Am I really doing this…

I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me. – Stuart Smalley

I just printed off my Chili Cook Off entry form and now I am hella nervous. I don’t think it helps that I just went through pictures of last years contestants who all look like seasoned professionals. All of the sudden last year’s chilies are seeming far from subpar and like daunted, fearsome warriors ready for battle but, there is no turning back now, I just have to reframe the competition. Instead of feeling like the total novice that I am, I am taking faith not in my knife skills or obscure flavor pairings, but instead in my passion.

Okay, enough of the soliloquy.

You know what makes me happy? Baked goods. And the only better than baked goods? Miniaturized baked goods!  Cue the mini cupcakes.

Cupcakes on Parade

My biffles, yes the most annoying term of endearment ever, over at http://aheartofsteel.wordpress.com/ taught me pretty much everything I ever needed to know about the fine art of cupcakery. For example, when a recipe calls for milk, why not use chocolate milk? GENIUS.

Also, when living in central Florida, leaving a bag of chocolate chips in the car all day is probably not advisable. Unless, that is you would like to take red velvet cupcakes to the very pinnacle of perfection. What to do melted chocolate chips and red velvet cupcakes have in common you may ask? Let me break it down for you. Nothing beats red velvet cupcakes, with their hint of cocoa, topped by a layer of ganache-like chocolate, hidden under delectable cream cheese frosting. Nothing! Oh that is, unless they are minature and wearing a chocolate chip hat as decoration, because the cake, chocolate, and frosting aren’t enough.

Who knew vinegar could be so tasty?

There is a surprisingly large amount of vinegar in this recipe. Partly due to the vinegar that is normally required in red velvet to keep it light and fluffy, but also because they don’t make chocolate buttermilk. I am a big fan of buttermilk in all baking applications, but I am an even bigger fan of being able to make my own chocolate buttermilk. In order to make the conversion, all you need to do is add a tablespoon of white distilled vinegar to your milk and let it sit for 10 minutes.

While my milk was busy curdling I got to work combining my dry ingredients. Normally, I like to sift my flour to keep a smooth batter, but it was already approaching midnight so I used a whisk instead. No harm, no foul.

Mount Cocaflour

My beloved Kitchenaid and I got to work on the wet ingredients. This is about the point where when I reached into the cabinet, the olive oil decided to make its get away, and in the process shot me in the eye. At first I thought, olive oil, good for your skin, probably not the most painful thing to haven in one’s eye. Nope, I was wrong. Olive oil hurts, please refrain from angering it, because if it gets angry it knows how to attack. I ended up seeking my revenge when I discovered I was low on vegetable oil and substituted a 1/4 cup of it for olive oil. Muahahaha!

Wet Ingredients

I discovered a while back the joys of gel food coloring, it is to “die” for. It requires far less dye to develop a deep and rich color that will withstand the baking, and it has no discernible taste. One pitfall is that it is so strong it will tattoo your hand for days. The red dye looks a bit concerning before it is incorporated into the batter. As you will see below on the spatula.

Red Gel Dye

Next time I will use far less dye, as I didn’t think it through that each time I added chocolate powder and chocolate milk, in an alternating pattern, it would deepen the color to a very, very deep red.

I refuse to call this color garnet!

Quite possibly the most exciting part of making these cupcakes is making a mini volcano with baking soda and vinegar in my kitchen. I might be a 7 year old boy. Once you get some sweet bubbly chemical reaction going on its time to gently fold into the batter and get it ready to poor into cupcake liners.

Ready for the oven!

Unfortunately, my mini ice cream/cookie scoop broke and I am a shaky sally when it comes to filling these itty bitty liners. The joy of mini cupcakes is that they take about half the time of the regular sized variety. Once they were out of the oven and cooled it was time to add a layer of chocolaty goodness. No need to over complicate this step with utensils, I prefer to melt the chocolate in a deep dish and dip and swirl my cupcakes, scraping excess on the side of the plate.

Yum!

In order to expedite the frosting process I threw the cupcakes into the freezer to cool and harden. While waiting, I whipped up what is quite possibly my favorite frosting ever. So simple; cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon.

Together = Magic

With the frosting done I could see the finish line on the horizon. I grabbed my pipping bag and got to work. Knowing I had a limited supply of frosting and a multitude of cupcakes I did a small swirl of frosting in the middle of the cupcake leaving the chocolaty edges exposed. To finish off the cupcake, and hide my piping errors each cupcake was topped with a chocolate morsel.

There is no such thing as too cute to eat!

To say these were a hit at work today would be an understatement! The great thing about minis is the guilt factor goes down while the ease to eat factor goes up. I probably had close to 50 cupcakes at the beginning of the day. They are now no more. Something things are worth the effort, and in my humble opinion, these were worth every minute. Perfect to give to those you love on Valentine’s Day, or at least in the Valentine’s Day realm.

Tomorrow its time to get serious about chili!

Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 1/2 cups cake flour

2 tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups of sugar

1 1/4 cups of vegetable oil

1/4 cup of olive oil

2 large eggs, room temperature

2/3 teaspoon red gel food covering

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chocolate milk

1 tablespoon white distilled vinegar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soada

2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar

1 bag of semi sweet chocolate chips, divided

For Cinammon Cream Cheese Frosting

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line with paper liners or well grease muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, and salt. Set aside

Stir 1 tablespoon of vinegar into chocolate milk. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In a stand mixer beat sugar and oil on a med-high speed with paddle attachment. Add eggs, one at a time, until each is incorporated. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl after adding each ingredient. Mix in food coloring and vanilla.

Reduce speed to low. Alternate adding flour and chocolate buttermilk. Mix until just combined.

In another bowl stir baking soda and vinegar until just combine. Fold mixture into batter until just combined.

Fill liners 3/4 of the way full. Cook for 10 – 12 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Transfer cupcakes to rack to cool.

While cooling melt chocolate in a deep dish at %50 in the microwave. Dip cooled cupcakes in chocolate and swirl to evenly cover. Scrape excess of on side of the dish. Reheat chocolate as needed for ease of coating.

Cool chocolate until hard, if necessary place in freezer until chocolate is no longer glossy.

While waiting for chocolate to harden mix cream cheese and powdered sugar on low, moving up to med-high as the sugar is incorporated. Once mixed add cinnamon and vanilla. Mix till blended. Fit pastry bag with desired tip and fill. Pipe the frosting onto the middle of the cupcake starting on the outer edge and swirling in. Once frosted add a chocolate chip from those reserved and push in slightly to make sure it stays put and to spread out frosting a touch so it will cover any mistakes.


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