Tag Archives: red velvet

Celebrating Cheesecake — and a challenge for you!

Taylor from Taylor Takes a Taste tweeted me yesterday with a very, very important message: Today is National Cheesecake Day! Well, okay, it’s actually National White Chocolate Cheesecake Day, but I’ve never made a white chocolate cheesecake, so just ignore that part. I’ll add it to my to-do list.

In order to celebrate, I thought I’d compile Willow Bird Baking’s many cheesecake recipes and issue a challenge for you!

My goal is to inspire kitchen confidence in home cooks by encouraging them to tackle fun, challenging new recipes. So I’m challenging you this month! Here’s what you do:

Choose one of the cheesecake recipes below that feels like a challenge to you and make it for friends, family, or coworkers.

– Take a photo and email it to me at juruble ‘at’ gmail ‘dot’ com with a few comments about how it went and a link to your blog (if you have one — if you don’t, that’s okay too!).

– Do this before April 5, 2011. In exactly a month, I’ll post all of your cheesecake masterpieces here on Willow Bird Baking!

– You can also grab the badge at the bottom of this post if you’d like to let your readers know that you’re participating in the Cheesecake Challenge, but it’s optional.

If you’d like to participate, leave me a comment below and let me know! If you’ve already made one of the recipes below, that counts too! Just send me a photo!

Willow Bird Baking’s Cheesecake Recipes:

1. Coffee Cookie Dough Fudge Cheesecake



2. Red Velvet Cheesecake



3. Caramel Fudge Brownie Cheesecake



4. Chocolate Peanut Butter Bliss Cheesecake



5. Blueberry Lemon Cheesecake Cupcakes



6. Chocolate Cheesecake-Stuffed Cupcakes with Ganache



7. Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Squares with Shortbread Crust



8. Marbled Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies



9. Pumpkin Cheesecake Bread Pudding

And don’t forget to watch my (slightly embarrassing) cheesecake tutorial for great cheesecake pointers!

Finally, here’s the Cheesecake Challenge badge if you want to grab it:

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Red Velvet Cheesecake

Every year around this time, I get the urge to build a mailbox.

Don’t look at me like that. I blame my elementary school teachers. At the beginning of almost every February, my teachers would pull out construction paper, glue, stickers, markers, and paint, and we’d all set to work constructing mailboxes. Sure it wasn’t the most glamorous construction job I’ve ever been a part of, but I was very serious about it nonetheless, because this wasn’t just any mailbox — this was a Valentine’s Day mailbox.

On February 14, we’d all bring in our packets of valentines and circulate about the classroom uncomfortably, dropping one in each of the waiting mailboxes. We tried not to pause too long at anyone’s desk or — heaven forbid — make any accidental eye contact, lest it be misinterpreted during this socially charged process.

Secretly, though, I’d probably spent the night before carefully selecting the perfect Strawberry Shortcake Valentine for the boy I liked. One that could be interpreted as being totally casual — plausible deniability in case he had no interest in me whatsoever — but was also slightly on the mushy side, in case he was just waiting for a sign of my interest. If I was appending candy to my valentines that year, I probably spent another eternity choosing the candy heart or chocolate that I thought he’d like the very best.

(Yes, I now realize that the boy I liked, in contrast, had probably spent the night before Valentine’s Day being hounded by his mother to at least write his classmates’ names somewhere on the valentines she’d bought for him, eating most of his valentine candy before it got attached to anyone’s card, and playing a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles video game until bed.)

Anyway, when every valentine was passed out and the time had finally come to sit down and empty our mailboxes, I was always breathless with suspense. Imagine the possibilities! Forget bills and junk mail — these mailboxes were carefully crafted to hold L-O-V-E. Every year I fully expected to receive a long letter handwritten by the boy I liked (actually, any boy would’ve done. Or a secret admirer? Yes, please!) detailing the many, MANY reasons he was smitten with me. He might even include a phone number. Maybe a special conversation heart. Maybe an engagement ring! You never know.

Reality was a little disappointing. I’d dump out all the valentines and quickly shuffle through the boring ones — Scooby Doo holding a bunch of flowers and saying, “Rees are for Roo, Valentine!” or Power Rangers crying, “It’s Morphin’ Time, Valentine!” My eagle eyes were looking for two things: candy and handwritten messages. Candy because it would sustain me on my arduous journey toward discovering the love of my life, and handwritten messages from said love.

