I found my mojo… it was lost for a little while but it’s popped back up with a vengeance and I’ve been concocting a variety of cakes and bakes recently that will be making an appearance soon.
I thank the back to back Bank Holidays and the lighter Spring evenings for giving me the boost again. The dark winter evenings just aren’t the best for motivation or photographing, and food really doesn’t like flash (and neither do I). But with Spring comes not just lighter evenings, but country walks, eating outside, catching up with family and friends, lots of birthdays, and the new crop of fruits, berries and vegetables popping up… everything looks, feels and tastes just so fresh; and the mind feels a little fresher too.
That said, I’ve still been baking away in the wings, and I’ll admit that these cupcakes were baked back in February (of course they were… hearts and cupcakes scream Valentines; don’t they?). But don’t fret they’re not still hanging around, they disappeared in a matter of hours.
‘Surprise Inside’ cupcakes seem to be one of those style of cupcakes that just pass me by. Whilst I think the ingenuity of getting the design inside of the cake is pretty awesome, the engineering behind it seems a little too much hassle for me on an everyday basis. There are times I just want a cupcake to be a cupcake, and a cake to be a cake; a good sponge and luscious frosting. Although curiosity got the better of me on this occasion!
Well, curiosity and having a layer of vanilla sponge going spare from another cake, looking a little lost and in need of a home. Usually it would go in the off-cuts box for Ian to smoother with jam and spare frosting; but this time I thought I’d spruce up my Red Velvet cupcakes.
So then, those beauties up there are my ‘Reds’; lashings of cream cheese frosting piled on top of a bright red cupcake, with a little vanilla heart nesting inside!
I’ll take it back, in terms of the engineering behind them; these are actually pretty simple! Ok, if I was creating a ‘scene’ inside a cake there would be plenty of reverse engineering going on, but a little cute heart… you can do without loosing any sleep over it (and believe me I’ve lost sleep over cakes and cake designs before).
The beauty of the heart in these cupcakes is that it’s just cut using a cookie cutter; therefore so long as the shape cut out fits inside the cupcake case, there’s nothing to stop you using a butterfly or a letter shaped cutter, or any other cookie you’ve got stashed away in your baking cupboard.
I know my heart in the one below isn’t perfectly formed; I’m not quite sure what happened there. I think I might have cut the cupcake in the wrong place so it wasn’t all on show. And as the others were all swiped away by eager hands for waiting tummys, I didn’t get chance to give them the photo shoot treatment; but you get the idea…
There’s just one thing before I give you the recipe; let’s talk food colouring! Red Velvet cupcakes are by their name ‘red’ and to get them red you’ve got to use a colouring of sorts. There are lots of colourings out there, and most recipes will tell you to use a liquid colouring, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, here in the UK the red liquid food colouring you will tend to find on the supermarket shelves is the Dr Oetker ‘natural’ one. We’re all for natural here, but not this time. This colouring is made from beetroot, and as you do actually use quite a bit of it in the recipe it can taint the taste; not to mention turn you Red Velvets into a more Orangey-browny-reddy Velvet. So to keep the Reds red and not beetroot in taste, I use my trusty food gel colours; especially the Sugarflair Christmas Red which gives me just the right shade of red.
Well then, Baked Inside Heart Red Velvet cupcakes are go!
Baked Inside Heart Red Velvet Cupcakes
Yield 12 cupcakes
The perfect Red Velvet cupcake with lashings of cream cheese frosting, and a hidden surprise!
For the cupcakes
- 6 inch square vanilla sponge layer
- 20g Cocoa powder
- Red food colouring - I prefer to use food gel. If using liquid food colouring, use a 28ml bottle.
- 1 tsp Vanilla extract
- 100g Unsalted butter
- 140g Caster sugar
- 2 Eggs, medium
- 225g Plain flour
- 140ml Buttermilk
- 1/2 tsp Bicarb of Soda
- 1.5 tsp White vinegar
For the Frosting
- 200g Unsalted butter
- 500g Icing sugar
- 100g Full-fat cream cheese
For the hearts
- Using a basic vanilla sponge recipe, half the recipe and bake a sheet of sponge approximately 6 inch square, or 8 inch round to make enough hearts for 12 cupcakes. If you want to cheat this bit, you could use shop brought vanilla cake or if you freeze your offcuts or spare layers from larger cakes, you can use those.
- Cut out vanilla hearts, using a 1.5inch diameter heart shaped cookie cutter.
For the cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 180C or 160C (fan) and line a deep muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases.
- In a small bowl, add the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food colouring.
- Gently mix together until it combines into a smooth paste, add a teaspoon of the buttermilk if it is too dry.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, add the caster sugar and butter. Beat until fluffy and creamy.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each one.
- Add half of the flour and mix together until just combined.
- Add half of the buttermilk and mix until just combined.
- Add the rest of the flour and mix together, then add the rest of the buttermilk and mix. Make sure all the ingredients are well mixed.
- Add the vinegar and the bicarb, and quickly mix. Do not over mix, just until you start to see bubbles in the mix from the vinegar and bicarb reacting together.
- Use an ice cream scoop to divide the batter between the cupcake cases, they should be approximately 1/4 full, and no more than 1/2 full.
- Place a heart into the centre of each cupcake case and fill the cases to approximately 3/4 full.
- Bake for 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack.
For the frosting
- In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat the butter until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and cream cheese. Beat until smooth.
- Add the remaining icing sugar and cream cheese. Beat until smooth. Be careful not to overbeat the frosting as the cream cheese will slacken and maybe runny when piping.
- If the buttercream is too stiff, add a tsp of whole milk and beat until smooth.
- Fill a piping bag fitted with a 1cm star nozzle with the cream cheese frosting.
- Pipe the frosting onto the cupcakes in a swirl shape and decorate!
I prefer my cream cheese frosting to be stiffer than normal, I find it smoother to pipe, so I tend to use more butter in my frosting recipe than cream cheese. It still has the taste of cream cheese frosting but it is nicer to work with and doesn't look 'sweaty' like some frostings can.
Substitute the buttermilk, with 120ml of whole milk and 2 tbsp of lemon juice. Add the lemon juice to the milk and leave to one side of 10-15minutes to curdle.
Any leftover frosting, can be kept in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 1 week.