Black Velvet Cupcakes with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting

Black Velvet Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

It’s possible that it’s a little backwards, but to me Halloween should be as enchanting as it is creepy. It should be as intriguing as it is eery. It’s just how I see it. (Kind of like this not-so-eery-but-whimsical confection from my last post.) So I decided to create another treat this week that’s been on my mind: Black Velvet Cupcakes topped with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting. There’s a good chance that these would have been a cake (and still may be), but every time I think I’m over cupcakes, I go and find cupcake-related doodads that steal my heart.

Black Velvet Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

I found these amazing Robert Gordon Australia cupcake liners last week while shopping at our Canadian shop, Winners (kind of similar to the American Marshall’s), and I was eager to try them out. Because they’re rigid, I wasn’t sure how they would work in terms of actually eating the cupcake, but with a little pull of the seam, it’s easily removed. Since they reminded me of a pink circus, I thought they’d be fun to use for these creepy-but-sweet carnival cupcakes, but really, any fun cupcake liner would do.

Black Velvet Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

If you’ve not made Black Velvet cake before, you’ve probably figured out that it’s just like the southern delight, Red Velvet cake, but very black, rather than red. But if you’ve not had “velvet” cake of any kind before, don’t be fooled–this just isn’t chocolate cake tinted with copious amounts of food colour. With your eyes closed, it’s really a slightly chocolate, buttermilk cake that’s super tender, moist, and rich. With your eyes open, the deep, dark colour (whether it’s red, black, or purple) somehow makes the whole experience that much more decadent and luxurious. I’m usually pretty disciplined, but I could not stop eating these. I’ve posted about a Red Velvet Cake in the past, but this time I started with a recipe I found from King Arthur Flour, and I played around with it. Paired with an almost-traditional Cream Cheese Frosting, these cupcakes are like tradition-with-a-twist.

Black Velvet Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Rather than topping them with a completely classic cream cheese frosting, I decided to add a few tablespoons of Bonne Maman Cherry Preserves. You could certainly omit this step, but it’s kind of a magic pairing, if I do say so. That being said, I’m pretty sure that the classic cream cheese frosting would be magical in its own right. Or just do what I do and eat a few of the cupcakes warm from the oven, sans frosting, and then take your time later with one (or two) fully frosted version and a strong cup of good coffee. Who said Halloween was scary?

Black Velvet Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

Eesh, you’re right–creepy clowns are watching us. There they sit perched atop the otherwise innocent cupcake staring at us. Don’t be fooled by their smiles–they are pure evil. Evil I tell you. Evil. At least this is how I feel about them, and why they adorn my Halloween cupcakes. Despite their being creepy and evil, though, I can’t help but being strangely drawn to them. Which, again, is why they adorn my cupcakes.

A louer, pour usage final

This image (from Flickr) is so hauntingly beautiful that I can honestly say it’s the only clown photo that I have ever seen that is almost creepiness-free. I want to hang this on my wall and be with it always. So there are exceptions.

Black Velvet Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

But, for the most part clowns = scary. That’s all there is to it. I found these toppers on one of my favourite shop websites, Hey Yo Yo, but I’m pretty sure any clown topper would add the eery-factor.

Black Velvet Cupcakes via Sweetapolita

See? He’s watching you.

Here’s the recipe for these dark and delightful treats:

Black Velvet Cupcakes with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting

Yield: 12 standard cupcakes

Ingredients

    For the cupcakes:
  • 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (175 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (57 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL)(1/4 oz) soft gel paste colour, black (more if necessary)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon (4 g) kosher salt
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups (150 g) cake flour (aka cake & pastry flour)
  • 3 tablespoons (30 g) dark Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup (114 mL) buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 mL) white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.5 g) baking soda
  • For the frosting:
  • 1/4 cup (56 g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 package (250 g)(8 oz) cream cheese, cold, cut into cubes
  • 4 cups (1 lb)(460 g) confectioners' (icing) sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoons (5 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons (30 mL) cherry preserves, or to taste

Instructions

    For the cupcakes:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a muffin tin with 12 standard cupcake liners.
  2. In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or paddle, if necessary), mix the sugar, butter, oil, black colour, vanilla, and salt on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the egg and mix on medium speed until just incorporated.
  4. In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour and cocoa powder.
  5. Add 1/3 dry ingredients to the mixer and blend until just combined, then add 1/2 of the buttermilk. Alternate until all of the dry ingredients and buttermilk have been added.
  6. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix until incorporated.
  7. Divide batter among the cupcake liners and bake until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs only, about 22 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully (it's hot!) turn baked cupcakes onto wire rack right side up to cool.
  8. For the frosting:
  9. Using electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend butter and icing sugar on medium low speed, until just combined, about 2 minutes.
  10. Add cold cream cheese, all at once, and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
  11. Add vanilla and salt, and beat at medium high speed for about 1 minute. Be sure to not overbeat, or the frosting will start to become too thin.
  12. Add cherry jam and and mix on low speed until just incoporated.

