"i don't care if it's jersey" red velvet cupcakes

in spite of my fights with mikey over the validity of red velvet cake as a food, i can’t resist. it’s nearly valentine’s day, i sacrificed my red velvet craving for the potluck, and here in front of me is a genuine excuse to make red velvet cupcakes.

plus, i saw them on martha stewart last week.

cupcakes are sort of a recent thing for me, i guess that is why i get excited by them. and i haven’t had red velvet cake since camille made me one the day before passover, a week before i left the city, so i have a fond memory of the deep red hues (she covered hers with candied flowers). i’m going for a more chintzy angle: red velvet conversation hearts. i’ve prepped tirelessly--getting icing over the weekend, and extra food coloring, and buttermilk. i dug out my bottle of cider vinegar. i looked up a wikipedia on necco’s sweetheart candies. i made the cupcakes on monday night, and spent all night tuesday watching studio 60 on the sunset strip and frosting the cakes. i’m all set.

i decided not to make martha’s buttercream, mostly because i dislike buttercream, but also because i don’t feel like taking quite that much time. i’m equally sure that my office will completely devour the cakes regardless of whether or not the icing is homemade!

red velvet conversation hearts
(adapted from martha stewart and matt lewis)

Mini Heart-Shaped Cakes

Makes six 4-inch heart-shaped cakes

1/4 cup cocoa powder

2 tablespoons red food coloring

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons vegetable shortening at room temperature

1 2/3 cups sugar

3 large eggs

1 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self-rising)

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon baking soda

Speckled Cinnamon Frosting

1/4 cup melted dark chocolate, for decorating

1. Preheat to 325 degrees with rack in the center of the oven. Butter an 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet, line with parchment paper, butter parchment, and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, food coloring, and 1/4 cup boiling water. Set aside to cool.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and shortening on high speed until smooth. Add sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

4. Stir buttermilk and vanilla into cocoa mixture. Into another medium bowl, sift together flour and salt. With the mixer on low, add flour mixture alternating with cocoa mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until incorporated.

5. In a small bowl, mix together vinegar and baking soda until baking soda dissolves; mixture will fizz. Add to batter and mix until just combined.

6. Pour batter into prepared baking sheet, smoothing the top. Bake until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 20 to 30 minutes, rotating pan after 10 minutes.

7. Cool cake completely on a wire rack. Using a 4-inch heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out 12 hearts.

8. Place 4 strips of parchment paper around perimeter of a serving plate or lazy susan. Place 1 layer on the cake plate. Spread a thin layer of frosting on the cake; top with another heart, bottom side up. Cover entire cake with a thin layer of frosting and transfer to refrigerator for 10 minutes. Repeat process with remaining ingredients.

9. Remove cakes from refrigerator and cover each cake with a generous layer of frosting, smoothing as you go around to create a flat surface.

10. Place chocolate in a pastry bag fitted with a small plain round tip; decorate as desired.

Note: Recipe courtesy of Matt Lewis from Baked

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