It’s Freshers’ Fair again and the Food Appreciation Society hopes to attract even more members than last year’s impressive 550. Even though I no longer have any formal ties to this illustrious establishment, I enjoy baking the treats to attract freshers to our stall.

L and I had a very fun (if a tad stressful – mini cupcakes are devils in disguise) afternoon making chocolate covered cornflakes and mini red velvet cupcakes to give away tomorrow. L has recently discovered that he can actually cook and I’m very keen to encourage this. He did an excellent job of melting the chocolate and butter and then mixing the cornflakes in without grinding them to dust.

The red velvets were slightly trickier…

I call them ‘faux’ red velvets because the cake mix simply doesn’t have the traditional ingredients. Firstly, I find buttermilk to be a very awkward ingredient because you can use it for red velvet cake and muffins, but not much else, as far as I’m concerned. Furthermore, I never bother with the vinegar step. I’m sure it’s very important for the puritans and I have had its benefits explained to me, but I’m just not sold. My philosophy in baking has always been: if it tastes good, it is good. I came up with this recipe by thinking about what a red velvet cake is. Essentially, it’s a devil’s food cake coloured red. A devil’s food cake is a chocolate cake, therefore, if I made chocolate cupcakes and coloured them red, they would look like red velvets. Admittedly, it doesn’t have quite the same taste as a real red velvet, but it’s pretty close and would certainly fool anyone just looking at it.

A word of warning, before I impart the recipe – only make mini cupcakes if you have some or all of the following:
1) 3-4 cupcake trays with 12 cups
2) Baking beans
3) A lot of patience
I only had two cupcake trays suitable for the job and not a lot of patience. Hence, there were some frustrating moments when my mini cupcake cases were not behaving and several were wasted as cake batter had to be scraped off them.

Faux Red Velvet Mini Cupcakes:
100g self-raising flour
40g butter
2 tbsps cocoa powder
150g caster sugar
120ml milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2.5 tbsps red food colouring

Makes about 12 normal sized cupcakes and 40-50 mini cupcakes.
Pre-heat oven to 170C.

1) Cream the butter and the sugar with a wooden spoon. Then add the cocoa powder and mix it in until it looks like the base of a chocolate fridge cake. Gradually add the flour and mix thoroughly. From this point on, aim to achieve a sandy texture, almost like a crumble topping.
2) In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, vanilla and red food colouring. The milk should feel quite thick thanks to the egg and the food colouring makes it turn a gorgeous bright red colour.
3) Add about half of the milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir it well until there aren’t any lumps. This bit is best done with an electric hand mixer on a low speed. When you feel the mixture is as combined as possible, slowly add the rest of the milk mixture and continue to stir it in. You should be left with a very smooth, rich red cake batter.
4) Line the cupcake tins with cases and carefully fill each case just over three-quarters full. Put the cakes in the oven for about 12-15 minutes for mini cupcakes, 15-20 minutes for normal sized cupcakes or 20-25 for muffin sized cakes.
5) Allow the cakes to cool before icing. I used a piping syringe and vanilla buttercream with edible glitter to decorate mine. Traditionally, red velvet is iced with cream cheese icing. Ultimately, it’s a matter of taste and what you think would work well. Experiment!