Notes

[black velvet cupcakes loosely adapted from King Arthur Flour]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes:

  • For the black food gel, I used AmeriColor Super Black. (Your tongue may be a little black after eating these, but it washes right away.)
  • Cupcake liners I used are from Robert Gordon Australia.
  • Clown Cupcake Toppers from Hey Yo Yo.
  • Cupcakes are best enjoyed day 1 or 2.
  • Store leftovers in the refrigerator (because of cream cheese), but serve at room temperature.
  • If you’d like your frosting to be a little more pink, add a drop or two of pink food gel.

Good luck & enjoy!

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Cherry-Vanilla Delight Cake

Cherry Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

I have very fond memories of cherry chip cake, I really do. (You know, as opposed to all of those very unpleasing memories of other cake varieties.) But it does seem that I hold a special place in my heart for the irresistibly sweet and old-fashioned cherry chip cake. The idea of it triggers not only childhood memories for me, but grown-up memories that make me smile.

I remember the very first birthday I celebrated with my husband’s mom and family, I was turning 29. Grant and I had been together for only 5 months at the time, and we spent my birthday weekend at their cottage in Gananoque. Grant’s mom, Mary Lou, had asked Grant what kind of cake I would like her to make. He assured her that if it was cherry chip and iced in pink, it would be the perfect birthday cake for me (who knew?). I remember that cake so well. It was a perfect cherry chip heart-shaped cake (my favourite cake-shape from childhood) smothered in glorious waves of glossy pale pink marshmallow frosting–she even adorned it with some perfect marshmallow flowers! If I didn’t already know in my heart that I was going to marry Grant at that point, that cake would have likely convinced me. ♥

Sweetapolita

You might remember my reflecting on another cherry chip cake memory, a rather monumental one, from our relationship, here in this post. You can see me sneaking a few bites of the one above, on our wedding day, after Grant (my non-baker man) surprised me by making it the day before our wedding and having the staff at the Inn put it in our room that night while we were at our wedding rehearsal. Cherry chip cake with pink icing holds a place in our hearts (you learn why here). I couldn’t resist  eating it that day–wedding dress and all–mostly because it meant the world to me, and also because it’s simply the yummiest.

Cherry Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

So if cherry chip cake means so much to me, and us, why have I never made it from scratch before? I have no idea. And I think we can add that to the wonders of the world. Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense. But, here’s what: I made this cake 4 times last week! Well, different variations of it, but I made it. Then made it again. And again. And again. See, it was my birthday and it’s all I could think about–tender vanilla cake with a hint of sweet cherry flavour and little bits of maraschino cherries throughout and smothered in a marshmallow frosting. Since the cherry chip cakes I’ve eaten in my life, and that are so cozily tucked away in my memory, were all baked from cake mixes, I decided to visit some websites to find a good scratch version. Strangely, there really aren’t many out there, but I did come across Deborah’s over at Taste and Tell–hers looks amazing!

Cherry Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

Deborah had modified a fabulous party cake recipe (Perfect Party Cake) from baking genius Dorie Greenspan to create her Cherry Chip version, and since I’ve been eager to try that recipe from Dorie’s book Baking: From My Home to Yours, I ended up slightly adapting Deborah’s recipe for what is now in my top 3 best-loved cake recipes. I did make this cake 4 times, as I said, and the first two attempts I used different cake recipe bases, but I just didn’t love them. I then went ahead and tried Deborah’s and loved it! I increased the recipe to create a 3 layer 8-inch round cake, and made only a few other small changes, such as adding almond extract, using vanilla sugar (I keep a vanilla pod in my sugar jar at all times, so when I bake the sugar enhances recipes to a super vanilla-ness), and adding a few drops of a very concentrated cherry flavour oil. Dorie’s cake layer recipe yields cake that is so light and tender that I’m eager to make an all-vanilla version soon. She is amazing.

I think I may have cherry-chipped my Instagram friends to death last week, but since I was eating, sleeping and breathing it, I couldn’t seem to help it. Here’s one of the first versions I made, and as delightfully cherry vanilla as it was, the layers were just a bit dense in the end. Because my memories are based on the cake mix variety, it was super important to me that the scratch version was a light and fluffy as possible.

