My husband and I aren’t big Valentine’s Day people. In fact, in the past we’ve been known to order a heart-shaped deep dish pizza (hey, we do live in Chicago) from one of the local pizza joints and call it a day. But this year, since he already surprised me with a box of my favorite smoked salt caramels from Fran’s in Seattle, I decided to surprise him back. With red velvet cupcakes. With bourbon cream cheese frosting.
Sure, red velvet is sort of expected for Valentine’s Day, but it also happens to be one of my husband’s favorite cake flavors. My friend Jen always used to make this very recipe, and I find that it’s one of the best. To jazz it up a bit for him, I chose to put a “manly” spin on the frosting by adding a bit of bourbon. Why not, right? (Albeit not kid friendly, so just eliminate it and add a teaspoon more vanilla if kids are present.)
This year, we passed on the pizza and celebrated with t-bone steaks, beer-braised Brussels sprouts, red velvet cupcakes and a trip to the Chicago Auto Show. Not a bad way to spend the day with someone you love.
Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.
Red Velvet Cupcakes with Bourbon Cream Cheese Frosting (makes approximately 24 cupcakes)
Slightly adapted from Saveur
What you need:
For the cake:
- 2 1/2 cups plus 10 tablespoons all-purpose flour (the original recipe called for cake flour, but I used AP and it worked just fine)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons red food coloring
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
For the frosting:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 teaspoons bourbon
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
For decoration (optional):
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, toasted and cooled
How you do it:
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with paper liners. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar until well combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet (I did this step by hand, but you could use an electric mixer if you wanted to), scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go.
- Distribute the batter evenly between the 24 muffin cups and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, approximately 22 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely on a wire rack.
- For the frosting, use an electric mixer to combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and bourbon. Add the confectioners’ sugar in batches until well combined.
- Spoon frosting into a pastry bag loaded with a wide star tip (I used Wilton No. 2110) and slowly pipe onto the cupcake, starting from the outside and working your way in a circular motion into the center. Top cupcakes with toasted pecans.