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Seeing red: Cupcakes are sweet treat for Valentine's Day

Red Velour Cupcakes

My fascination with Red Velvet cake started when I saw the movie "Steel Magnolias." Aficionados of that flick (I have a couple of friends who can recite whole stretches of dialogue) will recall that the groom's cake at Shelby's wedding was Red Velvet made into the shape of a giant armadillo.

Before that, Red Velvet cake wasn't in my consciousness. That's probably because it's considered a Southern thing, although some historical references cite that it was created at New York's famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Somewhere along the line, Southerners claimed it as their own. But Red Velvet has become a trendy thing all over the country in recent years.

What I like most about Red Velvet is its color -- a perfect hue to celebrate Valentine's Day. This recipe came to my desk from the McCormick Kitchens, which featured a variety of takes on Red Velvet -- cupcakes, pancakes, truffles, hot chocolate -- in its pre-Valentine's Day promotions. I tinkered with the cupcake recipe a bit, using my favorite Greek yogurt in lieu of the sour cream and a few other tweaks. So instead of Red Velvet, I'm calling my version Red Velour Cupcakes.

Notes from the kitchen:

* Don't skimp on the food coloring. An entire 1-ounce bottle is necessary to get a satisfactory crimson hue.

* I used Valentine-themed cupcake liners, but they didn't really show up because of the dark color of the cake. A double layer of liners would solve that problem.

* Use an ice cream scoop to fill the muffin tins. It portions out the batter evenly and eliminates some of the mess.

* A pastry bag will make quick work of frosting (and filling, if you choose to do so) the cupcakes. My pastry bag seems to have disappeared into the abyss of our basement storage, so I used a small appetizer knife to swirl the frosting on top.

Red Velour Cupcakes

2½ cups flour

½ cup unsweetened baking cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups white sugar

4 eggs

1 cup Greek yogurt or sour cream

½ cup milk

1 ounce red food coloring

2 teaspoons vanilla

For frosting:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

¼ cup butter, softened

2 tablespoons Greek yogurt or sour cream

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3½ cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare 30 muffin tin cups with paper liners.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Add yogurt, milk, food coloring and vanilla.

Gradually beat in flour mixture until just blended; do not overbeat. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.

Bake 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pans and cool completely.

Meanwhile, prepare frosting by beating cream cheese, butter, yogurt and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually add powdered sugar until smooth. If desired, add a few drops of red or pink food coloring to tint frosting. Chill in refrigerator until cupcakes are cool.

Spread frosting over top of each cupcake and sprinkle with colored sugar or top each with a candy heart.

Variation: Once cool, make an indentation in each cupcake using the handle of a wooden spoon, making sure not to break through bottom of cake. Spoon frosting into a small plastic bag and cut a small piece off one of the corners of the bag. Squeeze about 1 teaspoon frosting into each cupcake. Spread top of cupcakes with remaining frosting.

Daily Globe Features Editor Beth Rickers can be reached at 376-7327.

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at http://lagniappe.areavoices.com/.  

(507) 376-7327
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