Red Velvet Brain Cupcakes

Happy Halloween everyone!  We’ll get to the creepy (and maybe somewhat gross?) treat I made in a moment, but first I wanted to tell you about the exciting day I had on Friday.

Barefoot Contessa Signing

Shane’s mom and I got on the road bright and early to make our way to a local Williams-Sonoma store where Ina Garten was signing copies of her new book!  We knew the crowd would probably be huge so we got there about 2 hours early, and surprisingly, the line wasn’t that big yet.  We were probably about 200th at that point.  As the hour of the signing approached, though, the line got longer and longer and longer.

Barefoot Contessa Signing

To expedite things we were warned by several employees that Ina wouldn’t be able to personalize books nor would she be posing for photos.  As books were being signed, an employee took your camera and snapped a few shots and unfortunately, none of mine turned out great but still, the 3 hours we waited were more than worth it for the opportunity to meet the Barefoot Contessa.  Even though they were trying to move things along, Ina looked up at each and every person, smiled warmly and said hello.  She even thanked me for waiting in such a long line to see her.  I don’t think there’s another tv personality I’d have been so eager to stand in line for, but I had no problem doing it for Ina.  I absolutely love her show, her recipes and her approach to cooking.     

Barefoot Contessa Signing

Barefoot Contessa Signing

I’m eager to begin making my way through her new book, which focuses on creating dishes that are elegant enough to serve when you entertain, yet still relatively simple, without long ingredients lists or time consuming cooking methods.  I’ve been flagging a lot of the recipes, including this one for red velvet cupcakes which I’m excited to share today. 

Barefoot Contessa Signing

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I’ve wanted to try making these brain cupcakes on Halloween for the past 2 years but I always chicken out.  This year I wasn’t going to let it happen.  Hopefully Ina won’t mind that I used her red velvet cupcake as the base for my brains :)  The cupcakes come together easily, a pretty standard red velvet recipe utilizing cocoa powder as well as red food coloring.  I’ve noted this below as well, but Ina makes giant cupcakes.  I filled the tins almost completely (versus the 3/4 I would typically do) in order to match the yield the recipe indicates.  On the plus side, the cupcakes do bake up instead of spreading a ton, though next time I make them I’ll spray the top of the muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray as I did have to pry them off a bit. 

Red Velvet Cupcakes

I had some cream cheese frosting in the freezer already (my current favorite from Martha Stewart, recipe here) which I used so I didn’t try Ina’s recipe this time, though I’m sure it won’t be long before I do.  The process of coloring the frosting was purely a case of trial and error.  I started with red gel coloring and a bit of brown.  It still looked bright red to me so I added blue until it was more purplish and was a closer approximation to the color I guess brains might be.  Then I piped it on in a squiggly pattern, attempting to dome the frosting in a brain shape. 

Red Velvet Brain Cupcakes

We brought the brain cupcakes to our friends’ house this evening where we’re watching the Patriots game and handing out candy to trick or treaters.  Everyone’s tried a cupcake and they’ve received rave reviews all around.  The cupcake itself is moist and light with almost a springy (in a good way) texture.  This cream cheese frosting is to die for, and complemented the cupcakes perfectly.  There probably aren’t too many circumstances in which it’s acceptable to make brain cupcakes, but I think these are the perfect creepy Halloween treat!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That, by Ina Garten

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder,
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Line 2 muffin tins with paper liners (the recipe makes approx 15 large cupcakes, more if you make them smaller).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Whisk the buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar and vanilla in a 2-cup measuring cup.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute, until light.  One at a time, add the eggs, beating well after each addition.  With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and wet ingredients to the bowl, beginning and and ending with the dry ingredients (so, dry, wet, dry, wet, dry).  Beat just until everything is combined.

Divide the batter evenly among the prepared liners.  (Note: Ina makes really big cupcakes – using a 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop to divide the batter, almost completely filling the cups.  You could definitely make them smaller, but I’d start checking around 20 minutes in the oven if you do.)  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Makes 15 large cupcakes