Blue Velvet Cupcakes for a Bridal Shower

Have you ever made red velvet cake?  I have, twice, and from two different recipes no less.  You always here that velvet cake can be a little tricky (or maybe that’s just me?), and indeed, my first attempt was mediocre.  It had a decent flavor, but the texture was all off, and it was quite dry.  So the second time I tried a different recipe and unfortunately fared little better.  You see, red velvet cake is kind of a thing in the south.  We’re known for our cakes down here, and you’d be hard put to find a cake that is more decadent and steeped in tradition than this one.  Everyone’s grandmother has her recipe, and each one is better than the last – and bless your heart if it’s dry or flavorless.  So when I was told that the favorite cupcake flavor of the guest of honor at the bridal shower I was co-hosting was red velvet, I was a little nervous.

The future bride sharing a secret with her maid of honor.

I have a confession to make here:  I love to host things.  I love to entertain, to have guests over, and to see people enjoying something I’ve baked or prepared just makes my day.  It’s a lot of work, but I enjoy it, and I really want everything to be just perfect.  Because I had had two previous red velvet duds, I was worried that these might turn out the same.  And to make things a little more interesting, I had decided to make them “Blue Velvet Cupcakes” to go along with the bride’s colors, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get just the right color blue.  I ended up following a recipe from Sprinkle Bakes that had “Finding the perfect hue” in the title.  I’ve had good luck with Sprinkle’s recipes before, so I ran with it, and what do you know?  Perfect cupcake, perfect color. I will probably use this recipe for velvet cake in the future, and just change the color as I please (Orange velvet cake anyone??).

At least one of our guests could’ve cared less about my cupcakes. Those club crackers sure are a crowd pleaser!

Following Sprinkle’s instructions, I purchased Wilton gel food coloring and used a combination of blue and violet to get that deep navy blue.  I used just the tiniest bit of green in the frosting (another of the bride’s colors), and I was really happy with how they looked.  My crafty co-host made those cake stands you see above, as well as most of the other decor, and I think everything came together really well to make this a very special day for the future bride.

Isn’t that sign to die for? My friend Kelly made that with her Cricut, which I’ve heard is one of the coolest things ever.

Our third co-host (that’s her adorable son up there enjoying the crackers) provided the entertainment, and since she’s something of a game guru, that of course turned out perfectly.  She has this great game where she passes out paper bags with small kitchen items in them and you have to guess what the item is by feeling it through the bag – no peeking!  It sounds easy, but some things are really hard to tell without looking.

Bridal shower guest trying to guess what’s in the bag…It’s harder than it sounds!

To sum up:  cupcakes – decadently delicious, decor – visually stunning, games – wildly entertaining.  In short, we spent a lovely afternoon showering the bride-to-be with love and gifts, and everything turned out perfectly.

 

Blue Velvet Cupcakes

This is an adapted Paula Deen recipe. The food-coloring portion has been modified to create (what I consider) the perfect shade of blue for Blue Velvet Cupcakes. The frosting is also not original to the recipe.

12-14 servings

Cake:

2 cups sugar

1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter, at room temp

2 eggs

1tbsp cocoa powder (I used Dutch Cocoa)

1tbsp Wilton royal blue gel food coloring

1 small dab Wilton violet gel food coloring

2 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup buttermilk

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tbsp vinegar

Frosting:

1 lb cream cheese, softened

1/2 lb butter (softened)

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 cups confectioners sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare cupcake pan(s) with paper liners.

Cake:
In a mixing bowl, cream the sugar and butter, mix until light and fluffy. Add the eggs 1 at a time and mix well after each addition. Mix cocoa and food colorings together to form a paste, and then add to sugar mixture; mix well. Sift together flour and salt. Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk. Blend in vanilla. In a small bowl, combine baking soda and vinegar and add to mixture.

Pour batter into cupcake papers. Batter will be thick! Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip. Embellish as desired.

 

A few notes:

I got 24 cupcakes out of this.  There’s no way I was only going to get 14.  I actually could have gotten 26, but I may have, um, sampled the batter.

