Blue Velvet Cupcakes and a Cupcake Menorah for Hanukkah Week from Cleo Coyle
Like red velvet cake, blue velvet carries a wonderful hint of cocoa. This is a beautiful cupcake for birthday parties and baby or wedding showers. Because blue is also the color for Hanukkah, I use this recipe to make a cupcake menorah for Hanukkah Week--and, no, unlike the oil, they do not last eight days! My husband and our friends usually eat them all on the very first night.
Whether you are celebrating Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Yule, I send you the brightest wishes for these cold, dark months...
~ Cleo Coyle
To see the full recipe as a blog post, click here or scroll down. For a free PDF of the cupcake recipe, click here.
Blue Velvet Cupcakes
Blue Buttercream Icing
Makes about 16 cupcakes
Ingredients (See diary-Free option below**)
For the cupcakes:
1 box of white or vanilla cake mix (with pudding in the mix)
4 teaspoons natural, unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use canola)
3 eggs (lightly beaten with a fork)
1 cup whole milk + ¼ cup whole milk (add separately)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1-2 teaspoons Royal Blue food coloring gel or paste (also called Icing Color)
For the basic buttercream frosting
10 tablespoons butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar (aka powdered or icing sugar)
3 tablespoons whole milk (+ maybe a little extra)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Royal Blue food coloring gel paste (also called Icing Color)
*Important Note on the food coloring: Because of the brown cocoa powder in this recipe, your cupcakes will end up turquoise in color (or even greenish) instead of blue if you use the wrong kind of food coloring or the wrong amount. To get the beautiful shade of blue in my photos, be sure you do two things: (1) Do not use water-based food coloring such as McCormick’s brand. Use a gel paste coloring. I used Wilton Royal Blue Icing Color gel paste. Michael’s stores carry it in their baking supplies section, but you can also buy it online; click here to see. (2) My other piece of advice is to use enough of the food coloring. Don’t skimp. Start with 1 full teaspoon, at least. You may need up to another full teaspoon to see your batter turn the shade of blue you like best. (Some bakers add a very small amount of violet gel paste to help achieve a deep, royal blue. Give that a try, if you like, but I did achieve a pretty blue color using only blue gel paste.) **Dairy free option: - Duncan Hines Brand has a dairy-free white cake mix. Learn more by clicking here. Swap in almond milk for the cow's milk and in the frosting use dairy-free margarine instead of butter, and you can eat with dairy-free joy. ~ Cleo
Step 1: First preheat your oven to 325° F. Place the vinegar in a measuring cup and fill to the 1 cup line with whole milk. Set aside for five minutes.
Step 2: Into a large mixing bowl, combine the box of cake mix, cocoa powder, vegetable or canola oil, and eggs. Add the sour milk from Step 1 and an additional ¼ cup whole milk. Beat with an electric mixer for about a minute until a smooth batter forms. (Be sure to scrape down the bowl as you mix.)
Step 3: Measure out 1 teaspoon of the royal blue gel paste and add it to the batter. Mix well and observe the color. You may need to add up to 1 more teaspoon of gel paste to achieve the depth of blue you want.
Step 4: Line cupcake tins with paper liners. Take out the ¼ cup container in your measuring set. Use it to measure out the batter for each cupcake. This will keep the size consistent.
Bake in your preheated 325° F. oven for 20 to 25 minutes (exact time depends on your oven). Cupcakes are done when the top is set and a toothpick inserted into the center of a test cupcake comes out free of wet batter. Transfer pans to a cooling rack and allow the cupcakes to cool in their pans at least five minutes before removing.
Notes for success: Canned icing does not come close to comparing to the wonderful taste of homemade buttercream. It’s easy to make. Just be sure to: (a) Start with softened butter. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to cream it. (b) When adding milk start with the lowest amount possible and add it in very slowly until you achieve a smooth, spreadable icing. If you throw in a large amount of milk, you will end up with watery frosting—at that point, even if you whip more butter into it, the frosting may remain grainy. (Ask me how I know.)
Step 1: Into a mixing bowl, cut the softened butter into pieces. Measure in the vanilla. Using an electric mixer, cream these ingredients until light and fluffy. Stop the mixer.
Step 2: Add in the confectioners’ sugar and 3 tablespoons of milk. (No more!) Beat until the sugar is completely incorporated. If the frosting is still too thick, add in a very small splash of milk and beat again. Add in more milk this way, a little at a time, until you get a smooth consistency that’s easy to spread on your cupcake tops. (Try a test frosting of one cupcake to be sure.)
Step 3: Finally, add a small amount of gel paste coloring to the frosting and beat it again. Add more gel paste to achieve the exact shade of blue that you’d like. My method of adding the gel paste is pretty basic—I dip the tines of a fork into the bottle to scoop out the gel and roughly mix it into the frosting before beating again. Frost your cupcakes and eat with blue velvet joy!