The Daley Question

Scratch the box (cake)

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Birthday cake: Box or homemade?

Birthday cake: Box or homemade? (Sarah Palmer / Getty Images/Flickr RF / May 28, 2013)

5 large egg whites, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups buttermilk, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup each: cake flour; all-purpose flour

3/4 cup non-alkalized cocoa powder (don't use Dutch processed)

1 teaspoon each: baking soda; baking powder, salt

1/4 cup beet juice dye

For the frosting:

12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups powdered sugar

1.To prepare the beet juice dye, but the beet, vinegar and water in a saucepan. Place the saucepan over medium heat, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and slowly simmer it down until there's about 1/4 cup left. Strain out the beet and let the liquid cool before using. The juice will keep up to a month, covered and refrigerated.

2.To prepare the cupcakes, place paper liners in approximately 30 muffin cups. Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer or stand mixer until the sugar is dissolved and the texture is light and fluffy.  Add the egg whites one at a time.  Beat until the texture becomes almost like frosting. Then beat in the buttermilk and vanilla.

3.In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the batter is smooth. The texture and consistency should be something like chocolate mousse. Stir in the beet juice dye.

4.Spoon the cake batter into the muffin tins. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of 1 cupcake comes out clean. Do not overbake. Let the cupcakes cool to room temperature on a wire rack before frosting.

5 To prepare the frosting, using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese, butter and sugar together until smooth and fluffy.  Put the frosting in a quart-size reclosable plastic bag, cut off a corner and pipe spirals of frosting onto each cupcake. Keep the frosted cupcakes refrigerated, tightly covered, until serving.

Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.

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