Sometimes I get the feeling that Red Velvet cupcakes are just an excuse to eat cream cheese frosting! It has to be the most popular frosting in North America. It goes well with anything, it seems! From carrot cake to banana cake, we could pair almost anything with cream cheese frosting.
On the other hand, it is one of the hardest recipes to get right for piping! Believe me, I have searched the internet for a long time to get a few tips on how to get the frosting so that it holds its shape when piped on a cupcake and haven’t found answers.
Here are some tips I learned through experience to get a cream cheese frosting that is good for piping:
Beat the butter first, then add the sugar and keep beating until light and fluffy. Only then, add the cream cheese, and don’t beat for longer than necessary! In my experience, the longer you beat it, the softer the cream cheese gets. Or, you could beat the butter and cream cheese together until fluffy, and add the sugar at the end. Basically, I have found that the sugar and cream cheese can’t be beaten together for a long time, the sugar makes the cream cheese softer. Cream cheese is not as high in fat as butter and therefore has more moisture, and sugar also adds moisture when dissolved, so the combination is trickier than a pure buttercream frosting. This is why I increased the amount of butter in my recipe.
If your frosting is not firm enough, you can add a bit of cornstarch. Powdered sugar actually contains some cornstarch! And if you need a crusting frosting, add some meringue powder.
If at any point your frosting becomes soft, refrigerate it for a while until it firms up a little and then continue.
Whatever you do, don’t use a food processor to mix it – I have seen this suggestion on a few sites and have tried it with bad results – but use an electric mixer.
The Red Velvet recipe I use is adapted from Paula Deen’s recipe. But for the frosting, I like to use a less sweet and more stable one. I use equal amounts of butter and cream cheese, unlike most recipes! The cream cheese flavour is not compromised at all, and it needs less sugar to balance the flavour. It also goes exceptionally well with carrot cake.
Red Velvet cupcakes, makes 2 dozen
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 pinch salt
2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups sunflower oil
1 cup buttermilk at room temperature
2 large eggs at room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2 tbsp vanilla sugar*
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare two muffin pans with cupcake liners.
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with an electric mixer. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and well combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes. The most common mistake with cakes and cupcakes is over-baking! Any recipe will become dry when left too long. If you are not sure, insert a cake tester for doneness.
Cream Cheese frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter
3 cups icing sugar
2 tbsp vanilla sugar*
1 cup cream cheese
Beat butter and sugar until light fluffy. Beat in cream cheese until just smooth. Pipe on cupcakes right away.
*Feel free to substitute with vanilla extract and adjust the quantity. I prefer the flavour of vanilla sugar. Where I live (in Canada), I can buy it at the Bulk Barn. You can also make it yourself.