4th of July Cupcakes

Saturday, July 4, 2009

You want festive? These are festive.

For Tyler and Marie's 4th of July/engagement party, everyone was asked to bring a dish to pass. I, of course, wanted to bring a dessert.

Cupcakes came to mind early on, since they are easy to display, serve, and eat at a picnic setting. People can grab them whenever they want, and they don't require any utensils or plates. But I also wanted to create something that would fit in with the red, white, and blue theme. And, if you know me by now, simply coloring the frosting was not going to cut it.

I wanted the cupcakes to be red, white, and blue, too. I toyed with a few different ways to do it. I could do funfetti cupcakes, using red, white, and blue sprinkles. But eh, those have been done. I could somehow try to swirl red and blue food coloring in the batter. But I really wanted to provide a couple of different flavor options, and for that, I'd have to use white cake for all of them.

I decided I wanted to make red cupcakes, white cupcakes, and blue cupcakes. Red and white were easy--red velvet, and white cake. But I was hung up on blue. Ideally, I would've been able to somehow make chocolate cupcakes blue, but that was pretty impossible. I could've simply dyed white cupcakes blue, but after doing some asking around, and some googling, I found that there is actually such a thing as blue velvet cake.

I quickly came up with my plan. I'd make a batch of white cupcakes, and I'd make a batch of "red" velvet. I'd divide the red velvet batter, and dye half of it red, as is traditional, and I'd dye the other half blue.

I had never made homemade white cake before, so I needed a recipe. I'm actually surprised I've never attempted it, as white cake is actually my favorite. After going through several different recipes, I found something wrong with all of them--either they seemed really complicated for a simple cake, or I didn't have all of the ingredients on hand. I thought I had remembered seeing a white cake recipe on Annie's Eats at one point, so I went there to check it out. This was the one I decided to go with.

This is a really great white cake. It's moist and fluffy, and has a great vanilla flavor. I really enjoyed these.

White Cupcakes
(Source: Annie's Eats)

- 2 cups cake flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 1/3 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 large egg whites
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk

1. To make the cupcakes, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cups of muffin tins with paper liners.

2. In a small bowl, combine the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir together with a fork. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the sugar and butter and cream on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the egg whites one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions. Stir in the vanilla extract.

4. Add in the dry ingredients in three additions alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Stir just until combined, being careful not to overmix.

5. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 16-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Annie says she got 14 cupcakes out of this recipe, but I actually got 20. It all depends on how much you fill your cups!

Red velvet is a fairly new flavor to me. I "discovered" it a couple of years ago in a box mix, and have made it a few times. Again, though, I had never made homemade red velvet.

After I found out about blue velvet cake, I started googling it to see examples of recipes people had been using. I came across this recipe over at Tender Crumb. It's actually a Food Network recipe.

I read a bunch of the reviews over at Food Network's website, and it seemed like it would be a recipe worth trying. I did make a few adjustments. The original recipe calls for a lot of oil (1 1/2 cups!), and some of the reviews complained that the cake was too oily. I saw someone mention that they substituted applesauce for some of the oil. Since I've done that in other recipes in the past, I decided to give it a try. My changes are reflected in the recipe below.

This ended up being a really excellent cake. It was sort of dense, but I seem to remember other red velvet cakes I've had having the same consistency. Also, since I made them alongside the white cake recipe, I found myself comparing the two, which is sort of like comparing apples to oranges. The red/blue velvet cake was very moist, and I wouldn't make any further adjustments to the recipe when I make these again. I thought substituting the applesauce for some of the oil was a nice compromise.

Red Velvet (or Blue Velvet) Cake
(Source: Adapted from Food Network)

- 15 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/4 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 13 ounces granulated sugar
- 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 3 eggs
- 2 tbsp. + 2 tsp. red food coloring
- 1 1/4 tsp. vinegar
- 1 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/8 cup water

Note: You can actually use any color food coloring you like. In my searches, I also came across someone who made green velvet cake. So have fun with it! Also, the recipe calls for a lot of food coloring. Instead of adding the full amount from the beginning, I added about half of what was called for and found my colors were plenty vivid. I'd suggest starting with some, and only adding more if you need it. I used Wilton's gel colors, the ones I typically use to dye frosting.

1. Preheat oven 350 degrees F.

2. Sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder into a bowl and set aside.

3. In a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, mix oil, sugar, and buttermilk until combined. Add eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and water and mix well.

4. Add the dry ingredients a little bit at a time and mix on low, scraping down sides occasionally, and mix until just combined. Be sure not to over mix, or the batter will come out tough.

5. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners, scoop the batter into the liners and bake at 350 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes or until the toothpick comes out clean. Let cool.

Since I was making half red, half blue, I waited until the very end to add the food coloring. Once my batter was all mixed up, I divided the batter in half, then mixed in the necessary food coloring. Also, the Food Network site says this recipe only makes 16 cupcakes, but I found in the reviews that these are not standard size. Using standard size, I got 29 cupcakes out of the recipe.

Happy Independence Day!


Vanessa July 5, 2009 at 9:45 PM  

These are AWESOME! I knew you'd come up with something fabulous for July 4th! Go you - FA-BU-LOUS!

swedish fishie July 6, 2009 at 11:24 AM  

Those look amazing! Great job!

Jacki,  July 10, 2009 at 7:20 AM  

I've made Blue Velvet Cake! Saw it on Paula Deen (with Duff from Charm City Cakes!)

Not sure if this is the same as the red velvet recipe you posted...

Your cupcakes were SO cute!

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