Red velvet cupcakes

Cocoa-rich cake with a thick, tangy cream cheese icing. This classic red velvet cupcake recipe is fluffy and moist, tasty enough to turn around even the gloomiest of days.

If ever you consider moving away from home, away from family, friends and familiarity, might I advise you this: take time to plan it out. It was a hard-learned lesson from my move to London, after being given just 30 days’ notice to enter the UK (otherwise an invalid visa). These 30 days were, mind you, inclusive of submitting my resignation, packing up my apartment and packing up for a country I had never been to before.

If maybe I had followed my own advice, I wouldn’t have been wandering the painfully festive-list streets of South Kensington, two weeks before Christmas, in a sad and lonely state. 

In any other scenario, Christmas in London is magical. Tube commuters get less grouchy, carol songs are always within earshot, and fairy lights transform even London’s grubbiest parts into a romantic scene. 

The magic of my South Kensington evening, however, was less obvious. Rain had dispersed an otherwise crowded tourist area, and I was still roaming around trying to force familiarity in a new home.

In the midst of this self-pity, I found Hummingbird Bakery. Like the ending of a very predictable film, the rain clouds parted, the fog cleared and I found a way to follow the alluring smell of baked butter.

Among its famous homestyle red velvet, Hummingbird Bakery is known for American-style cakes – deliciously unpretentious desserts that transport you to a 1950s kitchen, as if everything was freshly baked and sitting on a windowsill.

*Special thanks to Alice for the Hummingbird Bakery cookbook!*

In the making

✘ Don’t overfill the baking cups – stick to 1/2 to 2/3 full – or they’ll overflow and turn into red velvet muffins (delicious, but less cute). Something about the baking soda and acid combination, from the vinegar/lemon juice) makes them rise more than regular cupcakes.

✔ Don’t have buttermilk? Why would you. Substitute each cup of buttermilk with one tablespoon of white vinegar or lemon juice, plus enough milk to measure one cup.  

✔ Opt for liquid food colouring over the gel version. Liquid food colouring will incorporate into the cocoa easier and won’t affect the consistency of the batter.

✘ If you make these for a friend’s birthday, which I did, and you bring them to a bar/club, which I did, don’t think they won’t get broken into by a bunch of cupcake-hungry raccoon people who were never there to celebrate a birthday in the first place.

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Red velvet cupcakes

  • Servings: 12 cupcakes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Cocoa-rich cake with a thick, tangy cream cheese icing. This classic red velvet cupcake recipe is fluffy and moist, tasty enough to turn around even the gloomiest of days.

Credit: Hummingbird Bakery cookbook 

Ingredients

For the cupcakes 

  • 60 grams unsalted butter
  • 150 grams caster sugar 
  • 1 egg at room temperature 
  • 2 tablespoons red food colouring (brands may vary) 
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 120 ml buttermilk 
  • 150 grams all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar or lemon juice 

For the icing 

  • 300 grams icing sugar, sifted
  • 50 grams unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 125 cream cheese, cold 

Directions

The cupcakes 

  1.  Preheat the oven to 325° F. 
  2. Cream the butter and sugar with an electric mixer on medium speed until light, fluffy and well mixed. 
  3. Turn the mixer to high speed, adding the egg. Make sure it’s all incorporated.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, red food colouring and vanila extract to make a thick, dark paste. 
  5. Add the paste to the butter mixture and mix until the batter is evenly coloured. Remember to scrape down the bowl and re-mix. 
  6. Turn the mixer down to slow speed and slowly pour in half the buttermilk. Then add half the flour and beat until it’s all incorporated. Repeat this process until all the buttermilk and flour have been added. Beat until you have a smooth, even texture.
  7. With the mixer on a low speed, add salt, baking soda and vinegar. Beat for two minutes. 
  8. Spoon the mixture into paper cups until two-thirds full. 
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. 
  10. Leave cupcakes to cool before icing. 

The cream-cheese icing

  1. Beat the icing sugar and butter together with an electric mixer. Start on a low speed to avoid sugar dust *everywhere*. 
  2. When it’s well mixed, add the cream cheese all at once. 
  3. Turn the mixer up to medium-high speed for five minutes, or until it’s light and fluffy. Don’t over-mix as it can quickly become runny.

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