Was his heartfelt letter to me in this envelope? Nope, a smurf card. How about this one? Nope, an I Love Lucy valentine — you can tell Mom picked those out. How about the envelope with a heart drawn on the front? Nope, that was from my BFF. Thanks a lot for getting my hopes up, girl. Slowly but surely, my stack dwindled. One after another, the valentines were slapped down onto my “read” pile with barely more than a glance. Finally, the fateful moment came when I’d read and dismissed the very last card.

No proposal. No secret admirer. Not even a lousy paragraph about my eyes being like the sun or something. Nothin’. At this point I’d probably look at my crush across the classroom and sigh, appreciating the suave way in which he used his lollipop as a sword to launch attacks against his friend’s ear.

Childhood is rough. Adulthood is a lot better. Yes, there are bills and junk mail in my mailbox now. And unfortunately, I didn’t get to MAKE my mailbox. And, okay, I’m not going to get a pile of colorful valentines, some of which are boasting candy.

But here’s why adulthood rocks. This year, when Christof Van Snufterplucken (names changed to protect the innocent — or lame) doesn’t turn off his video game long enough to write me a love letter about how awesome I am, I can remedy my disappointment in a mature, adult way: by making and eating a ridiculous amount of cheesecake. Red Velvet Cheesecake, to be exact.

Reader Victoria first gave me the idea for a Red Velvet Cheesecake back in November and I thought it sounded fantastic! She made a beautiful layer-cake-like version, and I went the cheesecake-like route. This ultimate Valentine’s dessert includes an oreo crust filled with layers of ganache, creamy cheesecake, and moist red velvet cake decorated with ganache and cream cheese frosting. Perhaps this is obvious, but apart from being pretty (especially when served with chocolate-covered strawberries and white chocolate hearts), this thing is delicious, indulgent, and yes, romantic. So even if your crush loves radioactive reptilian ninjas more than you, you can have your own little slice o’ love.

Tell me about one of your elementary school crushes. Did you ever receive a fantastic valentine in school?

Red Velvet Cheesecake



Recipe by: Willow Bird Baking
Yield: 11-13 pieces

Crust Ingredients:
32 chocolate sandwich cookies, finely processed into crumbs
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Small pinch of salt

Ganache Ingredients:
3/4 cups heavy cream
10 oz. bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped (I used half semisweet and half bittersweet)

Cake Ingredients:
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
1 egg
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
1 ounce red food coloring

Filling Ingredients:
3 (8 oz.) packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs

Decorative Toppings (optional):
2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
white chocolate for drizzling
strawberries

Directions:
Note on cheesecake making: Cheesecakes are simple and super customizable. New to cheesecake making? Watch my 6 minute Cheesecake Video Tutorial for visual assistance!

Note on scheduling: This cake is easily separated into two days of preparation, and can be prepared ahead of time. On day one, prepare the red velvet cake, cool it, and freeze it. On day two, prepare the cheesecake. You can then assemble and decorate right away, or leave this for day three.

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom and the sides of an 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides to make it easier to lift the cake out of the pan when it’s done. Cream shortening, sugar, and eggs. Make a paste of the cocoa and coloring and add to the shortening mixture. Add salt and vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix vinegar and soda right before using and add to mixture by folding in. Pour batter into the cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool completely, cover in wax paper, and freeze for 30 minutes or until firm.

Make the cheesecake: To make the crust, preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet. Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs, melted butter and salt in a small bowl. Toss with a fork to moisten all of the crumbs. Press into a thin layer covering the bottom and sides of the springform pan (at least 3 inches up the sides).

Bring the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Place the chocolate in a medium bowl. Once the cream reaches a simmer, pour the cream over the chocolate and let stand 1-2 minutes. Whisk in small circles until a smooth ganache has formed. Pour 1 – 1.5 cups of the ganache over the bottom of the crust. Freeze until the ganache layer is firm, about 30 minutes. Reserve the remaining ganache; cover and let stand at room temperature for later decorating.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and sugar on medium-high speed until well blended. Beat in the flour. Add in the vanilla and beat until well incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between each addition.

