The Luck of the Irish

Green Velvet Cupcakes

I have been keeping a long list of things I should write about but nothing has sent me back to this blog until a baking experiment this week. I watch The Great British Bake-Off the second a new season is available on Netflix. The combination of Britishness, tea and the fact that these “competitors” are willing to help their fellow contestants whenever they need help make this a refreshing, and delicious, show to dig into. It also usually inspires me to attempt baking again. But, lacking a new season, another event inspired me. I was invited to a wine & dine with a St. Patrick’s Day theme. I chose to tackle Green Velvet Cupcakes and it’s the first thing I’ve cooked or baked in a long time that really made me feel like I’d made something delicious worth sharing.

I was expecting this recipe to just be red velvet cake but green. I was happy to find myself surprised. I’m not actually a big fan of red velvet cake. The idea always appeals more than the cake itself and I usually end up just eating as much of the cream cheese frosting around the cake itself as I can. So, green velvet cake was a pleasant surprise. It is tasty; nice and springy with a hint of chocolate. Plus, it’s green. Not a vivid green; more like a spring green. Novel enough to please but not so green I thought was I eating something alien.

The frosting though…that is what I am most proud of. I think it’s a type of buttercream frosting or at least that is what I’m calling it. I think I might be most proud of the fact I managed to make it without a stand mixer or killing my arm. Standing and running a hand mixer for 12 minutes doesn’t sound like a workout but it. is. This frosting is delicious (and so pretty). Nice and light with the right hint of sugar and vanilla but not feeling like I’m getting cavities by eating it (in fact, eating it with a spoon may have been something I did…without feeling sick afterwards. More like I’d ate whipped cream with a bit more oomph).

Yum! A bowl full of frosting.

Plus, it was just so nice to make something I liked again! I’ve enjoyed the few dishes I’ve made lately but nothing I felt like bragging about or sharing. It’s all been kind of…eh. Was this complicated and difficult to make? Yes but totally worth it. It tasted better than anything I’ve made in a long time. Happy St. Pat’s Day everyone from someone who was lucky enough to find some fun in the kitchen again this weekend.

Green Velvet Cupcakes
(can also be used to make a layer cake; I did cupcakes since I didn’t have the right pans to try a layered cake – maybe next challenge!)

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1 1/4 cups buttermilk, well shaken
1 tablespoon green liquid food coloring
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Pinch fine salt
Green liquid or gel food coloring, optional
Green candies and sanding sugar for decorating, optional

1) For the cupcakes: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. BPut cupcake liners in the pan and set. aside.
2) Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
3) Whisk the buttermilk, food coloring and vanilla in a spouted measuring cup; set aside.
4) Beat the granulated sugar and butter in a stand mixer (or a large bowl if using a hand mixer) on medium speed until very light in color and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
5) With the mixer still running, slowly add the eggs and beat until fully incorporated. Reduce the mixer speed to the lowest speed; with it running, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then 1/2 of the buttermilk mixture, then 1/2 of the remaining flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk mixture, then the remaining flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and beat until well mixed.
6) Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins. Bake until slightly puffed and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool entirely before frosting.

For the Frosting:
1) Put the flour in a small saucepan. Vigorously whisk in about 1/2 cup of the milk, making sure to get the whisk into the edges of the pan, until you have a smooth, thick paste. (This step keeps the flour from clumping.) Slowly whisk in the remaining milk until fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth.
2) Cook over medium heat, whisking continuously, until the mixture is very thick, about 5 minutes. (Toward the end of the process, the mixture will become a thick paste; it may seem to be forming lumps, but whisk vigorously and the lumps will disappear.)
3) Scrape the frosting into a bowl, press plastic wrap onto the surface and refrigerate until cool, about 45 minutes.
4) Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), beat the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
5) Add the cooled flour mixture a tablespoon at a time and beat until smooth.
6) Switch to the whisk attachment (or continue with the hand mixer), add the vanilla, salt and 3 to 5 drops food coloring if using and whip until very light and fluffy, like thick whipped cream, up to 10 minutes with a stand mixer or 12 minutes with a hand mixer.
7) Frost and decorate the cupcakes (be generous with the frosting!)

To assemble (if making a layer cake):
1) Place one layer on a cake plate, spread frosting on top and repeat with the 2 remaining layers.
3) Frost the sides and decorate with candies and sanding sugar if using.

Cook’s Note
This recipe can instead be baked in three 8-inch layers or two 9-inch layers.

[Thanks to my P.E.O. sister Sue Colombo for the recipe which I believe came from the Food Network originally!]