MangiaMore: DEAD velvet cupcakes

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And the last contender of the Halloween Cupcake Wars (it may as well be Halloween 2013 at this point, sorry for the delay) is the illustrious, Dead Velvet. Dark red, haunting, mysterious and a southern classic.

You got it, this bloody red velvet cupcake was armed and ready for a fierce flavor battle with its two other competitors. As always, when baking red velvet (or blue velvet, depending on who my patron is), I turned to the queen of southern favorites, Paula Deen. There is no way to go wrong with this recipe of hers. I think it is simple and straightforward, with just enough room for interpretation and creativity. I have made the recipe what feels like a dozen times, and on each occasion the cake is moist and just flavorful enough to combat the strength of the tangy sweet cream cheese frosting.
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As the theme of this long, drawn-out battle, was Halloween, I decided to continue on with a dead motif, echoing the Graveyard cupcakes also in the running. To top the dark, bloody red cake, I imagined a black frosting to provide a stark contrast. To my amazement, the ease of finding black food coloring was astonishing at this spooky time of year (I had never even looked for black food coloring before, as blue or red were my top choices). Unfortunately, after adding drop after drop on top of drops of black food coloring, my creamy cream cheese frosting only became a dark slate grey. It was not the heavy black I was looking for, but the dark grey inspired the images of gravestones. Of course then, that was the direction I headed toward. Using the incorrect frosting tip on (ssshhhh) bought decorating frosting, I was able to scribble some haunting R.I.Ps, initials, and scary looking (in a funny, not a terrifying way) creatures.
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I must say, these monsters were pretty delicious. This time I added a smidge more cocoa powder than the legend prescribed, mostly because I wanted a touch more flavor to stand up to the bold frosting. And I also put in a little bit of almond extract, as well as just a little less of the vanilla extract. A happy accident (or lack of ingredient) caused an instantaneous attachment to almond extract in red velvet cake batter. The addition adds a nuttiness, which embellishes the chocolate flavors, while creating a harmonious contrast to the tangy cream cheese. With the welcomed modifications, I found a balance and my Dead Velvet cupcakes were a success (to taste, though aesthetically, not so much… must work on cake decorating skills).
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So now the moment of truth…. 

And the truth is… All three of the cupcakes were delicious, and disappeared like vampires when the sun comes out. Each was completely different and mildly surprising. The Candy Corn cupcake featured the spices and flavors we all attach to fall, while the Graveyard goodies had a moist surprise in the middle and strong edible decorative elements, and the Dead Velvet transformed a classic into something eerily delightful. They are all winners in my book, and tasted even better in the dark (thanks, Sandy). But with Thanksgiving just around the corner, looks like I will be giving those pumpkin cupcakes another shot.
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