Monday, 14 February 2011

Elevenses | Red Velvet Cupcakes

Call me unromantic but I don't really celebrate Valentine's Day. Is it a bit bah humbug to think you should try and be sporadically romantic throughout the year rather than on a prescribed day in February? Mind you it doesn't mean I have anything against those of you who have indulged in the hearts and flowers today, and I most certainly don't mind when a lovely friend decides to bake K & I a half dozen of the scrummiest red velvet cupcakes as a Valentine's Day surprise.

I have been fascinated with red velvet cake ever since, as a teenager, I watched wide-eyed as Shirley MacLaine cut into a bizarrely grey armadillo-shaped cake in the film Steel Magnolias to reveal its garish ruby interior. I immediately started flicking through my mum's trusty Good Housekeeping cookery book searching for a recipe so I could get an idea of the flavours involved - no luck. Back then there were no handy cupcake shops to sate my curiosity, unlike now.

I particularly love the cocoa and vanilla undertones of red velvet combined with the coolness of the cream cheese frosting which helps cut through the sweetness. Twice I've tried to make red velvet cake and twice I've failed. There are some things I will happily hold my hands up to and admit defeat and this is one of them. Luckily I have a friend TJ who is a stellar baker and knows my weakness for the 'red cake'. He remains coy about revealing his wonderful recipe (only saying buttermilk is the key to its incredible moistness) and quite frankly I don't want him to. I've simply demanded he either open a cupcake stall or put me down for a monthly standing order of his red velvets so I can get a regular fix.

In the meantime it's easy to hotfoot it down to one of the many cupcakeries dotted around London and pick one up to snaffle for elevenses while conveniently forgetting how much red food colouring it really takes to achieve that scarlet crumb. The quality of the red velvet has pretty much become the deciding factor as to whether I duck into a cupcake shop/concession or not. I've had plenty of not-bads: Lola's Cupcakes; Ella's bakehouse; The Cupcake Company; Bea's of Bloomsbury but so far the Hummingbird Bakery are my go-to guys in London along with the Magnolia Bakery or Cake Man Raven when in New York. By no means an extensive survey I grant you so I would love to know of any new places you think I should try. The quest continues...

[Special thanks to my nephew Adam for kindly allowing me the use of his mini 'Thomas' fork - the ideal implement for eating several red velvet cupcakes]


  1. Those cupcakes look divine! I'm not much of one to celebrate Valentine's Day either. Who needs only one day a year to show how they feel?

    Have a fabulous week, Trudi!

  2. What a striking introductory picture!! My mouth waters at the sight of those precious red crumbs!!! If only the ability to grab the photo out of the laptop screen itself so as to take a bite had been invented ... one can but dream!

    It's true!! TJ is an amazingly talented cake maker!!! The first time I ever tried Red Velvet Cake was actually when TJ made my sons 1st birthday cake. Three large cakes carefully balanced atop each other to make one tasty tower of heaven.

    I vaguely remember watching "Steel Magnolias" as a little girl but it was such a long time ago, I can hardly recall what it was about so I'll definitely have to watch that this week if only to catch a glimpse of said 'Armadillo Cake' (haha how strange)!!

  3. I've never tried Red Velvet Cakes before. I'm gonna head down to Hummingbird bakery to try one!

    Happy Valentines Day!

  4. oh those pictures of that red velvet cupcake look divine! i love them :)

    Valentine's day for me is just a fun excuse to send all of my lovely friends cute homemade valentines and baked goodies.. and then go out to dinner with them and indulge - food, gossip, wine.. it's just lovely! :) and my husband doesn't mind :)

    Happy Valentine's day

  5. Vanessa Elizabeth: Thank you! Have a wonderful week too.

    Mlle DeeDee: Yep TJ rocks, and I highly recommend you re-watch Steel Magnolias it's still a fab chick flick.

    Anonymous: Hope you had a Happy Valentine's too. Be warned those red velvets are highly addictive ;o)

    Thu: Your friends are very lucky to be on the receiving end of such loveliness, and what a nice way to spend the evening.

  6. Ah, the hummingbird bakery, I remember that place! Worked in London a while back and was amazed at how many cupcakes were on offer. Then I spent 3 months working for a friend who made cupcakes for some markets in Ireland. I learnt the secrets of an expert icer...

  7. the good soup: Now you're talking...'secrets of an expert icer'! Surely something you have to share over on your blog?

    {lovely little things}: I couldn't agree more.

    Victoria: They tasted as amazing as they looked.


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