Rich Red Velvets, Devil’s Food with peppermint buttercream, and whipped chocolate Three Musketeers mini cupcakes made up a festive tray for a Christmas party my son was attending over the weekend. It was a last hurrah before the dreaded finals week or as I affectionately like to refer to it as the “f” word.
My thirteen-year-old daughter and I had spent almost two hours just decorating 48 mini cupcakes. That was a labor of love if there ever was one. But honestly, we didn’t do it for those unobservant teens (no offense guys). We did it for us; for the fun of hanging out in the kitchen together, laughing at our ridiculous piping mistakes, and pulling the big, goofy Golden Retriever away from the table as she was only millimeters away from licking a cupcake.
That was one happenin’ Friday night at my house as we decorated like cake maniacs and then delivered them to the party in our
cool “whip” big, white mini-van driven by our trusty chauffeur dad and hugged big seventeen-year-old guys as we waved good-bye to the hostess and left our cupcakes to be devoured.
Sometimes you look at your life and wonder, how did I get here? When did all this happen? I love that saying, and one of my favorite lines from John Lennon’s song, Beautiful Boy, “Life’s what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” Ain’t that the truth. We think we know it all when we are young and the whole world is our oyster. We think we can see into the great big future and know how it’s all going to play out.
I had thought Friday nights were always going to be about date nights, late movies and all-nighters pulled studying with friends. In my imagination my car would always be a cute, little red thing with a sunroof and speakers blown out from blasting Boingo and Depeche Mode down the 405 freeway in Newport Beach.
In my innocence, relief was when grades were posted on the back of my professor’s door and I passed a class with flying colors. Who knew that relief would really be the peaceful silence of a baby sleeping or the sound of my son’s car pulling up in the driveway? And a big, white, dorky mini-van would be my car of choice because piles of kids can just hop in and dogs can ride shotgun.
And last night, as I pulled up to my house from a date night with my husband, I noted cars lining my driveway driven by my son and his friends, and I let out a sigh of relief. They were all here, present and accounted for and yet tears welled up without the slightest provocation. Because I know this is the beginning of another new chapter. It is one I cannot predict nor plan for but instead must take a “wait and see” approach. As a true Type A terror, I am not very good at “wait and see”.
My son is making plans for college and my daughter is almost in high school. And me, who ever thought I would be here, more of an observer of my kids’ lives rather than the center of their universe? I didn’t plan on that. That’s how it happens I guess. Life sneaks up on us, and if we are lucky we can look back at so many great times with hopes of there being many more great times to come…we just can’t plan the route or the destination it seems. I guess I will just have to white knuckle it and see where we are going next.
I have included a NEW to ME Red Velvet recipe from Joy the Baker (Via The Hummingbird Bakery cookbook). It’s rich and decadent and has forever solved my “how to add red dye and not over mix the batter” problem to Red Velvet anything. I have also linked to my Devil’s Food cupcake recipe and the frostings in the trio above so you can make the whole set if you like and wow your hostess when you bring a trayful to the next party.
Rich Red Velvets
From Joy the Baker (Taken From Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook)
Makes about 1 dozen regular cupcakes or 24 minis.
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (best quality you can afford)
2 Tablespoons red food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
To make the cupcakes: Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two mini muffin tins with cupcake liners. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until creamy and fluffy…about 1-2 minutes. Add the egg and beat on high another minute.
In a small bowl, make a paste with the cocoa powder, red food dye and vanilla. Add it to the butter mixture and cream together on medium speed until well incorporated.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the salt and flour. Alternate adding in 1/2 the batter and 1/2 the buttermilk, mixing in between and scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl until well combined and the color is the same red throughout the batter.
While the mixer is on low speed, add the baking soda (sprinkle over entire batter to disperse) and vinegar and mix just until combined. Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop batter into each muffin cup until 2/3 full. Bake mini cupcakes for about 12-14 minutes or until lightly firm to the touch and a toothpick comes out clean. For regular sized cupcakes, bake for about 20-25 minutes. Wait until entirely cool to frost cupcakes.
Garnish: Crumble up one of your mini cupcakes into smithereens so the crumbs are fine. Use these crumbs to top your frosted cupcake.
To make the cream cheese frosting: In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese and butter until creamy and smooth. Add vanilla and SIFTED powdered sugar. Beat on medium and then high until smooth. You want your frosting a bit stiff if you are going to pipe it. So keep adding 1/4 c. of powdered sugar until it is creamy but a little firm. Then refrigerate your frosting for a good 1/2 hour or so before piping.
Peppermint Frosting go here.
How to Pipe Swirls
*Always refrigerate your frosting first for about a 1/2 hour before piping with it. It will firm up and your swoops will hold much better.
1. Snip about 1/2 inch off of a pastry bag to begin and place your plastic coupler inside the cone. Place your favorite tip (I made the peppermint swirls with an open round tip) on the outside of the bag over the coupler and use the coupler’s ring component to screw it on over the tip.
2. Take your pastry bag and place it in a tall glass/tumbler point side down. Open up the bag and pull about an inch or so of the bag up and over the top outside of the glass to open up the pastry bag.
3. Put a toothpick in your red dye and draw a thin line of red from bottom to top inside the bag. I had to re-dip my toothpick half way into making the line to make sure there was enough red dye on it to do the job. You will stripe four red lines in total (think 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock and 9 0’clock).
4. Then carefully scoop your frosting into the bag and fill it within two inches of the top. Fold the top corners of the bag in and roll/fold up the bag to contain the frosting. Pinch/grip tightly at the top of the bag as you hold down the folded edge and pipe.
5. Start making your swirl at the outside of each cupcake and work your way to the center. You will be amazed how good they look and how easy it is to do. For an excellent how-to video and pictures go to Glorious Treats. Sprinkle with red sprinkles or candy cane dust if you have it.
For the Devil’s Food cake batter, I used my Three Musketeers Cupcake recipe and also the Chocolate Frosting from this post as well. I did NOT put a piece of the candybar inside the cupcake since it was a mini-cupcake and I feared that would not work as well as it does with a normal sized cupcake.
Cupcake info I wish I knew years ago: The larger the tip the better. It makes much prettier swirls and swoops and it is MUCH EASIER to pipe with the big gun tips. They require an extra large coupler. I have been told the largest tips require no coupler but I haven’t been that daring yet. My favorite tips and cupcake decorating supplies are in this kit. It is the best! But you have to buy the ginormous coupler separately. It really changed my cupcake life. I am NOT a crafty gal and have never been very good at piping but this kit makes it rather idiot proof and I am so glad about that.