Cream Cheese Kissed Red Velvet Mini Cupcakes

by Christine Burns Rudalevige | Photographs by Dominic Perri

Chef, food stylist, and cookbook author (and part-time Hatfield resident) Virginia Willis is a recent convert to using vibrant local beets as the coloring agent for her Red Velvet cakes and cupcakes. They also contribute to the very moist crumb on these little sweets. Makes 36 to 40 mini cupcakes.

3 medium beets (about ¾ pound/340 grams), scrubbed

1 cup canola oil

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk

4 large eggs

1¾ cups (225 grams) all-purpose flour

1½ cups sugar

½ cup (50 grams) best-quality cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 (16-ounce) box confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans, for garnish, optional

Heat oven to 350°.

Line mini cupcake tins with liners.

Place the beets on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until tender, about 1 hour. Remove and cool. Peel the beets and coarsely chop. (This step may be done ahead.)

Place beets in the bowl of a large food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Process until chunky, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. With the food processor running, add the oil and continue processing until very smooth. Add eggs and ½ cup of the buttermilk. Purée until smooth.

Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Add wet ingredients from the food processor to the dry and stir until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop, a spoon, or a liquid measuring cup, fill the liners no more than ⅔ full. Transfer to the oven and bake until firm, about 10 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool.

Meanwhile, to prepare the frosting, in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle or beater attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on medium speed until smooth. Sift confectioner’s sugar into the bowl. Beat the frosting until it is light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. If too stiff, add up to 2 tablespoons buttermilk, 1 teaspoon at a time, to achieve the correct consistency. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag. Top each mini cupcake with a kiss of frosting.

Sprinkle with pecans, if desired.

Serve within 2–3 days.