Red Velvet Cupcakes and Sleep Deprivation

On Friday morning, I woke up with a start to Barnaby, our new puppy, crying from his crate and realized that I had slept in my pj’s, garden crocs, glasses, and blue fuzzy bathrobe studded with pink cherries.  My curly hair hovered around my head like I had a static cling problem. 

I dashed into the office and pulled Barnaby out of his crate and raced him to the backyard.  As I stood in the backyard in my fabulous getup, (all I was missing were curlers in my hair), I stopped to wonder if the neighbors could see me.  And then I thought, anybody who peeks over my fence, while I’m potty training my puppy day and night, gets what they deserve.
I had been looking forward to baking a big decadent three layer red velvet cake smothered in cream cheese frosting for my friend, Vicki, for her birthday party, like I did last year.  Last year, I tried 5 different recipes and found one that we all really really like.  And so, I have been looking forward to making it for her.

But, a quick glance in the mirror informed me that getting up three to five times a night with a lonely young puppy to take him outside had clearly taken its toll.  So, I decided to make red velvet cupcakes instead.  Barnaby sat on my feet while I made them.  
My friends, Toni and Cindy, threw a fabulous Hawaiian luau themed party complete with a ukulele serenade and dancing. I decorated the cupcakes with tiny palm trees, sand (ground up vanilla wafers, and polar bears to celebrate Vicki’s love of the TV show Lost.  And Vicki impatiently looked past the cute decorations and wanted to know, “Are they red velvet?”   

Vicki’s Red Velvet Cake
The cake is ever-so-slightly tweaked from recipe contest winner A&M on  
And the frosting is from Fine Cooking.

2 1/2 cups sifted cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature, plus more for buttering the pans
1 1/2 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk--I used  
4 ½ T. Red food dye
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Place cupcake wrappers in cupcake pans.

In a bowl, mix together flour, salt, and cocoa powder with a whisk.

In your electric mixer, beat the butter on medium for about a minute then add the sugar.  Beat until they are fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time and then the vanilla.  Then carefully add the red dye. Mix on low and alternatively add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk in several additions.

In a small bowl combine the vinegar and baking soda until they fizz.  Quickly pour it into the batter and gently mix it in.  Spoon the batter into the cupcake wrappers.

Bake cupcakes for 15 to 17 minutes.  Mine took 17 minutes.  Cool them on a rack.

Then freeze the cupcakes to make them more tender.  Trust me, this step is essential.  Then, sit the cupcakes on the kitchen counter for one hour to unthaw.  Then frost.  Make sure to serve your cupcakes at room temperature.
 *I ground up vanilla wafers for the sand on my cupcakes.  

Cream Cheese Frosting –From Fine Cooking
1/2 lb. cream cheese at room temperature
1-1/4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar (about 3-1/2 cups)

Place the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in the bowl of your electric mixer.  Beat on medium-low to combine.  Then turn up the speed to medium-high for two minutes.  Then turn off the mixer and add half of the powdered sugar and mix on low. Add the rest of the powdered sugar.  Then beat on medium high to high for another minute to make it fluffy.