This is not my normal bag, which I’m going to use as an excuse for why these cupcakes are so … charmingly imperfect.
Let me get some controversy out of the way first: cake > cupcakes. Reasons:
1. Less work.
2. No guesswork as to which liners I over/underfilled. And I always do–what do I look like, a robot?
3. More cake, less frosting = my preference, #sorrynotsorry.
4. Utensils. Human mouths just don’t open in a manner that lets you eat cupcake and frosting together without making a mess of your face. It may be cute on kids, and probably hamsters, but I’m a grown woman and I need a fork.
5. Less. Work.
That said, there are definitely advantages to cupcakes–mainly the opportunity to do some serious quality control (as in, 3 cupcakes’ worth) before feeding your festive crowd. That kind of thorough investigation makes me way less nervous than I am before serving a cake. The inside of a cake is mysterious–not unlike the bottom of the ocean, with all of the crazy-ass fish that probably eat giant squid for breakfast. Who knows what’s going on under that frosting?
… I was going somewhere with that, I really was.
I made these for a friend’s bridal shower. The purple part, because purple (lilac, to be exact, but whatever) is the name of the wedding game, and I can play that game. The velvet part, because it’s as crowd-pleasing as it gets: cocoa, vanilla, loads of dye. Done and done.
About the purple… Guys, it is no easy feat to calibrate just how purple (or not) something will be once baked. This is why we experiment–and why I made two batches.
The first try (which is what you see in these photos) really does make purple cupcakes, I promise. It’s just a dark, sexy purple that won’t show up on camera; you have to take my word for it.
The second batch saw me toning down the dye and cutting the cocoa powder in half to lighten things up. While the batter looked promising, the cupcakes ended up… Mauve. Taupe. Maupe. Basically, you could paint your living room that color and not look like a crazy person.
^That is the first batch, the one that baked up all mysterious and dark. You can see how this process is a little unpredictable.
Frosting is less capricious. What you see is what you get–and if you paint gel color stripes inside your piping bag, you get a fun swirl effect going on. NIFTY.
I ended up serving the first batch, and that is what the recipe below is for. Dark purple is lovely–besides, they tasted better with more cocoa, which isn’t surprising. If I give these a go a third time, I might Franken-hybrid the two versions and keep the buttload o’ food coloring, cut the cocoa in half, and maybe amp up the vanilla to boost the overall flavor. It’s a trade-off between really purple purple and richer cupcakes. You decide what’s more important.
This is why we experiment, after all. Let me know if you try this. We can unlock this mystery together, just like where babies come from. (I’m told there’s a mommy and a daddy involved, but it’s probably just some crazy rumor flying around. Snopes hasn’t written me back yet.)
- 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 6 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder (natural, not Dutch-processed)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tbsp. purple gel food coloring (I used Wilton icing gel)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups heavy cream
- Purple gel coloring (same as above, optional)
- Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
- Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt and set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until light and fluffy–three minutes or so. Add the eggs and beat just until well-incorporated.
- In a separate small dish stir together the vanilla extract and food coloring. Add this mixture to the butter/sugar/egg mix, and mix everything together well, until the color is thoroughly distributed.
- Slow down the mixer and slowly add half of the buttermilk, then half of the flour/cocoa mixture. Repeat with remaining halves of buttermilk and flour/cocoa mixture, and mix until the batter is smooth. Finally, mix in baking soda and white vinegar–just until incorporated. Don’t overmix the batter.
- Spoon the batter into a lined or well-greased and floured cupcake pan, filling each liner about halfway. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes in the pan for just a little bit before removing them from the pan to allow them to cool completely on a rack.
- Mix the cream cheese, sugar, and almond extract in a large bowl until smooth. With the mixer running, slowly pour in the heavy cream. Continue mixing until the frosting becomes fluffy and can hold stiff peaks. Pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes (if you want the striped effect, use a brush to draw a few lines of food coloring inside the piping bag--see photo above).