Red Velvet–the celebrated cupcake flavor that will likely define you as a baker.  And I say that with reservation, because before I found this recipe, I was never 100% happy with any red velvet cupcake I had baked in the past.  Simply put, there always seemed to be something missing.  That is, until i found this recipe.  This recipe is pure gold.  It’s perfect.  So perfect, my sister had three without frosting.  It’s so wonderfully moist and the flavor was just so distinctively red velvet.

oh-so-perfect crumb

I love this recipe.  I’ve found the one.

Oh! I also want to share this tidbit.  For the most part, I get my vanilla extract from Costco.  You get a huge bottle for about six dollars.  And to be honest, I’ve been happy with the results.  The vanilla is affordable and everything has always been tasty.  One day, I came across of bottle of vanilla from Williams Sonoma–at $20 for about 2/3 of the size.  The kicker? The vanilla extract was loaded with the actual vanilla beans.  I lost all will power.  I bought it…and regretted it the whole way home. $20?!?!  But I have to be honest.  The vanilla has truly made all the difference.  Without a doubt, the Williams Sonoma vanilla was far superior to the Kirkland brand.  It’s so wonderfully fragrant and the vanilla really comes through–even in a cupcake with so many complicated flavors.  While I may not use the WS vanilla in all my baked goods, it will definitely be my go to vanilla for all special baking occasions.

Favorite Red Velvet Cupcakes

makes 24 cupcakes

For the cake:
2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tbsp. cocoa powder (Not dutch-processed)
1 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp. (1 oz.) liquid red food coloring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. distilled white vinegar

For the frosting:
8 oz. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line cupcake pans with paper liners.  In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar.  Beat on medium speed until well blended.  Add in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth.  This will take about 2 minutes–make sure to not over beat mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners.  Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes.  Let cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the frosting, combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat on medium-high speed until well combined and smooth, about 2-3 minutes.  Mix in the vanilla extract.  Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar until totally incorporated, increase the speed and then beat until smooth.  Frost cooled cupcakes as desired.

Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles