The history of red velvet cake is unclear and there are apparently great debates about how this cake started to circulate. The cake started to appear around the 1920's and some claim it was first served at the Waldorf Astoria. The story I heard from my grandmother was quite different than what I've read, so I'll share what my grandmother said about Red Velvet cake. My grandmother's recipe came from her brother and I hear it was the best red velvet cake, although sadly I don't remember ever trying it. She was never able to pass the recipe on to me before she passed and since then I have held off on doing a red velvet cupcake, until I felt I could put my own stamp on it. So back to the story. During WWI things like sugar and chocolate where being rationed. Things like making a chocolate cake became expensive. So less expensive ingredients were put together to make this cake and the recipe circulated. Oil was used instead of butter, because it was less expensive. Beet juice was used to help sweeten the cake which turned it red and very little chocolate was in the recipe. Maybe the vinegar was used to cut the beet juice? Who knows, but that was how my grandmother told the story and it sounds believable enough to me.
I've never had good red velvet cake. I hear it exists, but everything I've tried is either chocolate cake died red, or something that pretty much just tastes like food die. In my recipe, I've added a little new to go with the old. To add a little fun and complexity, I decided to use balsamic vinegar instead of regular or apple cider. Also these are more pinkish than red, any more beet juice and I fear they would be beet cupcakes. I can't tell you if these taste like real red velvet cake or not, because I've never had real red velvet cake, have you?
~32 cupcakes at 350
3/4 cup of vegetable oil
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
6 tablespoons beet juice
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3 3/4 cups flour
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Add you salt in to the egg mix and continue to blend. Alternate adding the flour with the buttermilk until it's all combined. Add vanilla, and then the baking soda and vinegar mix. Continue to mix until all combined.
Measure out in to cupcake liners filling each one 3/4 of the way full.
Cream Cheese Frosting
8oz cream cheese
1 stick butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon vanilla
Let butter and cream cheese sit out for about an hour. You don't want them to get too soft. With your mixer blend the butter and cream cheese together. 1 cup of sugar, the seeds from the vanilla bean, and the vanilla extract and mix until smooth. Add the other cup of sugar and blend until smooth scraping the sides of the bowl at least once.
16 strawberries, sliced in half
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 4oz Ghiradelli 60% dark chocolate bar
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
Break up chocolate and place in a heat safe bowl over a pot of boiling water. Add half the butter and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until chocolate is melted and butter is incorporated. Remove from heat, add the rest of the butter and stir until melted. Add vinegar and stir until smooth. Dip each strawberry in the chocolate and place on parchment paper to dry.
Once cupcakes are cooled, Pipe your frosting on to each cupcake with a #12 round tip. Place each strawberry on top. If you don't let the chocolate dry completely on the strawberry before placing it on top, the chocolate will drip on to the frosting a little bit, which I kinda like.