Pour the filling over the cold ganache in the crust. Place the springform pan on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until the top is lightly browned, puffed and cracked at the edges, and the center moves only very slightly when the pan is lightly shaken, about 1 hour. Transfer to a wire cooling rack. Cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator and let cool at least 3 hours, until completely chilled and set.

Assemble topping: Whip room temperature ganache to create a fluffy texture perfect for piping. In a separate bowl, mix together cream cheese, butter, and confectioners’ sugar to make a small amount of cream cheese frosting for decorating.

Assemble the cheesecake: Wrap a warm towel around the outside of the springform pan to help loosen the crust from the sides. Carefully remove the springform. Transfer the cake to a serving platter. Here, you can schmear some ganache on the cheesecake to help the red velvet cake adhere. I didn’t, but it’s a good idea. Then place your red velvet cake layer on top of cheesecake (right side up). Decorate top of cake with drizzled white chocolate, piped cream cheese frosting, whipped ganache, and strawberries.

P.S. Who could this photographer be shooting my cheesecake? Find out this coming Wednesday!

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Valentine’s Truffle Heart

Sometimes I ask Mike to carry my dog down three flights of stairs only to have her patently refuse to piddle in the freezing cold. Sometimes I ask Mike if he will please clean the inevitable piddle on the carpet in the corner. Every now and then, I ask Mike if he will help scrub the pile of dirty dishes that have built up while I’ve been barricaded in my room grading. And periodically, I’ll admit, I ask Mike to do the acrobatics necessary to feed my handsome humblebee of a (sharp-clawed) turtle.

Mike’s a good guy. He’s a GREAT guy.

The least I can do is fuss over him a bit, especially on holidays. I love making a big impressive feast for his birthday, our anniversary . . . and Valentine’s Day. Oh, are you one of those Valentine’s Day haters? Eschewing the greeting card industry, scoffing at the idea of commercialized love, decrying the superficiality of a Necco®-hearts-based love-fest? I’m not. True, we don’t have a fancy celebration, but Mike and I do value the day for what it is: an excuse to love on each other through small gifts, thoughtful gestures, and food. That’s right . . . it’s an excuse to EAT. An excuse to eat cake truffles!

In case you’re hunting for sweet food ideas for your sweetheart, I thought I’d share with you the fun gift I made for Mike last year: a heart-shaped box filled not with candy, but with Red Velvet Cake Truffles and Oreo Truffles. Apart from being indulgent, rich, moist, and delicious, the truffles were a personal, handmade gift — always the best kind! This Valentine’s Day present was a sweet treat for my students, too, since they got to eat the original candy from the heart-shaped box.


Can you find Byrd in the background?

I have a few ideas jangling around for this Valentine’s Day, but they’re top secret for now! What about you? What fun meal or treat are you planning for the people you love?

Red Velvet Cake Truffles / Cake Balls



Recipe by:

Bakerella (truffles)
– Mom (cake)
Paula Deen (frosting)

Yields: about 50 balls.

Cake Truffle Ingredients:
1 9 x 13 in. Red Velvet Cake (see recipe below)
About 1.5 – 2 cups cream cheese frosting (see recipe below)
White chocolate bark / White candy coating (not baker’s chocolate)

Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 ounces red food coloring

Frosting Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions:
For the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream Crisco, sugar, and eggs. Make a paste of the cocoa and coloring and add to the Crisco mixture. Add salt and vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix vinegar and soda right before using and add to mixture by folding in. Pour batter into a 9 x 13 in. pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool completely.

For the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

For the cake balls:
1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with 1 can (about 1.5-2 cups) cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into quarter size balls and lay on cookie sheet. (Should make 45-50. You can get even more if you use a mini ice cream scooper, but I like to hand roll them.)
4. Chill for several hours. (You can speed this up by putting in the freezer.)
5. Melt chocolate in microwave per directions on package.
6. Roll balls in chocolate and lay on wax paper until firm. (Use a spoon to dip and roll in chocolate and then tap off extra.)

The hardest part of this is definitely the dipping. If you use white candy coating like I did (Candyquik), be prepared to double dip them to get them nice and white. After heating the white coating, I sat its bowl in a larger bowl of hot water to keep it melted. I then held the cake ball on a toothpick and spooned the white coating over it. To prevent the cake ball from having a huge “foot” from puddling coating, you have to let the excess drip off for quite awhile before wiggling it off the toothpick onto the wax paper. You find a groove. Eventually. The chocolate drizzle was applied with a ziplock bag that had the tiniest bit of its bottom corner cut off.

