Monday, November 24, 2014

Pink Velvet Cupcakes


My friend Tony requested red velvet cake for his birthday, so his fiancée Katie and I made cupcakes for his party last night!  I’m not always a fan of red velvet cake, but our family friend Jett has the absolute best family recipe for them!

My parents throw a huge “recipe party” every few years – they invite nearly everyone they know, and their friends all submit recipes.  Each guest has to make the dish for the party, and then my mom prints cookbooks with all the recipes and gives awards for best appetizer, salad, entrée, and dessert.  The last party had hundreds of guests, but they haven’t thrown one since 2011.  Hopefully they’ll be able to host another despite moving from a house into a condo…

Jett’s red velvet cupcake recipe was in the 2011 party cookbook.  She said that her Grandmommy Ruth was a prize winning cook who was known for making everything from scratch.  The cream cheese frosting on these cupcakes is THE BEST!  However, I’m calling mine “pink velvet” cupcakes because I made a big miscalculation in the amount of food coloring we needed.  Ours didn’t have the deep red hue, but they still tasted incredible! 

Pink Velvet Cupcakes (adapted from Ruth Russell’s Red Velvet Cake recipe)

·        1 T cocoa
·        ¼ oz. red food coloring (the original recipe calls for 3 oz, but I only had one of the tiny containers, so if you’d like the true Red Velvet recipe, make sure you buy the larger container)
·        1 T vinegar
·        1 t vanilla
·        2 cups vegetable oil
·        1¾ cups sugar
·        4 eggs
·        3 cup flour
·        1 t baking soda
·        1 t salt
·        1 cup buttermilk

1. Mix the cocoa, red food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla together in a small bowl and set aside.

2. Cream sugar and oil together in a large bowl. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and salt together THREE times and set aside. (It said this is the recipe, so I thought it must be important!)

4. Add the flour mixture into the sugar/oil alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Gently stir in the vinegar mixture. The batter will be slightly thinner than most cake batters.

5. For cake, pour into 3 - 9” round or square cake pans. Bake at 350 for 25 – 30 minutes.

For cupcakes, fill baking cups with 2/3 full. Bake at 350 for 15-19 minutes. This will make about 30 regular cupcakes.  (Sully was watching me fill the cupcakes hoping some ended up on the floor...)

6. Do not overcook. Cool layers before frosting with cream cheese icing.

Cream Cheese Icing

·        1 stick butter
·        11oz. cream cheese
·        6 cups powdered sugar
·        1 t vanilla
·        1 cup finely chopped pecans

1. Cream softened butter and cream cheese together until creamy.

2. Gradually beat in confectioner’s sugar. Add vanilla and nuts (ours weren't chopped so here's Katie smashing them with a hammer...)

3. Frost cooled cupcakes or cake.  Keep in the refrigerator. 

We topped ours with red and yellow sugar sprinkles (since Tony is an FSU fan...) Here's the birthday boy photo bombing my cupcake picture...

Spicy Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip


This recipe is so easy and delicious that I made it for two different holiday parties last year.  Our friend Tony had a potluck yesterday for his birthday, so this was my contribution.  It’s been a hit each time I’ve made it! 

Spicy Cranberry Cream Cheese Dip (adapted from Jaime Cooks it Up)

·        1-12 ounce package fresh cranberries
·        ¼ cup green onion, chopped
·        ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
·        1 small jalapeño, seeds removed (or a larger pepper if you'd like it extra spicy)
·        ¾ cup sugar
·        ¼ t cumin
·        2 T lemon juice
·        Dash of salt
·        2-8 ounce packages cream cheese  
·        Crackers for serving

1.  Put your cranberries, green onion, cilantro, and jalapeño in a food processer and pulse until coarsely chopped into small bits – you don’t want it completely liquefied. 

2. Mix in cumin, lemon juice, and salt.  Place in bowl in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (I left mine there overnight) so the sugar soaks into the cranberries. 

3. When ready to prepare, spread your cream cheese at the bottom of a bowl.  Top with the cranberry mixture, and then serve with your choice of crackers.  

Ella’s Soul Food Sundays – Tampa, FL


I ate at Ella’s Americana Folk Art Café for the first time last month (see this post) and was blown away by the food.  Even before that, I’d heard high praise for their Soul Food Sundays.  Unfortunately Lance and I rarely have Sundays off together (downside of working retail…) so we hadn’t gotten the chance to try it out.

He’s been scheduled to work Thanksgiving night next week, so as compensation they gave him this Sunday off.  First time we’ve had a weekend day off together since Easter! 

Since I’ve heard that Ella’s gets packed on Sundays, we got there a half hour before they opened just to be safe.  There were already about a dozen people in line before us, and by opening time at 11am, nearly 50 people were in line!

We sat out on the patio to enjoy the nice weather and started with breakfast cocktails – I had their famous Bloody Ella, and Lance had a Mango Mimosa.  Lance’s drink was very sweet – there were so many mimosa flavors to pick from, but he seemed happy with the choice of mango. 

Their version of a Bloody Mary is garnished with an olive, lime, and a whole hickory smoked rib!   The drink itself was a bit spicier than I’m used to, but it was worth it just for the rib – I should have ordered a whole rack of them. 

For my meal I ordered the Funky Monkey Waffle – topped with Nutella, banana, and toasted peanuts.  I of course loved it, but Lance’s meal was really the one that stood out.  He had the Smoked & Fried Chicken and Waffles with a side of collard greens.  The chicken is marinated in buttermilk and tarragon, hickory smoked, then Corn Flake fried.  The two drumsticks and thigh were served with a Belgian waffle and bourbon maple gravy. 

It was the best fried chicken either of us had had in our lives.  The meat was juicy and bursting with flavor, and while most fried chicken has greasy skin, the corn flake exterior was perfectly crispy. 

The huge meal held us over until dinnertime.  After brunch, we stopped by Treasure Island Beach to check out their Sanding Ovations sand sculpting competition.  They’ll still be up for 3 more weeks if you have the chance to see them yourselves!

Ella’s Americana Folk Art Cafe is located at 5119 N Nebraska Ave, Tampa, FL 33603 and is open 5pm – 11pm Tuesday through Thursday, 5pm – 12am Fridays and Saturdays, and 11am – 8pm on Sundays.