Red velvet cupcakes: Handfuls of holiday spirit.

I am still having problems here with photos: Something about an IO Error, and now I can’t upload photos anywhere and my computer caught the herp and I don’t know where it got it but I am displeased. If I ever get it to work again, I’ll show you my pretty cupcakes. Soon, I hope!

You know that scene in A Christmas Story where Ralphie snaps and finally beats the crap out of that ugly ginger kid, buckets of delicious obscenity spewing from his mouth as he pummels the bigger kid’s writhing face? That’s how I feel this week, except I don’t have anything to take it out on. Butter, I guess. I could take it out on butter and maybe make some shortbread this weekend. But it isn’t the same, and besides, if I punched anything in real life it wouldn’t even notice. I have abnormally small fists. Also, the effect of me spewing obscenity would be lost because I killed the novelty of that when I was somewhere around Ralphie’s age.

I’ve been mulling over a post for red velvet cupcakes all week, because I made them on Monday for Tuesday and they were festive, even if my mood hasn’t been. Unfortunately, I ran out of red food colouring, so they were less red-velvet and more “red-violet,” like that Crayola crayon you always thought would be red but always turned out to be a funny sort of pink instead. That’s okay though. People got the gist. I made them for a work thing, even though nobody’s all that excited about work or work things these days – the stress in the office is palpable, and my boss is distracted almost all the time. Someone cried the other day. I don’t know why.

Around here, we’re in need of a serious dose of Christmas spirit.

I thought red cupcakes with white frosting, the occasional one topped with green or red sprinkles, would help. When have cupcakes not helped? Never, that’s when. It’s impossible to feel Grinchy when you’re eating a cupcake, and that’s a fact I’m pretty sure even science can prove. So here. Cupcakes, adapted from Joy of Baking.

Red Velvet Cupcakes, adapted from Joy of Baking

(Makes 14 to 16 cupcakes.)

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp. liquid red food coloring
  • 2 tbsp. raspberry jam
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar


  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 3 cups confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line muffin tins with cupcake wrappers.

Whisk together flour, salt, cocoa, and baking soda. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until smooth, then beat in eggs and vanilla. Combine with flour mixture, adding buttermilk, food colouring, raspberry jam, and vinegar. Mix well.

Pour batter into lined muffin tins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until cake springs back when pressed gently with a pointer finger.

Cool on wire racks, and then frost, using recipe above (mix stuff together … when it resembles frosting, use it; adjust consistency with confectioner’s sugar or cold milk as needed).

Purists will be all, “jam in red velvet? Regular old icing? The hell?” But that’s okay. Real red velvet cake would be frosted with cream cheese icing. But I didn’t have cream cheese, and this ended up working well enough that I am not going to steer you in a different direction just for tradition’s sake, though you’re welcome to go there if you’d like. Also, pretty as it is, I am just too hippified to dye something red without it tasting like red also … so I added the jam. You don’t have to. But make these cupcakes. They are light and sweet and unusual, with cocoa used more as a spice than as something to turn something else into chocolate. They’re perfect treats that fit into eager little hands, and they’re pretty and will certainly stand out on a dessert table.

Well, there you have it. I am now going to make a large pot of tea and consider my holiday moves. Should I wander down Granville Street, looking into the sparkly windows? Wrap presents and listen to Christmas music until I puke? Or bake something? Maybe I will write my Santa letter, in the hopes that he brings something fantastic, like another year’s worth of vanilla beans, or a high-paying career in food writing. In France. The elves can do anything, you know. Happy holidays!

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