Red Velvet Cupcakes with Orange Zest
Adapted from “The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook”
For the Cake:
2 3/4 cups plus 1 tbs sifted cake flour or 2 1/2 cups sifted bleached all-purpose flour, plus more for flouring the pans
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup cocoa powder such as Hershey’s
1 oz red food coloring
1 1/2 tbsp water
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the pans
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tbsp orange zest (from 1-2 oranges)
1 cup whole or low fat buttermilk
For the Icing:
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 lb cream cheese (2 packages) softened
1 lb (4 cups) sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tbsp whole milk (if needed)
Making the cupcakes:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 muffin trays with cupcake liners (you should be getting around 18 cupcakes).
2. Sift together the dry ingredients twice. Dry ingredients: flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.
3. In a small bowl, stir together the cocoa, red food coloring, and water until it becomes a smooth paste (about 1 minute). Set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter until creamy using an electric mixer (about 30 seconds). Gradually, add the sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, beating about 15 seconds after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl if necessary, until the mixture has considerably lightened in color and become fluffy. This should take a few minutes (2-3). Add eggs, one by one, allowing to mix well after each addition. After eggs, add the vanilla and then orange zest, beating for about 15 seconds after each addition. Add the red cocoa paste and mix well until it is evenly incorporated.
5. Add the flour mixture to the butter and eggs mixture one third at a time alternating with buttermilk, and finishing with the flour mixture. Avoid overworking the batter. The best way to do that, gently mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula after each addition, until the ingredient is just incorporated. Once all the ingredients are well-incorporated,beat the better 10-12 strokes with your spoon or spatula if using cake flour, 2-3 strokes if using bleached all-purpose flour.
6. Distribute the batter across the cupcake liners filling about 3/4 way to the top. Bake until a cake tester or a toothpick emerges clean, about 18-20 minutes.
7. Remove from the oven and let the cupcakes cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Afterward, remove from the muffin tray and let cool on a cooling rack by themselves.
Making the frosting:
8. In a large bowl, beat 3/4 cup butter, set aside for icing, with the mixer for 20 seconds, until creamy. Next, add the cream cheese and beat until the butter cream cheese mixture is fluffy for about 1 minute. Next, add the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition, until the mixture is creamy, fluffy, and smooth. If the frosting is too stiff, beat the milk into it to loosen it.
9. Spoon the frosting into a pasty bag and pipe the frosting in swirls onto cupcakes.
10. Store at room temperature covered. If you don’t plan to eat the cupcakes for 24 hours, refrigerate – covered.