6 Bittersweets' Best Red Velvet Cupcakes

From 6 Bittersweets
Makes 12 cupcakes

XIAOLU’S NOTES: It can be hard to get a strong red color when coloring white frosting. Making the frosting 24 hours ahead of time may help, since the color will darken over time. Do NOT use liquid food coloring since it will add too much moisture to the frosting. The modeling clay recipe below will make more than you'll need. You can store any extra for up to 1 month. If you don’t have buttermilk, you can use the following substitution. For this recipe, use 1 1/2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar with enough milk added to total 1/2 cup PLUS 1 tablespoon. Stir well and let sit for at least 5 minutes before using. Do NOT substitute the cake flour in this recipe.

1 cup (4 oz.) cake flour [stirred, spooned, and leveled to measure]
1/4 cup (1.12 oz.) all purpose flour [stirred, spooned, and leveled to measure]
1 1/2 Tbsp (0.32 oz.) unsweetened natural cocoa powder
Slightly rounded 1/2 tsp baking soda
Scant 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 Tbsp red GEL food coloring [I use Wilton No-Taste but you may need more or less depending on brand]
1/2 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp buttermilk, room temperature
3 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 Tbsp mayonnaise (NOT fat-free or olive oil; low-fat is fine)
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Cream Cheese Frosting (Recipe below)
24 Modeling Chocolate Horns AND 12 Fondant Horned Tails (Recipe below)

If making the devil decorations, remember to make and color your frosting red ahead of time as well as to make the modeling chocolate ahead of time! I recommend making the horns and tails before baking the cupcakes. You can let them sit out to dry slightly as you bake, cool, and frost the cupcakes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease the top of a standard 12-cup muffin pan (in case you get some “muffin top” action). Line pan with 12 baking liners.

Sift the flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar into a large bowl; stir to ensure even distribution and set aside. In a separate bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the melted butter and gel coloring until blended. Then add the buttermilk, oil, mayonnaise, egg, vinegar, and vanilla until well combined. Now add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix until the batter is mostly smooth (no more than 2 minutes and small lumps are fine).

Distribute batter evenly among baking cups, filling each about 2/3 full. When finished, slam the pan evenly and firmly downward from 2 inches above the counter to force out any large bubbles. Bake for 16 to 23 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Remove from oven right away, let cool for 2 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Once cupcakes have cooled completely, use a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip to pipe swirls from the outside edge inward and upward on each cake. Just before serving (condensation may form on the modeling chocolate if stored in a container with the moist/warm cupcakes), insert 2 chocolate horns directly opposite to each other near the top of a cupcake's frosting. Insert the non-pointed end of a chocolate tail at the base of the frosting between the 2 horns. Carefully place the rest of the tail up the side of the frosting, curving it in an "S" shape. Press the tail, including the point, gently into the frosting to secure it. Now you're looking at a devilish "behind." Add tails to all the other little devil-cakes in the same way. By now I just know you'll be feeling a little sinful. Go ahead...give in to it and take a bite...I won't tell =p.

Pipeable and Not-too-sweet Cream Cheese Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Red gel/paste/powdered food coloring, as much as needed to reach desired shade
8 oz. (1 block) cream cheese, cold and cut into 6 to 8 chunks

Sift powdered sugar into a small bowl. [If using powdered food coloring, sift a small amount in with the powdered sugar.] In a larger mixing bowl, cream the butter, 1 1/2 cups of powdered sugar, vanilla, and a few drops of food coloring until thoroughly blended and fluffy. Add more food coloring, if needed, until you reach something close to the shade you want. Add the cream cheese, a chunk at a time, beating after each addition (just enough to work it in until it’s smooth). If needed, add more powdered or gel food coloring until the desired shade is achieved. Be careful to avoid overbeating or the cream cheese may start to break down and become gloppy. Chill for 24 hours (ideally) to allow the red color to deepen. Then beat again until smooth just before using.

Modeling Chocolate Devil Horns and Tail
Chocolate adapted from Cake Central

10 oz. semisweet chocolate (coarsely chopped chunks or chips)
1/3 cup light corn syrup
Black gel or paste food coloring, as needed

Making the modeling chocolate:
In a shallow bowl, melt the chocolate in microwave (be careful so that the temperature does not exceed 100 degrees F) for 2 minutes; stir. If chocolate is not completely melted, return to microwave for 30 seconds at a time and stir until smooth. Add corn syrup to the chocolate and mix well (scrape all the corn syrup into the chocolate with a rubber spatula). Using a rubber spatula, stir and fold mixture, scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl well, until no shiny syrup is visible and the mixture forms a thick ball. Pour mixture onto a large sheet of wax or parchment paper and spread with the spatula until it’s about 1/2-inch thick; let it sit and stiffen, uncovered, for about 2 hours. After that, knead black food coloring into the modeling chocolate 1 to 2 drops at a time until you get the desired shade. Use at once or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.

Shaping the horns: 
Make 24 balls about 1/2 inch across with the modeling chocolate. Flatten one side of each ball against your working surface. Use your index fingers to roll the other end down to a point. Smooth and flatten the the chocolate, curving the points to one side until it looks like a horn. Set the finished horn down on its flattened end, and repeat until you have made 24 horns.

Shaping the pointed tails: 
Roll modeling chocolate into 12 ropes about 2 1/2 inches long and 1/6-inch thick each; set aside. Shape 12 small pieces of modeling chocolate into flat triangles that are each about 1/8 inch thick and and 1/2 inch on all 3 sides. Join each triangle to one of the ropes made earlier by pressing one end of the rope into a triangle.