Red Velvet Baseballs … YUM!

Opening day is coming up quickly! On Thursday, March 31, thousands will flock to Kiener Plaza in downtown St. Louis to cheer in a new baseball season, to cheer on the St. Louis Cardinals, and to cheer about being part of Cardinal Nation. The party will continue at Busch Stadium when the first pitch is fired across the plate at 3:15.

Many of us, however, won’t be able to break away from our usual routines. Kids have school; adults have work. We all have things to accomplish and “middaycations”* can be tough to justify.

That’s why I’m delighted to share with you my recipe for Red Velvet Cake, which when made into cupcakes can add a dash of Cardinal spirit to any lunch box or office break room. The bright red cake and rich cream cheese icing – red and white to show Cardinal spirit – will be a home run with your kids and colleagues alike.

The cake really is a vibrant red!

The Red Velvet Cake & Icing recipe that follows was one that a neighbor shared with my mom, Gwen, when we lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming, circa 1975. It’s been my favorite since I was little, and I was always impressed that my mom made the whole thing from scratch.

This is the first cake – actually, it was the first anything – I ever made from scratch. And I messed it up. After three frustrating hours and loads of huffing and puffing, I couldn’t understand why the cake wouldn’t bake. I showed my step-mom, Kathy, the instructions. She patiently read over the recipe and gingerly suggested that I’d baked the frosting in the cake.

That was the night I learned how to read a recipe carefully. Thank goodness for the 24-hour Stop & Shop in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. I repurchased my ingredients and started all over. (I had volunteered to bring in a cake for a coworker’s baby shower, and I couldn’t show up empty handed.)

Regardless of how I flubbed my first attempt at this recipe**, it is an easy one. I’ve restructured it a bit and added in some helpful hints I’ve picked up along the way.

So, let’s get started!

Red Velvet Cake
2 cups Sugar
2 cups Vegetable Oil
2 large Eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1-ounce bottle of red food color
1 teaspoon distilled vinegar
2 ½ cups flour
2 teaspoons cocoa
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
Parchment Paper (cake) / Cupcake liners

(Hint #1: Bring your eggs and buttermilk to room temperature before you begin mixing. It will help your batter bake evenly.)

• Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
• In a large bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla. Mix well.
• In a small bowl, stir (carefully) the red food coloring and vinegar together. Add this to the sugar-oil mixture and mix well. The color is gorgeous!
• Sift the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda (dry ingredients) together. (Hint #2: Don’t skip this step. Sifting helps to make sure the cocoa doesn’t clump and it gives a nice lightness to the cake.)
• Add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk – alternately – to the sugar-oil mix. Always begin and end with the dry ingredients.

If making as cupcakes:

• Line traditional-sized cupcake tins with cupcake liners. (Hint #3: Spray even non-stick tins with a quick shot of PAM across the top. This will assure easy release if your cupcake crowns are large.)
• Fill with a ¼-cup of batter.
• Bake for 20 – 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. (In my oven, they take 25 minutes.)
• You will get approximately 2 dozen cupcakes.
• Frost when cool.

If making as a cake:

• Grease and flour (even non-stick) three 9-inch cake pans.
• Line each pan with parchment paper to assure gorgeously flat cake bottoms. (It makes release from the pan and frosting easier!)
• Divide batter evenly among the pans.
• Bake for between 20 – 30 minutes.
• Cool pans on wire racks for 10 minutes. Turn cakes out onto wire racks and continue to cool.
• When completely cool, peel back the parchment paper.
• Assemble and frost.

Cream Cheese Icing
1 box powdered sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 8-ounce bar of cream cheese, room temp
1 teaspoon vanilla
Blend together until creamy and soft. (For Valentine’s Day, I add 2 drops of red food color to color the frosting pink.)

For the cupcakes as shown, I first frosted the cupcakes with the white cream cheese icing. I added several drops of red food color to the icing that remained and piped the baseball seams and the St. Louis logo on the tops of the cupcakes with the narrowest frosting tip I have. (Because of the amount of food color it required to make the icing red, I discovered that I needed to refrigerate the red icing for approximately 5 minutes before I began piping.)

Red Velvet has always been a crowd pleaser, and I’m happy to share the love. Enjoy the recipe, bake for your team, and Eat It, St. Louis!

I couldn’t do this without my team:

Big thanks – and mad props – go out to Jennifer Buckman, the wife of a high-school friend. When she heard, via Facebook, that I was intimidated to pipe frosting for the first time, she generously offered to talk me through it over the phone. Her tips – apply even, steady pressure; use room-temp frosting; and keep on trying – were exactly the encouraging words I needed.

I should also mention that Jennifer and I have never met face-to-face. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve run into her husband, Jon, since we graduated from high school. But through our shared love of baking, we have connected. Food brings friends – old and new – together.

Big love to my husband, Mark, for his photography! xo

*Middaycations = vacations in the middle of the day. Yeah, I made up a word. Should I call the OED?

** I still use the recipe that Mom typed out and sent me so many years ago. There is something very special about the legacy of the slips of paper that fill my recipe box. I’ve been collecting personal recipes from my family and friends for years. No matter what, they are always with me when I’m in the kitchen.

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