Before I present you guys the final, high-altitude recipe for Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcakes, I just wanted to backtrack for a second.

Remember my co-worker Kailin? The lovely lady who decided to omit red food coloring from her cupcakes, leading to rather interesting results:

She later asked me why her cupcakes had such flat, expanded tops. I mean, the photo above almost looks like a baking tray full of perfectly round cookies. And when the cupcakes were taken out of the pan, their tops were certainly as flat and wide as cookies!

“Hm,” I said, looking at the photos closely. I noticed that her cupcake pan only had 9 of its 12 muffin spaces filled with cupcakes. “How much batter did you put in each cupcake space?”

“I followed your instructions perfectly,” Kailin protested. “I filled each only about 2/3rds full!”

I told her that her pan must be larger than mine, and that next time she should fill each cupcake case with only 2 tablespoons of batter measured out by a cookie scoop.

Christine K
., a commenter on my previous post about Kailin’s inadvertent experiment, also suggested an interesting substitute for red food coloring that I then relayed to Kailin:

“I don’t use liquid red food color in anything because I can taste the very unpleasant bitterness of the color. When I make red velvet cake for my husband’s birthday — an absolute requirement — I make a paste of 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa and 2 tablespoons boiling water and the vanilla, and color the cake with tasteless gel red food color. The boiling water blooms the flavor of the cocoa and none of the essential ingredients is left out.”

That is, if she still had difficulty finding red food coloring, she could simply replace the 2 tablespoons of liquid with 2 tablespoons of boiling water. That way, her cupcakes wouldn’t be in danger of being too dry. Not a bad idea — pretty enterprising to bloom the cocoa powder with hot water. Certainly one that I never would have come up with. Thanks Christine!

So, with these suggestions under her belt, here Kailin’s photos of her second attempt at Hummingbird Bakery red velvet cupcakes:

Not bad — not bad at all! These cupcakes don’t even suffer from the ugly, wrinkly old man cupcake tops that mine did! The tops are also perfectly domed and although a few look to be a teeny tiny bit bloated, those in the first row looked perfect.

Kailin also managed to get her hands on some food coloring; unfortunately, she still didn’t have enough for 2 tablespoons worth since she’d bought the Assorted Food Colors pack from the supermarket, which only provides 1.5 teaspoons of food coloring per vial. In a way, this smaller amount of food color actually works better. Although the cupcakes aren’t as vivid in color as they would have been with 2 tablespoons of food coloring, I’m kinda digging the more “natural” look these cupcakes possess:

So well done, Kailin! Not bad for a second attempt — not bad at all.