The past several days have been a real doozy in the wedding department. Here we are, just shy of fifty days until the day, and everything has been a scrambled mess. My Mom hosted a bridal shower for me last weekend, and it was mostly ladylike, save for the end where my Aunt Trish read back all my reactions to the gifts in a sultry 1-900 voice, promising me that it would be a preview of our honeymoon.
Then I convinced a handful of girls to help me stuff and address the wedding invitations, which seemed like a good way to get a lot done in a short amount of time, so you can imagine my displeasure when several guests called saying their envelopes were completely empty. Empty. No response card, no directions, no dates, no nothing. I was one unhappy bride. Let this serve as a warning to you - do not give your bridesmaids wine while they write the invitations or sweet Aunt Margaret won't ever make it to your wedding. I don't even have an Aunt Margaret, but that's not the point.
So now that my dress is hanging in the to-be-tweaked line-up in the alterations department of my bridal salon, I felt confident to stuff myself at the tasting for our reception dinner, you know - since my dress was being let out just a touch in the hips, I may as well indulge a bit. So I pushed three kinds of potatoes, green beans two ways, prime rib, crab cakes, bacon wrapped asparagus and every other type of belly-filling food down my hatch until I felt I might explode. Justin and I swung by the jeweler, picked out a ring for him, and headed home to sleep off the unholy amount of food we'd just ingested. Well, almost.
Around two in the morning, I had a dream that a wedding guest called and told me they were bringing four extra people than were invited and I had such a fit of anxiety that I ran to the bathroom where I spent fifteen minutes reviewing everything I'd eaten for dinner over the porcelain goddess. It wasn't pretty.
So I thought a little baking might do my heart some good, to think about something unrelated to the wedding. Well, judging by the rest of the week, I was foolish to think it would go smoothly. These cupcakes were a tease - the picture boasts a moist, smooth crumbed cupcake with a white cap of smooth frosting smeared across the top, but what I actually got was a cupcake so frail, so delicate, that they crumbled to bits when removed from the pan. The few that did survive were nearly decapitated - their lids clinging for dear life to the cupcake stump. So, why am I even bothering to share this recipe with you? Well, for the sake of the frosting, of course. This frosting is absolutely delicious - it is an old-fashioned milk buttercream, made by cooking a bit of flour with milk on the stove top before combining it with granulated sugar and butter. It sounds a bit strange, but for your efforts and skepticism, you'll be rewarded with a smooth, creamy, light-on-the-tongue frosting slicked across each cupcake. And really, if you want to lean over the sink and eat these in clumps held together only by that blessed frosting, I won't tell anyone. It's been a long week.
This book has a plethora of charming and historic cake recipes, but the instructions irritate me more often than not. Like his insistence on setting the oven to 335 degrees F instead of 325 or 350, and for those of us who have a dial and not a digital temperature setting, it's crap near impossible to find 335. Or the fact that each recipe calls for "superfine sugar" instead of just regular sugar. C'mon Warren, let's try and be a little flexible, okay?
Red Velvet Cupcakes
Adapted from The United Cakes of America
2 1/4 cups cake flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 ounce red food dye (the gel works best)
Preheat the oven to 335 or 325 if you're on a dial setting. Line two 12-cup muffin pans with paper liners.
Measure the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients into separate bowls. Whisk each to combine.
Measure the butter and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream together on low speed for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar. Beat in the dye.
Alternately add the dry and wet ingredients until they are just mixed into the batter. Scoop the batter into the muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool in the tins for about 5 minutes before turning them out to cool completely on a wire rack (good luck with that).
Old Fashioned Milk Buttercream
1 cup milk
1/4 cup all purpose flour
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and cubed
1 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the flour and 1/4 cup of the milk until it forms a smooth paste. Whisk in the remaining milk and cook for 3-5 minutes, whisking constantly, until the paste thickens quite a bit. (The original directions say to simmer for 30 seconds, but I found the paste thickened so much it was difficult to see a "simmer" unless I stopped whisking. I've made a similar frosting before and I followed the directions for that instead.)
Remove the pan from the heat and pour the mixture into a shallow bowl, cover it with plastic wrap pressed to the surface to prevent a skin from forming, and allow it to cool to room temperature.
Combine the butter, sugar, salt and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream them together at high speed for 5 minutes. Add the cooled flour mixture and beat for another 5-7 minutes or until it is a smooth and creamy consistency.
Spread it onto the cupcakes, or any other cupcake that doesn't cause you emotional distress, and decorate with sprinkles.