American cake / dessert

Red Velvet Cupcake with Mascarpone Frosting

Monday, April 28, 2014Enz F

Last Sunday, I had a fun and my very first ever baking bonding experience with my precious friends. Have I mentioned it was really, really fun? Thanks a big bunch to these fantabulous group of people who lent me a piece of their sanity as I embark to this very memorable chapter of my being a certified foodie and a soon-to-be pastry enthusiast. To Princess – for literally lending her hands in putting all the ingredients together into a masterpiece (being a little bit more experienced than I am in baking), for providing the cute mini-oven, for sharing the costs and for extending an extra length of patience as she could hardly bare the stubbornness of a neophyte baker in me. To Jason – for volunteering himself to be our guinea pig taste-tester (note: he is the real “cook” among us) and for his ultra-diplomatic side comments and remarks. And to Kong-Kong – for “painstakingly” laying a little art on our frosting (despite the improvised plastic piping tube) and for breaking the ice by cracking his out-of-this-world humor while waiting for the oven’s magical “Ting! Your cupcakes are done and they are surely good!” After getting high approval and satisfaction with Princess’ recently concluded box office hits: the “simple and no-frills dark chocolate brownies” and “stunner Oreo-cream cheese goodies”, it was quite a brave attempt of us to level up a bit with our very own version of natural Red Velvet Cupcake with Mascarpone Frosting. Considering the recipe choice and the required level of accuracy on the mixture of the ingredients in order to achieve the cupcake’s remarkable appearance and texture, it was indeed a giant baby step for us.

Red velvet became controversial because of its distinct red color
Okay, another revelation – I can pretend that I am knowledgeable in baking cupcakes though I have never really owned (yet) a decent baking oven, not even a single hand mixer, so this compelled me to mandatorily run to Princess to cry for some help and make a mess with her baking paraphernalia. And with that, I have to make a humble disclosure that I am a no-expert when it comes to pastry-making. My unanticipated fascination for baking just came out of personal hobby, reading a lot of food recipes and eagerness to try different things so I could add some variety on my blog posts, and the very first cupcake recipe that really grabbed my attention was this very controversial red velvet. Yes, it is controversial because a lot of urban myths and strange stories have been written about its real origin and why it was named as such. Some believe that it was born during the era of the Great Depression and there are accounts stating that it was widely considered a Southern traditional cake. Its popularity can also be credited to a 1989 film, “Steel Magnolias”, wherein a red velvet groom’s cake shaped similarly to an armadillo was featured. Possibly the most sensational of all the red velvet story that has ever told is the one related to a controversy involving the New York City’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel – a customer, who requested for the red velvet cake recipe, was believed to take revenge exposing out the ingredients and techniques through chain letters after the chef billed her an exorbitant $350 in exchange for it.

Whatever mysteries surrounding this very phenomenal cake, definitely there is a scientific basis to better explain the “whys” behind its distinct color and texture. Red velvet is originally a dark red layer cake mildly flavored with chocolate and richly topped with either buttercream or cream cheese frosting. The crust is generally made from flour, cocoa, leavening agent, buttermilk and vinegar. The acid content of vinegar and buttermilk reacts chemically with cocoa amplifying its anthocyanin content, the one responsible to the cake’s reddish hue while keeping it moist, smooth and soft. It is very important to keep the pH level as acidic as possible so it is best preferred to use natural unprocessed cocoa powder. Dutch processed cocoa is out as it is already mixed with alkalizing agent that tends to neutralize the acidity. Nowadays, red velvet cake is tinted with artificial food coloring which, at times, may cause allergic reaction to someone, particularly to those who are sensitive to its chemical content.

Beets can actually be a source of that phenomenal red tint
I wanted to make red velvet without the dreaded artificial food additives, so with the help of a little research, I have seen many recipes used beet juice as a natural food coloring agent. I was even more delighted to find out that I can actually use the whole pureed beets as the main ingredient for cupcake. Now I have a better and healthier reason to bake and eat red velvet other than being red. The finished product turned out reddish brown to maroon but it does not matter. It was still delicious and fluffy. I brought several pieces at home and had some for my brother and my picky niece to try on. And boy, how they loved everything in it, never realized the cupcakes were homemade. It gave me assurance that Jason was not just being so kind with his verdict and we were not simply praising our own just for the sake of advertisement. The sweet words were really worth it and the cupcakes blended well with the frosting from my homemade mascarpone cheese.

The finished product turned out reddish brown to maroon
At first, I thought that the frosting would just become a saving grace just in case the cake fails but the two was great and just complemented very well. It was a win-win finish! Mascarpone cheese is not a regular grocery item in the Philippines. If there is any, it is surely pricey and the quality is not as impressive so why not make your own using just 2 to 3 ingredients. It is advisable though to make the cheese 8 to 10 hours ahead of time to let the acid do its job and to strain the cream for a finer output. It can be used in a variety of Italian dishes, including a substitute for the traditional ricotta cheese as they have similar texture. Unlike cream cheese toppings, the mascarpone frosting is not so dense and not too sweet. It is also best to refrigerate the frosting to keep it firm. 