I only used half of my red velvet cake for the cake balls. With the leftovers, I made a little heart-shaped cake. You could also freeze any you didn’t want to use immediately for future cake ball exploits!

Oreo Truffles



Recipe By: Bakerella
Yields: about 36 truffles.

Ingredients:
1 package oreo cookies (divided… use cookie including the cream center)
1 8oz. package cream cheese (softened)
white chocolate bark

Directions:

1. Finely crush 7 cookies in a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag and crush into a fine consistency. Reserve for later (Julie note: I skipped this part)
2. Crush remaining cookies and stir in softened cream cheese. Use the back of a large spoon to help mash the two together.
3. Roll the mixture into 1″ balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet.
4. Melt chocolate as directed on the package and then dip balls into chocolate, tap off extra and set aside on wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. You can sprinkle the tops with the 7 crushed cookies for decoration. (I usually eat mine before they make it to this stage.)
5. Once dry, refrigerate and enjoy!

I used the chocolate candy coating (Candyquik) for this. Once again, the white drizzle was applied with a ziplock bag that had the tiniest bit of its bottom corner cut off.


Mixing and forming red velvet cake truffles.


Red velvet truffles dipped and drying; oreos being crushed (a food processor makes this even easier).


Forming oreo truffles.


The finished (personalized!) present.

Need some other Valentine’s Day ideas? How about Red Velvet and Oreo Kisses? Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting and Chocolate Hearts? Fancy French macarons? A dozen Mango Raspberry Rosecakes? Take a look at the Recipe Index for more ideas.


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Red Velvet and Oreo Kisses

Need a kiss? Everyone does sometimes, and these past few weeks, it was Mike. He’s been studying intensely for the math GRE this summer. He’s interested in stellar grad schools, so he needs to hit the ball (or the sphere, perhaps? or the open ball? or the unit circle? okay, enough with the bad math jokes) out of the park on this exam. I have complete faith in his ability to do so, but he needs some encouragement now and then. What’s better for encouragement than a little kiss? Well, maybe a BIG kiss!

I think I’ve mentioned before that Bakerella is one of my heroes. I love cuteness, and she’s the Queen of Cute. When I saw her Oreo Kisses, I knew they couldn’t wait until Valentine’s Day. They were the perfect surprise to lift Mike’s spirits.

In addition to Oreo, I decided to make some red velvet kisses. While the Oreo version is a no-bake combo of crushed cookies and cream cheese, the red velvet version is essentially a cake ball (or a cake cone in this case). You bake a cake, rip it up (heartbreaking, I know), add frosting, and form the mixture into balls (or cones, or hearts, or zebras) and dip into your candy coating (incidentally, if you try out the zebra shape, please do send a photo). Any flavor combination of cake and frosting will do. And don’t let the idea of baking a cake deter you; while I bake mine from scratch, cake mixes and canned frosting work just fine!


Oreo Kisses



Red Velvet Kisses

Dipping these kisses (or any cake ball) is always the most (ahem) interesting part of the process. I use Candiquik as my chocolate coating of choice, but you can use any chocolate bark or dipping chocolate. I don’t recommend baker’s chocolate or chocolate chips, however, as they don’t form the same hard shell. You should be able to find Candiquik at Lowes Food, SuperTarget, or (I recently discovered) Bloom.

Regarding the act of dipping itself, you’re going to have to get a little creative. Bakerella’s instructions (below) say to use a spoon to dip your kisses and then drain the excess chocolate against the side of the bowl. This hasn’t ever worked for me, though; I’ve used everything from forks to toothpicks to bamboo skewers to dip cake balls. I’ll go ahead and admit that I’ve had visions of standing on the counter lowering a cake ball into chocolate with dental floss (thankfully, I haven’t resorted to this just yet). For dipping these kisses, I used a two-tined grill fork to support the kiss while I spooned chocolate over it. I then let the excess drain off for a long while before sliding the kiss onto wax paper. When it was dry, I went back and re-dipped the bottom. You can try this technique, but the most important message to take home is this: experiment with your kitchen supplies. Necessity is the mother of invention and all that, so try any utensil that looks promising and keep your sense of humor!

