn't sway them. They were committed. It was Jesus cupcakes or bust.

I did a bit of homework before settling on Annie's red velvet cupcakes, and I really couldn't have been more pleased with the results. I'm no red velvet expert, but we all thought they tasted delicious. The icing was the perfect topper, too: creamy, just sweet enough, and piped beautifully onto the cupcake. And, as it turned out, they were a most delicious way to remember that Easter is more than eggs and bunnies, even if they are decorated beautifully with them. :)

Red Velvet Cupcakes 
(aka Jesus Cupcakes)
Yield: About 24 cupcakes
Ingredients:
For the cake:
  • 2½ cups cake flour
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring, or ½ tsp. red gel-paste food color
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:*
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract (use clear for a prettier colored icing)
  • 2½ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. The batter will be runny.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes.  Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.

Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired

*Per Annie: If you are big on frosting as I am, you may want to increase the quantities by 50%.  That is what I typically do for a batch of 24 cupcakes.  I usually end up with some left over, but I would rather have too much frosting than not enough!

Source: Annie's Eats, originally from Apple a Day adapted from Saveur, via The Way the Cookie Crumbles, frosting adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lemon Crinkle Cookies

Spring is more than in the air here in the Midwest. My daffodils and hyacinths have come and gone (over two weeks ago!), the grass has already been mowed, and I've had to weed my garden. Twice. What a strange, kind of wonderful start to the year. While my husband mourned the lack of snow this past winter, I was doing jubilant dances as I didn't have to shovel once.
My youngest and I made these delicious cookies on a cold winter's day, and they tasted so much like spring that I couldn't decide whether to share them sooner or later. I chose later. :)

The cookie is pretty much the perfect lemon cookie: As you bite into it, it's slightly crunchy, but that yields to a chewy interior. And Lauren (whose blog this recipe came from) remarked that just out of the oven, it tasted a lot like a lemon bar, and I couldn't agree more. My little taste tester gave her approval.


Lemon Crinkle Cookies
Yield: 2-3 dozen
Ingredients:
  • ½ cups Butter, Softened
  • 1 cup Granulated Sugar
  • ½ teaspoons Vanilla Extract
  • 1 whole Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Lemon Zest
  • 1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice
  • ¼ teaspoons Salt
  • ¼ teaspoons Baking Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoons Baking Soda
  • 1-½ cup All-purpose Flour
  • ½ cups Powdered Sugar 
Preheat oven to 350° degrees. Grease light colored baking sheets with non stick cooking spray and set aside. Alternatively, use parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, egg, lemon zest and juice. Scrape sides and mix again. Stir in all dry ingredients slowly until just combined, excluding the powdered sugar. Scrape sides of bowl and mix again briefly. Pour powdered sugar onto a large plate. Roll a heaping teaspoon of dough into a ball and roll in powdered sugar. Place on baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.

Bake for 9-11 minutes or until bottoms begin to barely brown and cookies look matte {not melty or shiny}. Remove from oven and cool cookies about 3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

*If using a non stick darker baking tray, reduce baking time by about 2 minutes.
  
Source: Lauren's Latest