Oct 4, 2008

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Months ago, my friend Amber asked me to find her a good Red Velvet cupcake recipe. I'm not sure I'd even eaten a Red Velvet cupcake before. I just knew that they were red. After a little sleuthing I learned some interesting things about Red Velvet cake. In World War II, when foods were being rationed, chocolate was scarce. So, in order to color their cakes, beet juice was used - leading to the deep red color. Nowadays, we have chocolate and red dye in every grocery store, but the cake still stands. The chocolate in this recipe is used more as a leavening agent, and when mixed with the buttermilk and vinegar, it adds to the rich, red, velvet-y color.

So, after my research, I can now present you with what I believe is - by far - the best Red Velvet cupcake recipe I've ever had. Even better than Sprinkles. And the frosting - oh, the frosting! - is divine!

You'll notice when you read through the recipe that some of the measurements are in weight, not volume. Do NOT just convert it to cups. It must be measured out. Kitchen scales come in all different forms, but it's not too hard to find a cheap one at any grocery/superstore/kitchen store. This is a key reason why these cupcakes are so amazing. The ingredient measurements are perfect, and so worth the extra effort.

16 ounces all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
13 ounces granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
2 tablespoons red food coloring (a 1oz bottle is the perfect size)
1 1/4 teaspoons vinegar (white or apple cider both work)
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cup water

For the cream cheese frosting:
3/4 pounds cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 pound butter, room temperature
1 pound powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.

2. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix oil, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Add eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla, and water; mix well. Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix on low, scraping down sides occasionally. Mix until just combined. Be sure not to over mix, or the batter will come out tough.

3. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners, scoop the batter into the liners and bake at 350 degrees F for 15-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center or a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool.

For the cream cheese frosting:
Whip the butter and cream cheese together in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until creamed. Gradually add powdered sugar to the mixture and scrape down the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla and mix until combined.
The frosting can be used right away, or stored in the refrigerator up to a week.
Frost cooled cupcakes with the cream cheese frosting.

This recipe will make about 30 regular sized cupcakes, 16 jumbo cupcakes (cook 22-24 minutes), or 60 mini cupcakes (cook 10-12 minutes).

Now...go make these! They are HEAVENLY!

recipe adapted from the Food Network

Alfredo Sauce

Super Easy and Super Yummy! The first time I made this with grated parmesan cheese in the tall green can. Don't make that mistake! It was super grainy and nasty. Go buy a package of shredded parmesan cheese. It melts much faster and has a better flavor.

1/4 cup butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley(optional)

1.Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium low heat. Add cream and simmer for 5 minutes, then add garlic and cheese and whisk quickly, heating through. Stir in parsley and serve.

S'more Brownies

Another Food Network Favorite! I doubled the crust. We were also in a hurry(we brought this over to our neighbor's for a dessert night) so I just used a box brownie mix. It turned out heavenly, I can't wait to try it with the full brownie recipe(and a great big glass of milk)! They were even better the next morning for breakfast...

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups crushed graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar
Pinch fine salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
4 large cold eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour

4 cups large marshmallows (I just used 16)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat oven to 325 degrees F. Line an 8 by-8-inch square baking pan with foil so it hangs over the edges by about 1 inch.
For the crust: Lightly butter the foil with some of the melted butter. Stir the rest of the butter together with the crumbs, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Press the crumb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the brownie. Put the butter and chocolate in a medium microwave safe bowl. Melt in the microwave on 75 percent power for 2 minutes. Stir, and microwave again until completely melted, about 2 minutes more. Alternatively, put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Bring a saucepan filled with 1 inch or so of water to a very slow simmer; set the bowl on the pan without touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted. Stir the light brown and white sugars, vanilla and salt into the melted chocolate. Add the eggs and beat vigorously to make a thick and glossy batter. Add the flour and stir until just incorporated.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is crispy and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out mostly clean, with a few crumbs, about 40 to 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and carefully position a rack about 6 inches from the broiler and preheat on low. Layer marshmallows across the top and toast under the broiler until golden, (keep an eye on it, it can go quick), about 2 minutes. Cool on a rack, gently removing the brownies from the pan using the aluminum flaps. Carefully separate any marshmallow from the foil and fold away. Cut into 12 (2-inch) squares. (this part was tricky! Just make sure you clean the knife after each cut or you will make a huge mess!!)

Chocolate Cake and Strawberry Sauce

This recipe is all Emma. Some of you may remember her restaurant menu, which was all chocolate. She was in charge of treats for our weekly Family Home Evening. What did she choose? Chocolate. With chocolate sauce. With strawberry sauce. That's my girl!

Since she was going to be making it with me, and since we were going to be making 3 different things, I wanted to simplify it by using a box cake mix. So, I won't be listing that recipe. I used a Devils Food Betty Crocker mix and added a small box of instand vanilla pudding mix. Other than that addition, I did everything else according to the directions and cooked it in a bundt pan("It's a bunt..." - name that movie!).

