I like Halloween (being a gothess I suppose that’s a given!), but i prefer the more elegant side as opposed to the gory one – deep colours, vampires, witches etc. I wanted to bake something that was Halloweeny, but also attractive, so I went for red velvet cupcakes decorated with red and black two-tone roses; both roses and the colours red and black are very prevalent in gothic imagery. I’d been itching to try this two-tone piping effect for a while now and thought that it would work perfectly with these cupcakes (my piping technique really needs some work though…).
Red velvet cake has a mild chocolate flavour which comes from adding a small amount of cocoa powder to the batter, I used 20g of cocoa and my cakes came out a deep red so I certainly wouldn’t use any more than this. If you want a brighter red cake you could try reducing the amount of cocoa powder to 10g (upping the amount of flour by 10g). The classic frosting for red velvet cake is a cream cheese one, however, I find that many cream cheese frostings are a little runny and not suitable for piping so I altered it slightly. It is still a cream cheese frosting, but in place of the usual butter I used double cream, which is stirred into the cheese along with some icing sugar and vanilla extract and the mixture is then whipped until it is stiff and pipeable. It tastes Amazing! Light and fluffy and not too sweet, with a tang from the cream cheese and a delicious vanilla flavour. I was seriously struggling to not give in and just pipe it directly into my mouth…I failed…
I recommend using Philadelphia brand cream cheese as it is more stable than other brands, and please please please use full-fat! The low-fat stuff turns far too runny when mixed with sugar. Lecture Over.
This two-tone icing effect is very striking but isn’t complicated to do and could be used with whichever two colours you choose, the rose pattern is achieved using a Wilton 2D nozzle but I imagine it would probably work well with a standard star tip as well. If you find my instructions for the icing hard to visualise, this video is very useful and explains the technique far better than I am able to!
These cupcakes contain a quite frankly frightening amount of food colouring, so if you are the kind of person who avoids artificial colours and flavours, then these are not the cakes for you. Make sure that any food colouring you buy specifies that it is bake stable as many natural ones lose their colour when baked. The cakes themselves use an entire bottle of liquid red colouring (I used Silver Spoon); but you must use gel colours for the icing, you have to add so much of it to get the strong colours that I have used that if you use liquid ones your icing will go runny. You can of course colour the icing whatever shade you like and if you find the thought of using so much colouring off-putting then you can always go for pastel shades which do not need much gel. To get the strong red shade I used two whole 10g tubes of gel (and stirred in a teeny bit of the black icing to deepen the colour), and a whole tube for the black as well, so buy more than you think you need!
Halloween Two-Tone Rose Red Velvet Cupcakes
(Please note: although I have provided a conversion from grams to US cup measurements I cannot guarantee the accuracy as I do not bake using cups, I thoroughly recommend investing in a digital metric scale, it is far more accurate.)
For the cakes:
- 60g (1/4 cup) soft unsalted butter
- 150g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
- 1 large egg
- 150g (1 + 1/4 cups) plain flour
- 20g (1tbsp + 1tsp) cocoa powder
- 120ml (1/2 cup) buttermilk
- 38ml (2tbsp + 1tsp) bottle red bake stable food colouring
- 1/2tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
For the icing:
- 185g (6.5 oz) full-fat Philadelphia cream cheese
- 200ml (3/4 cup + 1tbsp + 1tsp) double cream
- 75g (3/4 cup) icing sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- gel food colours in two shades, two pots of each
Preheat the oven to 170°C/325°F/gas mark 3 and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
Using an electric whisk, beat the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until fluffy, add the egg and beat in well. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and cocoa powder and in a mixing jug, stir together the buttermilk, food colouring and vanilla extract.
Add half of the buttermilk mixture to the butter mix and beat in, sift in half of the flour, then add the rest of the buttermilk, then the rest of the flour, beat until you have a smooth, even mixture.
Finally, beat in the bicarbonate of soda and the vinegar. Quickly divide the mixture among the paper cases (the bicarb starts working straight away) and place in the oven.
Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the icing. Place the cream cheese in a large bowl, sift in the icing sugar and add the vanilla extract, stir to combine. Pour in the cream and beat with an electric whisk until firm enough to pipe. Transfer just under a third of the icing to a separate bowl and colour black. Colour the remaining icing red.
Place a nozzle in a piping bag (I used Wilton 2D), spoon the black icing into the bag and smoosh it around so that the whole of the inside of the bag (up to the top of where the rest of the icing will come up to) is coated. Place the piping bag in a jug (to hold it up) and use the handle of a wooden spoon to open it back up all the way down to the nozzle. Spoon the red icing into the bag, you should have black icing around the edges and red in the middle, twist the top of the bag to seal it and make sure there are no air bubbles. Squeeze out some of the icing until it is coming out in both colours.
Starting in the centre of the cupcake, pipe a swirl in an anti-clockwise direction until you reach the edge of the cake, try and let the icing trail off at the end, you can smooth it gently with a finger or wet paintbrush it is is a little uneven. Repeat with the remaining cakes. Store in the refrigerator.
(cake recipe originally by Hummingbird Bakery)