While many tourists seek out New York’s Magnolia Bakery like fanatics on a mission, we actually stumbled upon it on our first trip to Manhattan by pure accident.
Staying in Greenwich Village meant we were within easy reach of Bleecker Street, a street immortalised in film, music and literature for its Boho past and colourful present. The street is also home to many cafés, bars and boutiques – including my much-loved Marc by Marc Jacobs specialty store.
While I busied myself with bargains inside the store, Mr. Taste wandered outside and noticed a suspiciously long line leading into a bakery next door. Curious, Mr. Taste struck up conversation with a friendly New Yorker and asked him what he was lining up for. The guy stared at him blankly and said, “Only the best cupcakes in the world!”
With a rave like that, Mr. Taste couldn’t help but join the line and find out what all the fuss was about.
As I walked out of Marc by Marc Jacobs with three shopping bags in tow, I spotted Mr. Taste sitting in the park across the street holding a white pastry box. Inside were four gorgeous little cakes, all smeared with soft buttercream icing. Taking a bite of each, the standout favourite was the red velvet cupcake. Not quite chocolate and tastier than vanilla, the cake was beautifully rich, creamy and sweet all at the same time.
The possibility of recreating the cupcake at home with the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook was too good a temptation to resist. While the original recipe called for vanilla buttercream frosting, I wanted to try something different with a cream cheese frosting adapted from Pinch My Salt. I’m pleased to say that the combination works well – the richness of the cake blends beautifully with the creamy tangy sweetness of the frosting.
Magnolia Red Velvet Cupcakes (yields 24 cupcakes)
3 ¼ cups of plain flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tbsp red food coloring
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups organic full cream milk
1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
Preheat oven to 175°C. Grease and lightly flour 2 cupcake pans.
In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food colouring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the milk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing.
Cream Cheese Frosting
300g cream cheese (spreadable cream cheese or mascarpone are both fine)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
With an electric mixer, blend together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Pour in powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract. Turn mixer on high and beat until light and fluffy. Fill a piping bag with the icing and spread over cakes. Big and swirly is the key!