Recipe: Red Velvet Cupcakes

You're not going to believe this recipe. It was shared with me years ago by a friend of mine who is a baking fanatic, and I've been hooked ever since. You will most definitely want to make a batch of these cupcakes for Valentine's Day. And then you will want to make another batch on President's Day. And then you will want to make another batch on Tuesday because, at that point, you will be officially addicted. If you've always liked red velvet cupcakes, you're about to fall in love. If you haven't cared for red velvet cupcakes in the past, this recipe is guaranteed to change your mind. The texture is so rich and velvety; the frosting is so fluffy, and the coconut adds that little sumpin'-sumpin' that keeps you begging for more. I couldn't decide if I wanted to use regular shredded coconut or toasted coconut as a topping, so I tried both and had one of each. (I love being impartial!) You'll have to decide for yourself. Red Velvet Cupcakes 1 cup shortening 1 1/2 cups sugar (minus 2 tablespoons) 2 eggs 2 tablespoons cocoa 1 oz. red food coloring 1 oz. water (use the empty food coloring bottle to measure) 1 teaspoon salt 2 1/2 cups cake flour 1 cup + 1 1/2 tablespoons buttermilk 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 1 tablespoon vinegar Directions Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small dish, mix a paste of the cocoa, food coloring, and water. Once it is well combined, add it to the creamed mixture, followed by the salt. Alternate adding the flour and the buttermilk to the mixture, beginning and ending with the flour. Add vanilla and mix well. In a small, separate bowl, mix the soda and vinegar together. Add the soda/vinegar mix to the cake batter and gently fold it into the batter with a spoon or spatula, but do not beat with a mixer. Pour batter in prepared cupcake liners, 2/3 full and bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. For 9" layer cake tins, divide the batter evenly between pans and bake for 35-45 minutes. Frosting 5 tablespoons flour 1 cup whole milk 1 cup butter (room temperature) 1 cup sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla Directions Mix flour and milk together in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk, until a thick paste forms. Cool mixture completely (you can use the fridge or freezer to speed it up). Cream butter at high speed until it is light and creamy. Add the sugar and blend until fluffy. Take a generous scoop of the sugar/butter mixture and add it to the cooled flour/milk mixture and blend it well. Add all of the flour/milk mixture to the sugar/butter mixture and beat until fluffy and light. Finally, add vanilla and mix well. Toasted Coconut Topping 1-2 cups shredded, sweetened coconut Set your oven to broil and spread a fine layer of coconut on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the oven and attend it closely. Once you begin to see it browning, use a long spoon or spatula to stir the coconut to ensure more even toasting. When 2/3 of the coconut has reached a golden-brown color, remove the cookie sheet from the oven and allow it to cool. Frost cupcakes with a generous portion of frosting and then dip them in a layer of coconut. People, prepare to fall in love.
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