One thing I love about these sweet kisses (apart from, oh, everything about them) is the messages you can attach. I used a word processing program (font: light blue, 14 point, Helvetica Neue Bold) to create the little strips of paper that sail out of each kiss. Get creative: you can label various kiss flavors; send encouragement, congratulations, and thank yous; or even say happy birthday. My wonderful Dad’s birthday is this coming Monday — the perfect occasion for a special message! Whether with Oreo kisses, cake kisses, or plain old hugs and kisses, tell someone you love them today!

Oreo Kisses


Recipe By: Bakerella (kisses decoration/assembly)
Yields: About 11 2-inch high kisses

Oreo Kisses Ingredients:
1 package oreo cookies (divided; use cookie including the cream center)
1 8-ounce package cream cheese (softened)
chocolate bark (chocolate candy coating)

Directions

1. Finely crush all but seven cookies in a food processor or place them in a ziploc bag and crush into a fine consistency. Note: As for the extra 7 cookies, just eat them. Or, if you have extra dipping chocolate, make some chocolate covered oreos.
2. Stir in softened cream cheese. Use the back of a large spoon to help mash the two together.
3. Roll the mixture into 1-2″ balls and place on wax paper covered cookie sheet.
4. Then, begin to form the shape of a kiss. Flattening the bottom and forming a point at the top. Note: mine ended up about 2 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide.
5. It helps to put the uncoated balls in the freezer for a few minutes to keep the mixture from starting to fall apart when you drop into the melted chocolate. Note: I refrigerated mine overnight and then froze for a couple of minutes before dipping.
6. Melt chocolate as directed on package and then dip “kisses” one at a time into chocolate, tap off extra and slide them off spoon onto wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. Note: Dipping is often the most difficult part. These are Bakerella’s instructions, but find what works for you. Let your kitchen be your playground. Look through your utensils for useful tools, and be creative. I used a grill fork to hold my kisses while spooning chocolate over them, and then redipped the bottoms separately.

To decorate:
1. Handwrite your messages or create them on the computer. Cut out the strips (about 1/4″ tall and however wide you need).
2. Cut up some square sheets of aluminum foil (about 6″ square)
3. Place dry kiss in center and start wrapping the foil around the base. Insert message near top and secure it by pressing the foil together at top. Note: It really helps to use cheap foil here! The thinner and more malleable the better. Crush it a little first to make it more flexible.
4. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Red Velvet Kisses


Recipe By:

Bakerella (kisses decoration/assembly)
-Mom (red velvet cake)
Paula Deen (cream cheese frosting)

Yields: About 28 2-inch high kisses

Red Velvet Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup Crisco shortening
2 eggs
2 tablespoons cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon white vinegar
2 ounces red food coloring
chocolate bark (chocolate candy coating; for kisses)

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Make the cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream Crisco, sugar, and eggs. Make a paste of the cocoa and coloring and add to the Crisco mixture. Add salt and vanilla. Add buttermilk alternately with the flour, beginning and ending with flour. Mix vinegar and soda right before using and add to mixture by folding in. Pour batter into a 9 x 13 in. pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes (check periodically, and if the edges are getting too done, you might want to shield them with foil while the middle continues to bake). Cool completely.

Make the frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Make the kisses:
1. After cake is cooked and cooled completely, crumble into large bowl.
2. Mix thoroughly with about 2 cups cream cheese frosting. (It may be easier to use fingers to mix together, but be warned it will get messy.)
3. Roll mixture into 1-2″ size balls and lay on cookie sheet.
4. Then, begin to form the shape of a kiss. Flattening the bottom and forming a point at the top. Note: mine ended up about 2 inches tall and 1.5 inches wide.
5. It helps to put the uncoated balls in the freezer for a few minutes to keep the mixture from starting to fall apart when you drop into the melted chocolate. Note: I refrigerated mine overnight and then froze for a couple of minutes before dipping.
6. Melt chocolate as directed on package and then dip “kisses” one at a time into chocolate, tap off extra and slide them off spoon onto wax paper covered cookie sheet to dry. Note: Dipping is often the most difficult part. These are Bakerella’s instructions, but find what works for you. Let your kitchen be your playground. Look through your utensils for useful tools, and be creative. I used a grill fork to hold my kisses while spooning chocolate over them, and then redipped the bottoms separately.