Here’s a shot of the third version of the cake I made (mid-frost), with its light and tender cake layers and filled and frosted with Grant’s mom’s old-fashioned frosting (also known as 7 minute frosting, marshmallow frosting, boiled frosting, etc.) that she used for my birthday cake those years ago. The cake tasted incredible with its tender layers filled with sweet and juicy bits of maraschino cherry, hints of almond and vanilla, and covered in billowy marshmallow frosting. I tinted a small amount of the frosting pink for a pastel ombre effect (a subtle version of the pastel swirl technique from this post) and slathered it on generously. Even though the frosting is sweet, with no butter (or any fat for that matter) it’s best enjoyed in bounteous swirls.

I filled and frosted in the old-fashioned frosting, which was fluffy and glorious, but when I made it the final time I actually filled it with a sweet cherry buttercream (I made from my favourite party frosting, Whipped Vanilla Frosting). I just found that it allowed the cake to set nicely without and slipping and sliding, and then I covered the entire cake in copious amounts of the old-fashioned frosting.

Cherry Delight Cake via Sweetapolita

This cake may not look fancy, but I can sincerely say it’s my current favourite. Cherry-Vanilla love. ♥

Cherry-Vanilla Delight Cake

Yield: One 3-layer, 8-inch round cake

Ingredients

    For the Cake Layers:
  • 3-1/3 cups (370 g) sifted cake flour
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons (20 g) baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon (7 g) salt
  • 1-3/4 cups (415 ml) whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) cherry juice/syrup (from the jar of cherries)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.75 ml) almond extract
  • 1-2 drops cherry flavour, *optional
  • 2-1/4 cups (450 g) vanilla sugar (or regular sugar)
  • 1-1/2 sticks (173 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (178 ml) finely chopped maraschino cherries
  • For the Whipped Vanilla-Cherry Filling:
  • 1 cup (2 sticks)(227 g) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 2 cups (250 g) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) milk
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) maraschino cherry juice/syrup (from the jar of cherries)
  • 2 teaspoons (10 ml) pure vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt
  • a handful of finely chopped maraschino cherries
  • For Nanny's Old-Fashioned Frosting:
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 cup (200 grams) of vanilla sugar (you can substitute regular sugar)
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) water
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25 ml) cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) pure vanilla extract (optional)

Instructions

    For the Cake Layers:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and center the oven rack. Grease, line with parchment and flour three round 8-inch pans. (I use Parchment Paper Circles for ease.) Put two of the pans on a baking sheet (you will bake two layers then the third layer afterwards).
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Whisk together the milk, eggs, cherry juice/syrup, almond extract and cherry flavor oil (if using) in a medium bowl or large glass measuring cup.
  3. In an electric mixer fitted with the whisk or paddle attachment (I used the whisk), cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until very pale and creamy, about 5 minutes.
  4. With the mixer still on medium speed, alternate additions of the flour mixture and milk-egg mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture (3 dry additions, 2 wet), beating after each addition until incorporated. Continue mixing on medium speed for 2 minutes. Fold in finely chopped cherries.
  5. Divide batter evenly among 3 cake pans, smoothing the surface with a small offset spatula or rubber spatula. Use a digital kitchen scale for accuracy (mine were 560 grams per pan + one 60 gram cupcake tester), if possible. Bake until a skewer comes out with a few crumbs only, about 30 minutes. Cakes should be well-risen and springy to the touch.
  6. Transfer the cakes to cooling racks and cool for 5 minutes, then loosen the edges by running a knife around the sides. Gently turn out the cakes, peel of parchment paper bottom, then cool right side up. Bake the third cake and repeat.
  7. For the Whipped Vanilla-Cherry Filling:
  8. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 5 minutes on medium speed (I use “4″ on my KitchenAid). Butter will become very pale & creamy.
  9. Add remaining ingredients, except the cherries, and mix on low speed for 1 minute, then on medium speed for 6 minutes. Filling will be very light, creamy, and fluffy. Fold in cherries.
  10. Best used right away (for ideal spreading consistency).
  11. For Nanny's Old-Fashioned Frosting:
  12. Place all ingredients except the vanilla (if using) into a large heatproof bowl that fits snugly atop a medium saucepan of simmering water on the stove (about one inch of water). Place the bowl tightly on top of the saucepan and beat the ingredients with a hand mixer until thick and glossy, about 5-7 minutes. Be sure that the bottom of your bowl does not touch the water.
  13. Remove the bowl from the saucepan, wipe the bottom of the bowl dry, and place on the counter. Continue to beat until the frosting is cool (or at least just slightly warm) and beat in the vanilla extract, if using.
  14. Best used right away.
  15. Assembly of the Cherry-Vanilla Delight Cake:
  16. Trim any doming or top crust from cake layers using a very sharp serrated knife.
  17. Use a cake turntable, if possible, for filling, frosting and decorating. Place a small dollop of frosting in the center of a cake plate or 8″ round thin foil-covered cake board, and place the bottom cake layer on top, top side up (face-up).
  18. Place ~1 cup of Whipped Vanilla-Cherry Filling on top of the cake layer, and spread evenly with a small offset palette knife. Gently place 2nd cake layer, face up, on top. Repeat, then place your third layer face down.
  19. Put a generous scoop of Nanny's Old-Fashioned Frosting on top, spreading evenly from the top down to the sides until you have smothered the entire cake in the frosting. Use the back of a spoon or small offset palette knife to create the swirly texture. If you are creating the ombre effect, tint one third of your frosting with the gel colour of your choice and apply to the lower third of your cake, taking care to not over blend.