This stuff is blue.  Really blue.  Don’t wear your favorite apron, and don’t use your cute decorative hand towels. 

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Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

Aren’t those adorable?  They taste pretty good too, if I do say so myself.  I made them for my niece’s second birthday, but they were so good, I made a second batch later in the week to share with my coworkers.  The batter is so light – almost frothy looking – and it bakes up into the fluffiest cupcakes you can imagine.  The crumb was so tender, and with the hint of vanilla, these are the perfect light dessert.  Light, you say?  But isn’t that cream cheese frosting? Why yes it is…and if you beat it long enough, it too can become fairly fluffy.  Now when I say light, I’m not talking calories, because you really can’t have cream cheese frosting and low cal – it’s oxymoronic. But you can make the frosting light in texture, and you can see I went fairly easy on the amounts – which you can get away with if your frosting is as full flavored as this one is.  I also dressed it up a bit with the strawberries, which turned out to be a really good thing – the little bit of fruity-ness cut right through the sweetness of the frosting and really helped balance everything out.

This is a very straightforward recipe, and it comes together in a snap.  Cream your butter and sugar – make sure you do this thoroughly! It should be pale in color and light in texture when it’s ready.  Don’t just mix it together like I used to do…this step is what makes your crumb so light.  Also, if you have the time, you should really  beat each of the eggs before adding them – this will make them incorporate better, but if you don’t want to dirty up another dish I quite understand. Add your dry and wet ingredients alternately, and then mix until it looks light and smooth. When I was at this point, my batter looked almost like a mousse, it was so light.  I couldn’t resist tasting a bit – maybe more than a bit if I’m being honest – and it was just perfect.  Sweet, but not cloying, vanilla-y and rich – perfect.

A note on the vanilla also:  this recipe calls for vanilla bean paste, and if you can get it you really should.  I use this that I order from Amazon, since out here in the middle of nowhere all you can get is pure vanilla extract and imitation vanilla (can I just say Yuck!?), but you can probably get it at Whole Foods, or other similar stores.  The cool thing about vanilla bean paste is that is actually has those tiny little seeds in it, so if you don’t mention it to anyone, they’ll think you went and used a real vanilla bean.  It really does add another little dimension to your baked goods.  You can use it interchangeably with vanilla extract, and I’m not convinced there’s a huge taste difference, but it sure does look nice.

Once your batter is ready, just fill your muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Once they’re done, just let them cool on a wire rack while you get the frosting ready.

Cream cheese frosting is very simple to make, and goes with all sorts of things.  It’s also not hard to flavor with things like chocolate or extracts like vanilla, almond, etc.  (I keep seeing Root Beer extract in the baking aisle, and I’m fairly sure that would make an awesome frosting…) Just  beat the cream cheese, butter, cream, etc, until it’s well mixed, then add your flavorings and confectioner’s sugar and you’ve pretty much got it.  See my note on the sugar below.

I found this recipe through a google search that led me to another blog. I am most thankful to Courtney’s Sweets for providing the recipe.

As you can see, the birthday girl thoroughly enjoyed her (second) cupcake.

 

Vanilla Bean Cupcakes

 

Adapted from a recipe at Courtney’s Sweets

Makes 24 cupcakes

1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
2 3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
3 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 pint strawberries; for topping
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin pans with cupcake liners.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, several minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is fully incorporated before adding the next.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl, and the milk and vanilla paste and extract in another.
  5. While mixing on low speed alternate adding the dry and wet ingredients, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next.  This is a very important step!  Don’t just dump it all in and mix it to death – take your time.
  6. Fill your muffin cups about 3/4 of the way full.  I actually had more like 28 cupcakes, so if you have extra, you can do a second batch, or just add another pan – I used my small 6-cup muffin pan so I could bake mine all at once, but it’s up to you. The batter is fine to sit for a few minutes – just don’t wait all day. Also, if you don’t end up filling all of your cups with batter, make sure you add a little water to the empty ones or Bad Things will happen.
  7. Bake  15-20 minutes, or until tester inserted into middle comes out clean.
White Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting
8 Ounces white chocolate
12 oz cream cheese, softened – I only use Philadelphia; it holds up the best.
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  1. In the top of a double boiler (or you can certainly use the microwave) melt the white chocolate.  Once melted and smooth, remove from heat and let cool.
  2. In clean mixer, beat together cream cheese, heavy cream and butter. Mix until it is one homogenous mixture with few lumps. You may need to scrape the bottom and sides of your mixing bowl to get all the cream cheese mixed in.
  3. Add the vanilla extract, vanilla bean paste, powdered sugar and cooled chocolate and mix until the frosting is the consistency you prefer.

