Recipe Test: Ina Garten’s Red Velvet Cupcakes

So most of you might not know this since I’ve never blogged about this before, but in addition to my apparent obsession with lipstick, I also have an obsession with baking.  I’ve decided to start trying online recipes (I’m not creative enough to come up with my own) and figured what better way to start off than with a recipe by the queen herself, Ina Garten?


I like lipstick.  That is a well-known fact.  I also like baking.  That is a less well-known fact (well, at least to people who only know me through my blogs).  I like baking so much that I’m pretty sure I’ve baked something every day this week and I’m beginning to think that my family enjoys having me home from Italy only for my baked goods and not for my snarky personality, which I don’t blame them for all at.  My cookies are definitely sweeter than my disposition.

I was recently ~inspired~ to start blogging my baking when talking to a few friends of mine – in that moment, I swear we were infinite realized I already blog extensively about one of my passions, which is makeup, so why not blog about another one of my passions, aka food?  This is also arguably my oldest passion as I came into this world hangry and will probably also leave this world hangry.

I do have a few recipes that I found online that I consider my “key” recipes since I tend to go back to them a lot, but in 2017 I definitely want to try more recipes.  I figured I would test recipes I find online and share my findings because again, this is 2017, and if I don’t tell people about it, did I really bake at all?

My all-time favorite cake flavor is red velvet and my all-time favorite cooking show host is Ina Garten aka the Barefoot Contessa (well… ok this is a lie because I also love Alton Brown and I guess they’re tied, but for ~post reasons~, Ina is my favorite today), so why not combine the two?  Thus, fittingly, for my first post, I will be trying out Ina’s red velvet cupcake recipe; albeit, with a few tweaks of my own.

Ina’s recipe, which can be found here on the Food Network website, also includes a cream cheese frosting to use with the cupcakes, but I, uh, actually hate cream cheese frosting.  I know it’s kind of weird that I’m obsessed with red velvet cake and hate cream cheese frosting since they’re basically the Lucy and Ethel of baked goods, but there’s something about the strong cream cheese flavor that overpowers the taste of the cake to me.  Call it sacrilege or blasphemy or whatever you’d like, but instead I’ll be using this marshmallow frosting recipe because it’s both easy and damn tasty.


In addition to “tweaking” the frosting pairing, I’ve also added an additional ingredient to the cupcake batter itself: sour cream.  Although the recipe doesn’t call for it, I like to add around 1/4 of a cup of sour cream to any kind of recipe that contains chocolate because I find it really brings out the chocolatey taste and keeps the cake ~moist~.


Should I really be adding things to a recipe when I’m testing it out? Probably not.  If I’m testing out a recipe and want to add things, should I have some kind of “control” wherein I follow the recipe to a T? Probably yes.  However, I am not a scientist, and there is no fun in following directions 100% (spoiler alert: I ended up not following the directions exactly…), so there! Also, I’d just like to point out that Ina is a ~professional~ and although things might be easy for her because she’s an actual kitchen goddess, they might not be easy for the everyday amateur professional (aka me), so us amateurs have to find ways to cut corners!

Here are the ingredients and directions for the recipe:


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, such as Pernigotti
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 1 tablespoon liquid red food coloring
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large measuring cup, combine the buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed for 1 minute, until light. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until combined. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients and the wet ingredients alternately in 3 parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mix until combined. Stir with a rubber spatula to be sure the batter is mixed.
  4. Scoop the batter into the muffin cups with a 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop or large spoon. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean. Cool completely in the pans and frost the cupcakes with Red Velvet Frosting.

Ok, before I tell you what I did, I need to share that I don’t keep buttermilk, which is one of the ingredients listed above, in my kitchen.  Instead, I “DIY-ed” my own buttermilk by combining 1 cup of milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar – I found this “hack” here if anybody wants to try it!  I did this step first before anything else so I could let this mixture sit and ~develop~.

I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buttermilk!™

Now, I started off being a good girl and following directions, aka I preheated my oven to 350°F and lined my muffin tins with paper liners.  The next step, aka Step 2, is where I decided to veer off course: instead of combining my dry ingredients, I skipped to Step 3 first like a rebel without a cause and worked on combining my butter and sugar on medium speed.  I tend to do this because I like to save time and combine my dry ingredients while creaming my butter and sugar together – I like to multitask.  It’s even on my resume.

