What do you think of your neighbors? Are they good neighbors, annoying neighbors, cranky and crotchety old neighbors? Are they noisy with the barking dog or loud music, or worse yet, with the kid who runs around outside screaming that high pitched scream at the top of their lungs (you know the one) for hours on end? Maybe you don't even know your neighbors. Well let me tell you about the people in our neighborhood, particularly the ones right next door to us, Mark and Marla, who threw a really fun party last night at the local golf club to celebrate their 25th anniversary. SO fun. Let's just say there was so much dancing happening that I'm actually sore this morning...
Who knew when we moved into our home 14 years ago that we would be so lucky to have great neighbors like Marla and Mark? They have this great combination of being fun and cool and also super family oriented raising 3 great kids. Their oldest son is the same age as our son Jake, and over the years, Mark coached a soccer team that our boys played on from the time they were 5 years old until they graduated from high school last year. We've attended parties and gatherings between each other's homes, helped each other with neighborly things, had a million curbside chats, watched each others' kids grow up, taken care of things for each other when on vacation, and just watched out for one another. They are not only our neighbors, they have become wonderful friends over the years and we really feel blessed because of that.
Months ago, Marla asked if I would make a hundred cupcakes for the party. Well of course I would! Marla chose three flavors for the party - chocolate, red velvet, and pumpkin salted caramel. Today I'm sharing how I made the red velvet cupcakes and will share the other two flavors in later posts, but here they all are in a little box I made for M&M to have all for themselves later:
|Top Left to Bottom Right: Red Velvet, Chocolate (there's 5 hearts on there for their family of 5), Chocolate again because you can't have too much chocolate, and Pumpkin Salted Caramel.|
Let's talk about the cake part of red velvet cake for a minute. I'm just going to put it out there - I'm not a big fan. I don't really get how a cake that is neither chocolate nor vanilla nor any other definitive flavor filled with red food coloring can be so popular. Now if you look at it purely from the standpoint of using it as a delivery device for a really good frosting, *that* I can understand. :) I have tried several red velvet cake recipes and I've not been too impressed by them. They were either cloyingly sweet, or bitter, or boring, or the color was weird, or it had a funny mouthfeel...or maybe I just really don't like red velvet all that much. But lots of people do (including one of my besties Ashley and her 40th bday request), so I aim to please.
After trying several recipes over the years, I finally found one that I actually like and is now my go-to red velvet recipe, and guess what? It's DUNCAN HINES! Seriously, the Duncan Hines signature red velvet cake mix is really good. It has a slight taste of chocolate, the color is nice, and it's moist. I do a couple things to the cake mix that's different from the directions by adding a teaspoon or two of vanilla and substituting half the water with buttermilk and no one realizes it comes from a box.
Now you know my secret. My southern friends are probably smacking their foreheads right now. :)
I made the decorative topper for the cupcake with fondant, black royal icing, and a damask stencil (many of you know I'm crazy about black and white; black and white damask sends me over the edge!). I made these a few days ahead of time and allowed time for them to dry out a bit. Fondant doesn't completely harden which was fine with me, but if you're looking for something that is hard and won't flex, try using gumpaste.
Remember when I said earlier that to me, red velvet is really just a delivery device for a really great frosting? I love a good cream cheese frosting for red velvet. I think many people associate cream cheese frosting with red velvet (especially those of us not from the south who have never had the pleasure of a true southern red velvet cake), but did you know traditional red velvet cakes are made with a cooked frosting? My blogging friend Nancy from Artsy Chicks Rules shares her family's red velvet cake recipe with a traditional frosting on her blog. I have yet to try this recipe, but this one would get me to try another red velvet recipe next time I'm in the experimenting mood!
So let's get back to cream cheese frosting. I've experimented with cream cheese frostings over the years too same as red velvet cake recipes. I like a sturdy cream cheese frosting that can be piped and holds up well but still tastes delicious. Many cream cheese frostings are too soft or easily melty. This go-to recipe is not - it's pipe-able and forms a nice "crust" like a buttercream, and it holds up better for than other recipes I've tried, plus it tastes absolutely divine.
Crusting Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting
Makes about 4-5 cups of frosting
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening (don't be grossed out - you won't notice this with all the butter and cream cheese and it really does help to stabilize the frosting)
16 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (clear vanilla extract if you want your frosting to be really white)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 lbs. confectioners sugar
1-2 tablespoons heavy cream (optional for thinning if needed)
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, add the butter, shortening, cream cheese, and vanilla and mix on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes until blended. Avoid overmixing - cream cheese when whipped too much can get too soft and a little grainy. Add the salt and mix for a few seconds then add confectioners sugar in a cup at a time until it's all incorporated. I realize the amount of confectioners sugar seems like a lot, and it is. I put in 2 pounds then go from there - sometimes I only add in 2 1/2 lbs, sometimes I go all the way up to 3 pounds just depending on the consistency and taste. This is a pretty stiff frosting so if you prefer something a little thinner, whip in a little cream or milk a tablespoon at a time until you get the right consistency. This will generously cover a 2 layer 8 or 9 inch round cake or 24 cupcakes and you'll probably still have some left over.
|All dressed up and ready to go to a party!|