Seeing red and white on your birthday: A Sprinkle in Time

Posted by Katie Lane

You should come over to my house. You should sit on my couch. You should look down at the coffee table and start drooling. Because that's basically what we do over here.

Why? I own some pretty sweet cookbooks completely devoted to cupcakes.

There is something about a stack of books filled with nothing but tiny, delicious, personal-sized cakes that just gets those salivary glands working.

Needless to say, it became a weekly habit for my housemates to peruse these books, neglecting their French homework and business projects to choose the cupcake I should bake that week.

About a month ago, my friend Elaine came to my door and peeked her head in.

She declared that she had chosen what I would be baking for her birthday: Red Velvet Cupcakes.

My little ears perked up because I had never made them before and we all know I love a good adventure in the kitchen!

So Nov. 12 found me in the kitchen at 8 a.m. elbow deep in red food coloring, trying to create the perfect red velvet cupcake. Just a few hours later, after I had finished scrubbing the last of said food coloring off the counter and picking up all the sprinkles from the floor, I had these little treats ready to go!

Here's an interesting little fact: red velvet cupcakes traditionally got their color not from food coloring, but from the reaction of acidic vinegar and buttermilk with the red anthocyanin in the cocoa.

The "Dutch Processed" cocoa we use today is more alkaline, so that red color isn't quite as prominent.

There are endless variations of red velvet cake, with varying amounts of food coloring, cocoa, buttermilk and/or vinegar.

It all depends on whether you are going for a sexy valentines-day-don't-you-want-me sultry deep red or a HAPPY-BIRTHDAY-ELAINE-BURNS bright and cheerful red.

Okay. Science lesson over (thanks Wikipedia)!

Let's all sing a round of Happy Birthday and wait for the birthday girl to take the first bite.

Katie Lane is a senior, amateur baker and blogger. If you try this recipe please let her know at

Birthday Girl Red Velvet Cupcakes


•2 cups all-purpose flour

•2 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder

•3 teaspoons baking powder

•¼ teaspoon salt

•10 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

•1 cup sugar

•2 large eggs

•1 teaspoon vanilla extract

•scant 1 cup milk

•1 Tablespoon red food coloring (I like to use no-taste gel food coloring)

•8 oz cream cheese (room temp)

•¾ cup unsalted butter (room temp)

•4 cups powdered Sugar

•1 tsp vanilla extract


Put a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute in between each addition. Beat in vanilla. On low speed, add flour mixture alternately with the milk and red dye in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beating until just incorporated.

Bake at 350? for 15-18 minutes, or until the cakes a pick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes then remove cupcakes from muffin tin and let cool on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese in a bowl until it become fluffy. Beat in butter until combined, and then add vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Decorate cupcakes when cool!

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