This is currently the most/least rock n roll thing in my life.

I’m a music journalist – my life literally is rock n roll. That doesn’t mean this current thing doesn’t have me psyched…

That thing I eluded to in the last post. You know. The potentially potential thing with potential?

I am now supplying cupcakes, on a weekly basis, to Bourne & Hollingsworth, on Rathbone Place.

Punk. (and very much) Rock.

I started them off this week with a delivery of 60: Chocolate and vanilla basics, a non-vegan version of the apple/caramel guys (so good – it’s wrong how good they are), a successful version of my berry and lemony cream cheese cakes, and thought I would top the whole thing off with a new personal adventure in alchemy: The notorious Red Velvet.

a cake designed to be undressed.

I was scared. I tried these once and they were more like Dark Purple Velvet. And didn’t taste particularly interesting. Red Velvet has been referred to as ‘the Dolly Parton of cakes; a little bit tacky, but you love her’, and that’s no small thing (no reference to her mammary glands intended… not really anyway) to live up to. That description describes the cake perfectly: The sponge must be brazenly red – total tack – with a touch of tang and a hint of teasing cocoa, gloriously smothered in a sultry, decadent cream cheese frosting. Accept no marshmallow fluff or buttercream nonsense. Just don’t. My house, my rules, dig?

The origin of the cake is unknown, apart from the first reference to it being in an American cooking book in the 1970’s. I like to think it’s Southern. I was born in the South, so perhaps I’m biased, but it just sort of…. makes sense. Maybe the idea of a massive red and white layer cake reminds me of those fabulous (there is no other word) dresses in ‘Gone With The Wind’. Maybe you should stop asking questions and we should get on with some baking. Yes, you were. And yes, we shall.

but first: how cool does that look??

There are a million recipes for Red Velvet. Regular ingredients include buttermilk, vinegar, and non Dutch processed cocoa (my first attempt was scuppered by this issue – I used Dutch processed and that’s why the red didn’t turn out, it’s to do with the buttermilk’s reaction to the cocoa’s acidity… Alchemist, baker, nerd, you love me). I wanted something simple – I was baking six batches of cupcakes, I didn’t have time to muck about. So I tweaked the Hummingbird Bakery’s recipe a tad, closed my eyes (not really) and went for it.

The tweakage comes here: Polly remembered to buy everything – even stuff she didn’t really need! Did the everything include buttermilk? Did it? Well, of course not. Duh, Polly. However, do you remember when we made vegan buttermilk? I did the same, using regular milk and apple cider vinegar.

apple cider vinegar + milk = curdled milk.

Because the result smelled so vinegary, I reduced the amount of vinegar in the Hummingbird recipe.

Essentially, my take on Red Velvet cupcakes goes something like this:


  • 60g Unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup Caster sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 3 tbsps Unsweetened, non-dutch processed cocoa powder
  • 2  Tablespoons Red food colouring
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup Milk + 1tsp Apple cider vinegar = Buttermilk
  • 1 cup + 2 tbsps Plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp Apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.

Might as well start by creating the buttermilk: in a measuring jug, add 1 tsp vinegar to 1/2 cup of milk. It will take about 5 minutes to curdle.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about three minutes.

Turn mixer to high and add  the egg.  Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate bowl mix together cocoa, vanilla and red food colouring to make a thick paste.

mind your fingers, red dye loves fingers. and nice clothing. and anything else it gets near.

Add this to the batter, mixing thoroughly until completely combined.  You’ll want to scrape the bottom of the bowl, to make sure all the batter is coloured.

see those un-coloured bits at the edge? tsk.

Add half of the buttermilk, mix in on a low speed.  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.

Add the baking soda and 1 tsp apple cider vinegar. (Take a moment to enjoy the fizz…) Beat a few more minutes on a high speed.

Spoon the batter into a cupcake tin and bake at 170C for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre cupcake comes out clean.

brazen cupcakes. dolly would approve.

Let rest in the tin for 10 minutes, then place them of a cooling rack to cool completely before frosting.

When frosting for B&H, I inadvertently made my Red Velvets look like… er, well, let’s just say they were strangely reminiscent of Dolly Parton.

if you look at this and do not see tits, you are a far better person than i.

(I put colour-coded rosettes on all the cakes with white frosting, to help them differentiate between flavours. I’m cool that way. You should’ve seen the ones with yellow nipples…)

We still haven’t addressed the amazingness of my chocolate and vanilla go-to’s yet, I know. I just wanted to share my two most immediate triumphs first.

We’ll get to those other triumphs. We will. In a bit.

Until then…

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