Notes

[cake layer recipe adapted from Taste and Tell]

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Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Cherry Cake Layers

  • Be sure to chop your cherries as tiny as possible so they distribute nicely throughout the cake.
  • This was the first time I had baked cake in pans upon a baking sheet, as per Dorie’s cake instructions, and I really felt this made the bottoms of the cake layers perfect. There was a very light, thin golden bottom on each cake.
  • I happened to have LorAnn Cherry Flavor Oil on hand, and although I don’t typically add this kind of candy flavouring to cakes, I felt that it would give the cherry taste a boost, and that it would be even more reminiscent of the beloved cherry chip cake mix. I added only two drops (it’s so concentrated), but I would do it again next time (and oh yes, there will be a next time).
  • As I mentioned, I keep a vanilla pod buried in my sugar canister at all times and I use that sugar for almost all of my baking and cooked frostings, etc. Once your vanilla bean is scraped and seeds and pod are buried in your airtight sugar container, you will have vanilla sugar in about 1-2 weeks. The longer it sits, the more vanilla you will taste. I typically add pure vanilla extract to recipes as well, but usually a little less than I normally would.
  • With every cake I bake, I like to place a cupcake liner into the same-size ramekin and fill 2/3 full with batter and bake along with the layers. That way I can taste test the cake before frosting, filling and serving.

Sweetapolita’s Notes on the Old-Fashioned Frosting

  • I used vanilla sugar for the frosting, so I didn’t add any additional vanilla extract.
  • You will want to make this frosting at the very last minute, right before you need to use it.
  • It goes on like a dream, but you will want to work quickly as it begins to thicken in the bowl.
  • Cakes frosted with this type of frosting are best enjoyed the day they are made.
  • This frosting does not store or keep well, but it is pure heaven the day it’s whipped up.
  • Pure white frosting makes a perfect base for gel colours–no buttery tone to work against! It makes for particularly lovely pink shades because the colours stay so true.

I’ll be back soon, my friends!

Good luck & enjoy!



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Frosting for the Cause and Winner of the IceMilk Apron Giveaway!

Happy Sunday, everyone! It’s a beautiful (and freezing) sunny morning here on Lake Ontario–a perfect day to share a guest blog post I did over at a wonderful website called Frosting for the Cause. Frosting for the Cause is a 365 day baking project that highlights a different baker/blogger each day of 2011, sharing stories, recipes, and decorating tips, all to raise money and awareness for cancers that affect women. Paula, also known as The Vanilla Bean Baker, is the mastermind and heart behind this cause, and I was so honoured to be part of something so special.

Stop by Frosting for the Cause to read my guest post on Pinkalicious Cherry Cupcakes and learn about a woman in my life who was affected by cancer. If you’re a baking blogger who hasn’t yet signed up for this project and would like to make a difference, I believe there are some dates available. If you’re a reader who would like to take part and make a difference, you can go to the convenient Donate section of the Frosting for the Cause website. Thank you, Paula, for all of your hard work in putting this project together.

It’s also a perfect day to announce the winner of the gorgeous IceMilk Apron! It wasn’t a surprise that you all adore these heirloom aprons as much I do!

The winner of a monogrammed IceMilk Apron of their choice is…

 #129 Anna. Anna said, “these aprons are beautiful! I just sent the link to my mom for her catering company. I am convinced we need these!
my all time favorite pie is my mom’s peanut butter meringue or my Mammie’s hand-picked-full-of-love raspberry.”

Congratulations, Anna! Please contact me at rosie@sweetapolita.com for details and to claim your gorgeous prize!

To check out the complete line of heirloom aprons, pop over to IceMilk Aprons.

I hope you’re enjoying this beautiful Sunday!

Love, Rosie xo

*The winner of this giveaway was randomly selected using random.org. Prize courtesy of Sweetapolita.

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