You may remember my day-in-photos post from January when my friends and I had a lovely little Sunday lunch at Philadelphia’s PYT, followed by some hot beverages at the Sweet Spot Cafe we discovered down the street. There, I ooh-ed and aah-ed at all the novel latte creations on their chalkboard, specifically the red velvet latte. I don’t populate many coffee bars, but I had never seen something like that before and desperately wanted a taste. Sweet and creamy with a touch of cocoa. Faaaantastic.
A few weeks later, I was brainstorming cupcake ideas, and thought, ‘I’ve seen vanilla latte and pumpkin spice latte cupcakes before; why couldn’t I try that red velvet latte?’ I couldn’t wait to find some time to try out my new brainchild.
Like my strawberry-lemonade cupcake adventure, my initial attempt at these red velvet latte cupcakes was abysmal. First there was the heavy cream. I accidentally left it off my shopping list and didn’t feel like again braving the cold rain to go back to the store. I googled, “heavy cream substitute,” and was advised by several sites that combining melted butter and milk served as an acceptable alternative. Oh, but they left out that part about how adding cold milk to warm melted butter would just turn the butter back to a solid and create a giant freaking mess. (In retrospect, that was my common sense letting me down — not the websites.) Fortunately, that “cream” was being melted back into a heated mixture that would eventually become an espresso filling for the inside of the cupcakes. Unfortunately, I still needed heavy cream to whip into that mixture to make it, ya know… whipped. What I ended up with was an espresso liquid that I dumped into the center of my cupcakes. It was surprisingly tasty, but made the cupcakes little moist messes. (I literally ate them with a spoon.)
Even with the cream drama, the cupcakes were still on their way to being moderately successful — that is, until I decided the frosting wasn’t ‘espresso-y’ enough. Turns out dumping espresso grounds into frosting makes it sandy. And bitter. And awful. If you didn’t know those were espresso grounds, this cupcake would look like a pretty awesome red velvet Oreo cupcake; but alas, it’s just a partly inedible cupcake doomed by both my temporary lack of common sense and permanent lack of patience.
Later that night, I lent my kitchen to a friend working on a baking project, and watched as she crafted dark chocolate Red Hot espresso cupcakes with espresso mascarpone frosting. (Bit of a mouthful.) When I tasted that frosting, I had an illuminated angels singing sort of moment. She left me with a container of BelGioioso Tiramisu Mascarpone and it saved my little red velvet messes from a premature trip to the trashcan.
You can find my red velvet cupcake recipe here. Once cooled, cut cones out of the center of each cupcake, and keep cutouts off to the side. Do not throw them away because you’ll be capping those babies up after adding the filling.
FOR ESPRESSO FILLING (from dessarts.com)
1 c. heavy cream (no substitutes!!!!)
2 egg yolks
3 tbs. sugar
1-1/2 tsp. instant espresso
Heat 1/2 c. cream, 2 tbs. sugar and espresso in a small pot until boiling. In a separate bowl, whisk together yolks and remaining sugar. Add half of the hot cream mixture to bowl while whisking. Return mixture to pot and bring to a boil, still whisking. Allow to thicken while boiling over several minutes. Strain the mixture into another bowl and allow to cool. Whip the remaining 1/2 c. heavy cream to medium peaks and fold into cooked cream. (Obviously, none of this worked out for me, but you should be fine as long as you don’t take shortcuts on the cream.) Fill cupcakes and return tops.
FOR ESPRESSO MASCARPONE FROSTING (slightly adapted from Taste of Home)
2 tbs. instant espresso powder
1-1/2 tsp. hot water
1-1/2 c. Belgioioso Tiramisu Mascarpone cheese
1 c. powdered sugar
3/4 c. heavy cream
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
In a small bowl, mix espresso powder and water until smooth. In a stand mixer, beat mascarpone cheese, powdered sugar, cream, vanilla and espresso mixture on medium until creamy. Frost cooled cupcakes. Store in a sealed container, and eat within two or three days.
Total time? 35 minutes prep and bake for cupcakes, 25 minutes filling and frosting.
Cost? $2.49 heavy cream, $2 instant espresso, $5 mascarpone
Overall success relative to expectations? 6 out of 10. (3 out of 10 on the first go.) I’ve often discussed my humdrum feelings about red velvet and confusion over its trendiness on this blog, but I wanted something festive for Valentine’s Day, and couldn’t get that Sweet Spot Cafe latte out of my head. A lot of people are averse to coffee-flavored thing — myself often included — so I understand these not being an overall crowdpleaser, but if you have some coffee-addict friends who don’t mind eating cupcakes with a spoon, you know what to do.