I like my frosting light and fluffy, so I beat mine for several minutes, but if you like yours more dense and creamy, then you may not want to beat it as long.   Also, not everyone likes their frosting the same sweetness.  I like mine to not taste so cheesy and be lightly sweetened.  You can adjust the powdered sugar according to your taste, just be aware that it will change the texture of your frosting depending on how much – or how little you add. Just taste as  you go and don’t be afraid to adjust!

1-2-3-4 Cake and 7 Minute Frosting

Are those the strangest looking cupcakes you’ve ever seen??  I’ll admit the frosting job is a little wonky…but that all becomes meaningless once you taste them.  This is by far the best cake I’ve ever made, and we have a 14 hour long road trip to visit my in-laws to thank for that.  You see, I bought The Art and Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet before the trip, and I read my way through it on our trip over the 4th of July holiday.  While the book contains some truly wonderful recipes, the best part for me was the explanations.  Before each chapter there was a fairly extensive look into the “hows” and “whys” of baking, and I find that invaluable.  I’ve always learned better when I understood how something works, and while I’m sure there are many other cookbooks out there that provide that sort of knowledge, this happened to be the one I found.  I learned so much!  And simple things too, like the importance of creaming the butter and sugar thoroughly…most recipes tell you to do it for several minutes or so, but I usually just  beat it until it looks, well, creamy, and call it done.  OK, let’s just overlook the fact that in the past I may not have followed my recipes exactly – that’s beside the point.  According to my new Baking Wisdom Book, for cakes that use the creaming method, the rise comes from the air bubbles that you create when you cream the sugar and butter.  Amazing.  So I did just that – I beat the sugar and butter (which should be still a little cool, not all completely soft, otherwise the bubbles will collapse.  Who knew?) until it was light and very pale.  I cannot describe to you how perfect my batter looked.  It was so light and almost puffy.  It made the most gorgeous little cupcakes – which I know you can’t appreciate since I hid them under those frosting blobs.  But they tasted wonderful.  Wonderful, I tell you.

Now the story on the frosting.  It tasted fine, it was just a little hard to work with, thus the unrefined decorating of my miniature masterpieces.  It was about the same consistency as marshmallow fluff, so it was very sticky and sort of thick.  It was very simple to make, however.   You just throw all the ingredients into a double boiler and whip them for 7 minutes, or until you get big billowy peaks, and then you frost…whatever.  My problem came from the fact that I was out of light corn syrup and the recipe I used said I could substitute honey instead, which I did.  And while my frosting looked very pretty, it had a very strong honey flavor that I just didn’t care for.  Don’t get  me wrong, it wasn’t bad, and I highly doubt any of those cupcakes will get thrown out, but I will definitely not be using honey for this recipe again.  It just seemed strange to have honey flavored frosting.

So, the moral of this story is:  Follow your recipes!  They’re written that way for a reason, and all those strange little instructions really do matter.

1-2-3-4 Cake:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted self-rising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with your favorite frosting to make a 3-layer cake.

If you make cupcakes you’ll get about 24 of them.

Seven-Minute Frosting

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Place sugar, cream of tartar or corn syrup, salt, water, and egg whites in the top of a double boiler. Beat with a handheld electric mixer for 1 minute. Place pan over boiling water, being sure that boiling water does not touch the bottom of the top pan. (If this happens, it could cause your frosting to become grainy). Beat constantly on high speed with electric mixer for 7 minutes. Beat in vanilla.

I found out through another recipe that you can also use 1/4 cream of tartar instead of the corn syrup as well.

Both of these recipes were adapted from Paula Deen.