As just stated, while the butter and sugar are enduring the beating of their lives, I combined the dry ingredients (DI’s) together.  I don’t have a sifter, so I had to do it the basic way (please forgive me, Queen Ina) and just dumped all the DI’s into a bowl and whisked them together.  In my defense, the whisk I used was Disney-themed, as was the spatula I used later on.

When my dry ingredients were combined, I returned to my mixer.  Please ignore the fact that I completely disregarded Ina’s “1 minute” instruction.  Oh well.  I also ignored Step 2’s bit about combining the buttermilk, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla in a “large measuring cup” and instead added those ingredients individually to the butter and sugar mixture.  Things I did: that.  Food Professionals Everywhere Hate Her!


There’s no particular order to how I usually add in wet ingredients (WI’s), but I generally do like to put food coloring in last because I feel that it has more of a chance to combine if things are more liquidy… does this even make sense? Unconfirmed.

Anyway, after all my WI’s were combined and the bowl looked like the red aftermath of a murder scene, I added the dry ingredients.  Ina writes about doing this cute little bit where you’re supposed to add the ingredients alternately in 3 parts, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients (rather poetic, really, as if their journey has come full-circle), and as much as I’d love to participate in her culinary waltz (or maybe it’s a swing?), frankly, I don’t have time for that.  Instead, I added in the dry ingredients bit by bit to avoid a chocolate cloud, which doesn’t sound that awful, but is rather messy.


I stopped my mixer every so often, making sure to scrape the sides of my bowl with the aforementioned Disney spatula, and soon, the mixture was combined, looking as red as a world about to dawn (sorry, I guess I’m not over the Les Mis referencing thing that I started in my last post).

Step 4 is to scoop the batter into the muffin cups “with a 2 1/4-inch ice cream scoop or large spoon,” but I like… really hate doing that.  It’s just so messy and I’m not the most graceful scooper, so I like to dump the batter into a gallon-sized freezer bag, snip a corner, and fill up the muffin cups a little more than half way because I just find that I have a lot more control using this method.

Since it can be kind of tricky to fill up the bag without another person to hold it for you, I like to drape the bag over this plastic vase thing I have in my kitchen, fold the sides over the rim, and fill it up that way.  This frees up both my hands so I can scrape the bowl completely clean and not waste any of the batter! #LifeHacks


After filling the muffin cups with my bag of blood, I set a timer for 25 minutes (the directions say 25-30 minutes, but I like to set my timer to the earlier recommended time) and popped them into the middle rack of my oven.  They ended up taking around 27 minutes – I tested to make sure they were done by sticking a knife in the middle of one of them and making sure it came out clean.  I let them sit for about 5 minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool.


The two most annoying parts of baking cupcakes are the cleanup and waiting for them to cool before applying the frosting.  Since I like my cupcakes to be 100% cool before frosting, I did other things, like cleaning the stupid bowl and attachment to use again for the frosting.

When they were completely cool, I started on the frosting.  As previously stated, I think cream cheese frosting is the actual product of the Devil himself, so I decided to make a marshmallow frosting, which was really easy:


  • ½ cup butter {room temperature}
  • 1 7 oz. jar Marshmallow Fluff
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla


  1. Beat butter and powdered sugar until fluffy and well mixed.
  2. Mix in fluff and vanilla by hand and mix well.
  3. Add to piping bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

Since these directions were pretty simple, I basically followed them exactly.  Well, not exactly, because I wouldn’t be me without being petty, so instead of mixing in the fluff and vanilla by hand, I just dumped it into my mixer and let the machine do its job.  As Corinne from this season of “The Bachelor” would say, “it makes her happy and I’m not going to stop a woman’s happiness,” although it’s unclear as to what gender my mixer is if it even HAS a gender in the first place, but I’m inclined to think that it might be a man because it’s temperamental and has let me down on numerous occasions by randomly deciding not to work.


I’m not fancy enough to own an actual piping bag, so instead I employed the same tactic of draping a gallon-sized freezer bag over the vase thing and dumping all the frosting into it before closing the bag and then snipping one of the corners to pipe the frosting.  I then added some nonpareils because they’re pretty and why not?


And there you have it – red velvet cupcakes, courtesy of Ina Garten!  Her recipe is rather simple and easy to follow, and also tastes great!  I did add extra 1/4 cup of sour cream, had to make my own buttermilk substitute, and swapped out the icing, but all in all, they turned out really well!  I just wish I had my own Jeffrey to feed them to 😦

🎵 I know you, I’ve walked with you once upon a dream… 🎵

Featured Recipes:
Ina Garten Red Velvet Cupcakes
Easy Marshmallow Frosting
How to Make Buttermilk

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