With the good outcome of my Filipinized red velvet cupcakes (the idea of using calamansi makes it a bit Filipino), I am excited to have another baking spree with my dear friend Princess. We can actually see a prospective business to put up in a not so distant future. Kong-Kong already claimed his role as our advertising manager as he already created a facebook page dedicated to it. How whimsical isn’t it? But who knows? I can perceive a huge potential to it. We already have the talent to fuel the machine; what we only need is more guts to ignite the fire!

Red Velvet Cupcake with Mascarpone Frosting
This yields 12 to 15 standard sized cupcakes

(Printer-friendly recipe)


For the red velvet cupcake 
  • 2 tbsps. unprocessed and unsweetened cocoa powder 
  • 1¼ cups all purpose floor 
  • 2 tsps. baking powder 
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar 
  • ¼ tsp. salt 
  • 2 pcs. medium-sized sugar beets 
  • 1/3 cup fresh calamansi or lemon juice 
  • 1/3 cup canola oil 
  • 1½ tsps. vanilla extract 
  • a handful of chocolate chips for toppings (optional) 

For the mascarpone frosting 
  • 1 cup commercialized or homemade mascarpone cheese 
  • ¾ cup chilled all purpose or heavy cream 
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar 
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 

For the homemade mascarpone cheese 
  • 1 cup heavy cream or ¾ cup all purpose cream mixed with 3 oz. (85 grams) softened butter 
  • ½ tbsp. fresh calamansi or lemon juice 


Red velvet cupcake 
  1. Thoroughly wash the sugar beets. Make sure to rinse off all the dirt residue left on the peelings. Cook the beets in a double broiler or microwave oven until they are very soft and easy to mash. 
  2. Peel the beets and slice them into small pieces. Crush the beets in a food processor or heavy-duty blender. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of water and continue to grind until the beets achieved a smooth and thick semi fluid consistency. This should yield at least 1 cup of beets puree. Set aside. 
  3. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). 
  4. In a large mixing bowl, sift together the cocoa powder, all-purpose flour, baking powder, granulated sugar and salt. Mix with a whisker until well blended and set aside. 
  5. In a separate mixing bowl, combine the pureed beets, calamansi/ lemon juice, canola oil and vanilla extract. Stir until mixed well. 
  6. Gradually pour the puree mixture into the dry ingredients. Lightly whisk just enough to combine. 
  7. Line a standard-sized cupcake pan (2-½-inch-diameter cups) with cupcake papers. Fill with batter each paper liners about ¾ of the way full. Leave a small allowance to avoid the cupcake from overflowing as it expands and fluff up during the baking process. 
  8. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes. Test the doneness of the cupcakes by inserting a wooden toothpick into the center. If the toothpick comes out clean, then the cupcakes are done and ready to go. 
  9. Take the pan off the oven and let the cupcakes stay in the pan for 5 to 10 minute before transferring them into the cooling rack. The cupcakes are too fragile and may tend to break or deform when very hot. 
  10. When the cupcakes are completely cooled, top them with mascarpone frosting and chocolate chips. You may chill them or serve right away as a dessert or as an accompaniment to coffee or tea. 

Mascarpone frosting 
  1. Whip the chilled cream until firm and stiff peaks begin to form. 
  2. Put the granulated sugar and vanilla extract and whisk until well blended. 
  3. Break the lumps in the mascarpone cheese and add this to the whipped cream. Gently beat the cream mixture until the ingredients are well-incorporated. 
  4. Transfer the mascarpone cream frosting into a piping tube and decorate the cupcakes as desired. 

Homemade mascarpone cheese 
  1. Place the heavy cream or the mixture of butter and all purpose cream in a medium saucepan over moderate heat to a low simmer. Continuously stir the cream and maintain the heat at a controlled temperature to avoid the cream from burning and sticking on the pan. 
  2. Add the calamansi or lemon juice and cook for 5 more minutes. The mixture will thicken to a consistency similar to gravy. 
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 20 minutes. Line a strainer with several layers of cheesecloth or tea towel and place it over a bowl. Pour the thickened cream mixture in the lined strainer and cover the top with a plastic wrap. Refrigerate to culture overnight (8 to 24 hours). 
  4. Transfer the cultured mascarpone cheese in an airtight container. It can now be used for the mascarpone frosting or can be stored in the fridge for 5 days. 

  1. You can adjust the cocoa if you want the cupcakes less or more chocolatey. 
  2. The cupcakes are best consumed when chilled for at least one hour. 
  3. The mascarpone frosting pipes very well but stays soft, so it would be best to refrigerate it until ready to be served.

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