I love cupcakes. Simple as that. I am the world’s worst cake cutter, so anything that means I don’t have to handle a knife wins my vote. Cupcakes allow you to utilize a cake recipe in a slightly smaller scale. You can always try out a recipe as a cupcake, just to get a feel for the batter and the appropriate icing pairing.
My dad loves German chocolate cake and red velvet. He just got a new job and I wanted to make something he would appreciate. My genius mother suggested a red velvet batter with the coconut, pecan frosting of a German chocolate cake. Perfect! I’m not a fan of cream cheese frosting, but love the decadent taste of red velvet. So I grabbed two of my favorite cookbooks and went to it!
The first step was making the frosting. I love the recipe from the Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito (available from Amazon here) found on page 83 and 84. I made the entire cake last year and it was a hit. Honestly, the most difficult thing about this dessert is the frosting, and it requires very little skill. If you can stir a pot over an ice bath until the frosting is cool, you can make this!!!
Coconut Pecan Filling (adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)
1 ½ cups shredded sweetened coconut (I upped the coconut from 1 1/3 for us coconut lovers!)
1 cup sugar
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks
1 small bag of chopped pecans (the recipe calls for 1 1/3 cup; I had nowhere near that amount. But I like the more coconutty flavor)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place ¾ cup shredded coconut and all of the pecans on the baking sheet. Place it in the oven for about five minutes or until you can smell the browning coconut. Remove the pan and allow it to cool while you start on the rest of the ingredients. At this point, you should prepare the ice bath you will need at the end. Just find a big bowl that the saucepan will fit in, and fill it about ¾ of the way full of ice. A little more ice is fine, and you can add more if need be.
In a large saucepan, stir together the sugar, butter, milk, vanilla extract, and egg yolks. Allow the mixture to come up to a boil and stir constantly. It will become a gorgeous golden shade and start to thicken up. Remove the pan from the heat and add all of the coconut and pecans. Give it a good stir and put the pan directly in the ice bath. All that is left is to stir the mixture until it gets nice and cool. I really didn’t pay attention to the time but I would say it was about fifteen or twenty minutes. Once I could touch the pan, I figured it was fine. I left the pan in the ice bath while I was making the cupcakes, removing it about ten minutes before I frosted the cupcakes.
The red velvet cupcake recipe comes from The Sono Baking Company Cookbook (available from Amazon). If you have any desire to make pastries of any kind, I cannot recommend this book more highly. The pâte sucrèe recipe is sublime and can be utilized for a variety of bars, tarts, and such. I had not tried this particular recipe and will admit that I was a little skeptical of making a slurry of baking soda and vinegar separately of the batter. The last time I made it, the recipe just added both ingredient to the batter automatically. According to the recipe, doing it in this fashion will make the red color more vibrant. While I did not have 2 ounces of red food coloring as the recipe dictated, the ounce that I used made a lovely burgundy hue. I ended up having a ton of batter left over. I could have simply made more cupcakes but I decided to take a small bread pan and make a loaf of red velvet.
Red Velvet Cupcakes (adapted from The Sono Baking Company Cookbook, page 193)
1 cup buttermilk (I did not have buttermilk so I made some myself. One cup milk with a tablespoon of lemon juice sat for a few minutes and made the perfect buttermilk!)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 ounce red food coloring
2 tablespoons Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
2 ¼ cups cake flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place cupcake liners in a muffin/cupcake tin. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a bowl, combine the buttermilk and vanilla extract, then set aside.
In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and creamy, scraping down the sides of the bowl hallway through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
In a small bowl, stir the red food coloring and cocoa together into a paste, then add to the mixer and beat to combine.
Starting with the sifted flour, alternate adding the flour with the buttermilk mixtures in three batches, ending with the flour. Make sure you start on a low speed before pumping up the speed to avoid messes. Let the batter sit for about fifteen minutes.
At about the thirteen minute point, in a small bowl, stir together the baking soda and vinegar. Let it stand until foamy, then fold it into the batter. Using an 1/8 measuring cup, fill the cupcake liners about ¾ full. You will have more batter; either bake more cupcakes in batches or do as I chose. I buttered a loaf pan and lightly floured it before pouring the remaining batter into it.
Bake the pan on top of the lined baking sheet. Rotate the sheet after about twelve minutes. It will take about eighteen to twenty-five minutes to bake until the cupcakes are springy to the touch.
And that was it! It took me about five minutes to frost the lot, and then I simply poured the rest onto the red velvet loaf. The cupcakes were a huge hit. Unlike a German chocolate cake with its heaviness, this combination was light and had just enough sweetness to curb a sweet tooth. I could seriously eat this frosting all day, everyday. If you’ve only had store bought coconut-pecan frosting, you are missing out. This recipe has an almost pure taste to it; there isn’t any high fructose corn syrup to bog down the flavors of the nuts and coconut. The combination of toasted and untoasted coconut gives a terrific textural difference that is subtle and unexpected. I hope that you all enjoy this recipe! I’m still working on the picture-taking portion of the blog!