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. 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.
I found some 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.
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.
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?
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. 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.
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, but I'm pretty sure any clown topper would add the eery-factor.
See? He's watching you. Here's the recipe for these dark and delightful treats:
Black Velvet Cupcakes with Cherry Cream Cheese Frosting
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
- Sprinkles for decorating (more suggestions below in the notes!)
For the cupcakes:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a muffin tin with 12 standard cupcake liners.
- 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.
- Add the egg and mix on medium speed until just incorporated.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the cake flour and cocoa powder.
- 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.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix until incorporated.
- 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.
For the frosting:
- Using electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend butter and icing sugar on medium low speed, until just combined, about 2 minutes.
- Add cold cream cheese, all at once, and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
- 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.
- Add cherry jam and and mix on low speed until just incoporated.
- Top with your favourite sprinkle mix, or try out Rainbow Chocolate Balls, Pastel Sequins or Chocolate Crunchy sprinkles!
- 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.) You can also achieve a similar look with Colour Mill Black.
- Cupcake liners I used are from Robert Gordon Australia.
- 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.