To decorate:
1. Handwrite your messages or create them on the computer. Cut out the strips (about 1/4″ tall and however wide you need).
2. Cut up some square sheets of aluminum foil (about 6″ square)
3. Place dry kiss in center and start wrapping the foil around the base. Insert message near top and secure it by pressing the foil together at top. Note: It really helps to use cheap foil here! The thinner and more malleable the better. Crush it a little first to make it more flexible.
4. Refrigerate in an airtight container.

Process Photos:


You may need to shield the sides of the red velvet cake if they’re done before the middle. I halved my cake recipe since I was making two kinds of kisses; if you do this, half the frosting too.


Shaped into cones and then dipping.


Cutting messages into strips.




Did I mention that they were giant?



XOXO


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Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

My first introduction to red velvet cake as a child was that scene in Steel Magnolias where folks are hacking into the red velvet groom’s cake shaped like an armadillo.  The cake looks like the blood red innards of the hideous creature when exposed.  Here’s a screen shot for those of you who missed the movie (though you should certainly go watch):


The Red Velvet Armadillo from Steel Magnolias

Thankfully, I’ve had better red velvet experiences since then! As you may have read in the About Willow Bird Baking page, Paula Deen’s delicious, fluffy red velvet cupcakes with decadent cream cheese frosting are what ignited my baking spark!  My boyfriend, Mike, is absolutely in love with them, and for good reason.  Mrs. Deen knows when to splurge on the fats, and this recipe definitely uses its fair share of oil and butter.  The result is heavenly.

A family friend, Wanda, had a birthday this week and agreed to be my “taste tester” (I’m always looking for folks to eat my cupcakes — let me know if you’re a hungry Charlottean!), so I baked her up Paula’s fantastic cupcakes as a birthday surprise. Check out the recipe below!

I bought a cute little gift box at Target, lined it with tissue paper, and popped in some cupcakes. Michael’s also makes great little cupcake holders if you’re thinking of baking up a food gift.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
The gift box! What’s inside?

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Lots of cupcake goodness!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I wanted to add a little something special, so I used a chocolate candy melt to create some decorations. This is a simple and fun way to add a personal touch to cakes or cupcakes. I use chocolate CandiQuik that I buy at Super Target. I like the consistency and taste better than Wilton’s candy melts (found at Michael’s), but you could use those too. Simply melt a hunk of the candy melt per the package instructions, spoon it into a ziplock bag with a tiny bit of the corner cut off, and start piping designs onto wax paper.

Want to pipe out some letters, but having trouble making them look nice? A great trick I tried this time around is to print words out in your favorite font to place under the wax paper and “trace.” There’s only one issue: we’ll want to flip the letters over when dry to use the smooth side, but they’ll be backwards! To solve this issue, I typed my letters out in Microsoft Word (make sure to leave space between each letter!) and took a screenshot of them (easy instructions on how to take a screenshot: Windows / Mac). I then opened my screenshot in a photo program and selected “flip horizontally.”  This created a mirror image of the letters to trace.  Then I piped on my candy melt, let it dry, and flipped the letters — VOILA!  Smooth and beautiful. Here are some pictures of the process:

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Ready to trace!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Doesn’t look like much here, on the “bumpy side.”

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Ta da! Okay, maybe I got carried away! But there are a LOT of cupcakes to decorate! Love the font idea for Wanda’s name — it worked so well!

Paula Deen’s Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting


Recipe By: Paula Deen
Yields: 24 cupcakes (see note)

Cupcake Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries (or chocolate decorations!), for garnish

Directions:

Cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.

In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer. Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
BRIGHT red and fresh from the oven. The kitchen smelled great!

Cream Cheese Frosting: In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated. Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy. Frost the cupcakes with a butter knife or pipe it on with a big star tip (I used star tip 1M.) Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry (or chocolate decorations).


Frosting the cupcakes!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
All finished and frosted.

Red Velvet Cupcakes
Aww.

NOTE: The frosting recipe makes a TON of frosting! I made 1.5x the original recipe of cupcakes, which yielded 39 total, and this frosting recipe frosted all of them.


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