Today's guest post is written by Andrea Karapas, the Colorado food blogger behind I'm From Baklava and Ouzo...a love story.
Valentine’s Day is the one holiday of the year where, depending on your relationship status at this particular point in time, you can either feel blissfully and romantically in love or woefully and unhappily alone. It can be a rollercoaster from year to year, especially during those awkward middle school years where relationships come and go in the blink of an eye and if your timing is off just slightly, you risk humiliation in the form of going unnoticed or feeling invisible. If you’re privy to my No Ordinary Girl or Grilled Cheese Sandwich post, you’re aware that this is one of my worst fears.
I’m going to take you back to a memorable Valentine’s Day, one that stands out to me as if it was yesterday. In the winter of my 7th grade year I had the opportunity to go shopping at the Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, MI with some girlfriends. “Big Deal,” you say? This was a HUGE deal to a small town girl who lived nearly 20 miles from the nearest mall worth going to. The Twelve Oaks Mall was even bigger than that one! Add in the fact that I was going to be able to shop without the supervision of a parent and this was a pretty sweet deal. I convinced my mom to hand over enough money to buy myself a winter coat. I remember telling some sob story about how my winter coat didn’t fit that well anymore and that I just needed something warmer. Michigan winters can be cruel. I don’t recall exactly how much she gave me but it was enough to have a nice day at the mall with some friends.
There were several winter coats I tried on that day but the one I actually came home with was the last one my mother would have pictured me in when I was pleading my case for a few bucks. I found myself a black, rabbit fur coat and she was a little less than pleased with me when I showed it to her once I got home. How I found myself in a fur store is beyond me, but when I tried that coat on I immediately fell in love and realized I had completed my look for the Valentine’s Day dance that happened to be the following weekend. Since my timing happened to a bit off that particular year, I was without a special someone, however I had my eye on a tall, cool drink of water and I wasn’t going to go unnoticed. I planned to show up “fancy.”
Underneath my black, rabbit fur coat, I wore my 2-piece, pink and black leopard print pantsuit that tapered at the ankle, accented with a wide black belt and black pumps. The confidence that ran through me that evening is almost indescribable and I’m certain that I’ve never been able to channel it at that level since. One thing I didn’t anticipate though was having to take that coat off at the dance. Caught between the decision of ending up with BO from sweating under that heavy coat or leaving it in the bleachers out of sight and risk having it stolen from me, I compromised with leaving it in the bleachers but checking on it between songs, which didn’t leave me much free time to work on landing the boy. Ahhhh…the awkwardness of a 7th grader.
The evening ended just how it should have, with me and my fur coat. With as much as I loved that fur coat on that Valentine’s Day in 1986, he was no match for it. And whether anyone else at that dance remembers it or not, it was our night to shine...and in my story, we did.
When thinking of what to bake for this post, I immediately went to the “fanciest” dessert that would stand up to my black, rabbit fur coat story…Red Velvet Cupcakes. With its deep red color and sweet cream cheese, vanilla frosting, it’s one of the most elegant and richly delicious cakes, not to mention stunningly beautiful. Dating back to the 1940s when it became popular in eateries and bakeries throughout Canada, the Red Velvet cake got its deep red color from the use of boiled beet root. Today red food coloring is commonly used to enhance the color. This recipe comes from the browneyedbaker, who adapted her recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. I’ve tried many Red Velvet cupcakes at bakeries and this one stands up to the best of them. It was scrumptious to say the least. An extravagant dessert whether you’re spending your Valentine’s Day with a special someone or your favorite “fancy” black, rabbit fur coat.
Note: I’m pretty sure no rabbits were harmed in the making of this memory. If the rabbit fur was real, there’s no way I would have managed that price tag.
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Yield: 12 cupcakes
Ingredients for the Cupcakes:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
2½ tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons red food coloring (use less if using gel food coloring since it’s more concentrated)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar
Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 ounces butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin/cupcake pan with liners.
On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.
In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape the bottom of the bowl, making sure that all the batter gets color.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.
Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.
Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.
Cool for 10 minutes and then remove cupcakes from the pan and place them on a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting: Using the whisk attachment, whip the butter and cream cheese on high speed for about 5 minutes, scraping the bowl down as necessary. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium high and whip for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.
*Note: This recipe can be doubled to make an 8 or 9-inch layer cake.