Velvet Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

From 6 Bittersweets
Loosely adapted from Cakeman Raven, Joy the Baker, and Martha Stewart
Makes 12 to 14 cupcakes

XIAOLU’S NOTES: It’s my personal decision to avoid this large an amount of food coloring, but you should feel free to make these red if you’d like. To do that, add 1 tablespoon of liquid red food coloring to the batter with the liquid ingredients. Speaking of buttermilk, I love its favor but rarely have it on hand, so I often use the following substitution. For 1/2 cup of buttermilk substitute, use 1 1/2 teaspoons of white or cider vinegar and add enough milk to make 1/2 cup total. Stir well and let sit for at least 5 minutes before using. While delicious, the cinnamon frosting actually overshadowed the cupcake a bit for me and reminded me more of a carrot cake, so I'm leaving the spice optional in the recipe.

1 cup MINUS 1 Tbsp all purpose flour [stirred, spooned, and leveled to measure]
2 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp PLUS 1 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp sugar
6 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp distilled white or apple cider vinegar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Cinnamon Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting (Recipe Below)
12 chocolate-covered raisins, to garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a standard muffin pan with 12 baking liners [with 2 standalone baking cups OR another pan and 2 baking liners ready just in case].

Sift the flour, cornstarch, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar into a large bowl; set aside. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the oil, butter, buttermilk, applesauce, egg, yolk, vinegar, and vanilla until well combined. Then add the wet ingredients to to the dry, and gently fold them together, mixing just until combined and the batter has no large lumps (tiny lumps are fine).

Distribute batter evenly among baking cups, filling each about 2/3 full. When finished, slam the whole pan firmly downward from 1 to 2 inches above the counter to remove any large air bubbles. Bake for 16 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool for 5 minutes, then transfer cupcakes to a wire rack to finish cooling. Once cupcakes have cooled completely, pipe or spread on frosting. Top with chocolate-covered raisins if using and enjoy with friends!

Cinnamon Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting
5 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup (10 oz.) cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Sift powdered sugar and cinnamon into a medium bowl; set aside.

Place butter and cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium-high speed until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar mixture at a time, mixing until evenly combined between each addition. Before adding the last portion of sugar, scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl to ensure even mixing. Finally add vanilla, then beat on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes until smooth and fluffy.