Beet red velvet cupcakes with rose cream cheese frosting

Thanks to my friend Roshni, I was invited to be one of thirty featured “artists” for Lemonade’s Lemonade Social Festival. For this live streaming event, I got a chance to demonstrate how to bake something, and in my case, I decided on a fun take on red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. I wanted to do a bit of an updated take on this, using beet powder to naturally dye my cakes red, and using rose water to accent my cream cheese frosting. I felt like the rose can be a little “out-there”, but with my experience with making knafeh(a cheese pastry that is soaked in a rose water syrup), I knew that those flavors pair well together. With the beet, it’s there more for the coloration than the actual flavor in the cake, just because I’m not the biggest fan of using artificial food coloring in my cakes. Traditional red velvet was made using just cocoa powder, baking soda, and vinegar, with that chemical reaction causing the cocoa to turn the cake red. More recent versions than that also included beet juice, just because it was a sure-fire way to guarantee the red color. And current versions obviously use the food coloring. I didn’t want to rely on just the chemical reaction, nor did I want to rely on straight up chemicals, so I went the middle road on that with beet powder. These cakes are light, fluffy, and the rose really helps with performing that cream cheese frosting and making it something special.

Makes 12 cupcakes:
For the cupcakes:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup beet powder
1 cup warm water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vinegar
a pinch of salt

Rehydrate beet powder in the warm water. Sift flour and cocoa powder together. Combine together the ingredients. Scoop into 12 cupcake liners in a muffin tin and bake at 350 degrees F for 18 minutes, rotating halfway through to ensure even baking. Cool completely before attempting to frost with the cream cheese.

For the cream cheese frosting:
8 oz cream cheese
4 oz mascarpone cheese
4 oz unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
a pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons rose water
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bring sugar, salt, and water to a simmer and reduce by half. Whip cream cheese, mascarpone, butter, vanilla, and rose water together. Pour your simple syrup into the cheese mixture and continue to whip until combined. Transfer to a piping bag with a star shaped piping tip and pipe onto the cupcakes.

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