Thursday, February 14, 2013

Low-Dye Red Velvet Cupcakes

Happy Valentine's Day, all! I'm not a big Valentine person-- I used to teach in the public schools. Valentine's day is teenaged license for PDA, crying in the bathroom when one should be in class, questionable behavior in every nook and cranny the building has to offer, etc. But, in the spirit of fun and chocolate, I decided to make some treats for my office.

Red velvet and I have been in a blood feud for quite some time now. I love really good red velvet, but absolutely cannot rationalize the gross amounts of food dye used to achieve the red color. A little history lesson before we velvet, done correctly, is a chocolate cake with a red hue, not a white cake with a whole bottle of dye dumped in it as is common today. The red hue was the result of a reaction between the cocoa powder, buttermilk and vinegar. The red hue was easier to achieve using this method before the days of Dutch process cocoa, which is why you probably don't see it even if you are using your great-great-grandma's recipe. Over the past century, many methods for making red velvet have unfolded-- ranging from using beets (which, actually, started during WWII due to food rationing and not, necessarily, just to get a red cake), to making a white cake and dumping huge amounts of dye into the batter. (We've all had that cake, right? The BRIGHT RED cake that you can psychosomaticly feel turning your digestive tract into cancer with all its Red #40? No? Just me???)

Put simply, I hate food dye. Not to say I never use it, but I try to avoid doing so. I've been working for a while now to come up with a solid red velvet recipe that uses little to no dye, and I've gotten to this recipe here, where a deep maroon can be achieved with only one teaspoon of food color. One teaspoon in the whole batch-- I can live with that.
The recipe in this post was adapted from this recipe I found on I really only made a couple of changes to it and they seem to work. One, I use low fat or non-fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream. I did this at first because I hate sour cream and I never have it around, but I do always have a fridge full of yogurt. This turned out to be a happy decision, as something I cannot explain about the yogurt helps encourage the red color enough that I was able to lower the amount of dye to just 1 teaspoon.

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here)

Low-Dye Red Velvet Cupcakes
With Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Icing ;
(Yield - 20-24 cupcakes)

2 ½ cups flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cut butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 cup low fat (or nonfat) Greek yogurt
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon red food coloring

8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 pounds confectioners sugar
1 contents of one vanilla bean
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons milk or cream

Step #1 - Preheat oven to 400* F. (Just a reminder, or in case you are new here- I like my cupcakes to ‘poof’ when they bake. As in, they get tall and round. To do this, I start the baking at a higher temperature and lower it half way through.)

Step #2 - Using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until fluffy.

Step #3 - Add the eggs, one at a time, followed by the yogurt and vanilla extract.

Step #4 - In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt together and set aside.

Step #5 - Mix the red food color into the milk and set aside.

Step #6 - One cup at a time, add the flour mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mixture, alternating with the milk until all ingredients are well combined and smooth. Batter will be a dark maroon.

Step #7 - Fill cupcake pans ¾ of the way full with batter. Bake at 400* for 8 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350* and bake for an additional 8 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.(Alternately, you can bake them at 350* for 18-20 min.)

Step #8 - While cupcakes cool, beat all icing ingredients together with a mixer until light and fluffy. You can adjust the consistency of the icing by adding more milk or sugar.

Step #9 -  Allow cupcakes to cool completely and enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. I watched on a food show that "natural red dye" for red velvet actually comes from a beetle... lovely. Enough said, your cupcakes look delicious and not overly red. Thanks for sharing them with us on foodie friday.