For the strawberry sauce I boiled 4 cups of strawberries and mashed them with a potato masher while they cooked. I then added 1/4 cup of sugar and pureed it in the blender.

For the chocolate sauce I used a ganache recipe from my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook, but it was much too thin. I would suggest using a chocolate glaze recipe, or letting the cake cool longer in between coats. I put a cooling rack on top of a large mixing bowl. Then I placed the completely cooled cake on top of the cooling rack and poured the chocolate ganache over it. The bowl caught the drippings and I reused them 7 times to drip over the top of the cake, each time letting it cool a bit.

My husband raved about this cake - and he doesn't do that often. We all loved it and it was gone in two days!! (One of those days I had more pieces than I'd like to admit...). Sorry that this isn't a traditional recipe, but it was really simple and Emma was ecstatic!

Rebekah's "Favorite Apple Pie"

My friend, Rebekah, posted this recipe on her blog and it sounded so good I just had to make it. I had some weird crust issues, but it turned out delicious! I used my regular crust recipe, but doubled it and for some reason it was way too moist. I added some extra flour and thought it was fine until I went to roll it out and found it to still be too moist and floppy. But, I just wanted to get that pie in the oven, so I used it as it was and it turned out just fine.

Here's what Rebekah had to say:

Now don't get the idea that I never visit bakeries or desert menus for pie. I do. I just go for the cream pies because those I do not make very well. I get lazy and use a boxed pudding mix. I readily admit that bakery and restaurant cream pies are far richer and therefore, far superior to my own. I just feel guilty adding all that sugar and cream so I’d rather not know how much was actually used. Fruit pies are easy to justify especially if you make it yourself. The sugar is minimal and the butter sprinkled on top really doesn’t count. Wink, wink.

Favorite Apple Pie (really that is what it's called, mom will have to clarify where it comes from because I just copied it out of her recipe box)

6 large,tart apples
2 T flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown cugar
3/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t butmeg
1/8 t salt
1 T lemon juice
3 T butter

Peel and cut the apples into 16 slices each. Place in a pan with 1/4 cup cold water. Simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Fill pastry pan with apples. Combine remaining ingredients except lemon juice and butter and sprinkle over apples. Add the lemon juice over the top and dot with the butter. Add the top crust and cut vents in it. Bake at 450* for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350* and bake for 45 minutes.

Pastry recipe for 2 crust pie
2 c. flour
1 t salt
Mix together and then cut in 2/3 cup shortening until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add 4-5 T cold water and moisten. Divide in half. Roll out one half and place in empty pie pan. Add filling and then cover with rolled out remaining portion.

Perfect Pizza Dough

It took me years to finally find a recipe for pizza crust that tastes restaurant-quality. Apparently it isn't so much the ingredients as it is the technique!! It might take you a couple of tries to get it right, but trust me, when you do, the results will speak for themselves. The first time I made this I thought my house was going to burn down! My pizza stone turned completely black while it was pre-heating in the oven and our house filled with smoke. I put the pizza on it anyway and it turned out perfect!


1 1/2 cups 110 degree water
2 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
2 1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbls. olive oil
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup cornmeal
pizza sauce - of your choice, as needed shredded cheese - of your choice, as needed toppings - of your choice, as needed


-In a large bowl, dissolve sugar and salt in water.
-Add oil and flour to bowl and stir with heavy spoon for 1 minute.
-Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press into a circle.
-Sprinkle yeast evenly over dough and knead for 12 minutes.
-Divide dough into 2 equal-sized portions for pizza OR 4 equal-sized portions for calzones and roll each portion into a ball. (see Notes, below)
-Place dough balls in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm location(don't be surprised when it doesn't rise much...you didn't put much yeast in it! it's not supposed to rise a lot).
-Place a dough ball on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle a light coating of flour on top.
-Working from the edges to the center, press dough into a 12" circle.
-Preheat a pizza stone in a 500 degree oven for 1 hour.(this is the main part I was missing!)
-Coat a large board with cornmeal and place the dough onto the cornmeal.
-Spread sauce over crust and top with cheese and desired toppings.
-For calzones, fold crust over itself in half.(I make mini calzones - see below)
-Gently shake the cutting board, assuring it isn't sticking to the board.-Slide the pizza/calzone from the cutting board directly onto the stone in the oven.
-Bake in a 500 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, until crust is golden.
Notes: Before allowing the dough to rise, you may place it in a plastic zipper bag and freeze. When ready to use, thaw at room temperature, then proceed with instructions.

I like to make one pizza and use the rest of the dough for pizza rolls/pizza pockets/mini calzones.
Sorry I didn't take a picture when they were out of the bag. I got them all bagged up and then remembered the picture...and by then I was too lazy to take them all out again. :)
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