This year for Valentine's Day, I wanted to make something special for my nonexistent boyfriend, but I couldn't decide between luxurious red velvet cake or rich fudgey brownies. While I was pondering this dilemma, I suddenly remembered an old recipe for brownie heart cupcakes. Inspired by Martha, I decided to combine the best of both worlds and make red velvet cupcakes with pink cream cheese frosting and brownie heart garnish. The resulting dessert is wonderfully festive and just decadent enough. They're perfectly portable meaning you can easily gift them to the people you love. To learn how I made them, keep reading.

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Pink Cream Cheese Frosting and Brownie Hearts

Red Velvet Cupcakes with Pink Cream Cheese Frosting and Brownie Hearts


For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups cake flour (not self- rising), sifted
2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food color*
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
For the brownies:
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons coarse salt
7.5 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
For cream cheese frosting:
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 pound (4 cups) confectioners' sugar, sifted
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Make the cupcakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Whisk together cake flour, cocoa, and salt.
  3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Mix in food color and vanilla.
  4. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture in three batches, alternating with two additions of buttermilk, and whisking well after each. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter, and mix on medium speed 10 seconds.
  5. Divide batter evenly among lined cups, filling each three-quarters full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes. Cupcakes can be stored overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.
  6. Make the brownies: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat an 8-inch square cake pan with cooking spray, line bottom with parchment, then spray parchment.
  7. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof mixer bowl set over a pot of simmering water, stirring until chocolate melts.
  8. Attach bowl to mixer, add sugar, and whisk on medium-high speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, then vanilla. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture.
  9. Spread batter in square pan. Bake until set but still soft, about 20 minutes. Let cool in pan on wire racks.
  10. Make cream cheese frosting: Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low.
  11. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth. Frosting can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; before using, bring to room temperature, and beat until smooth. If desired, add a few drops of red food coloring to tint the frosting pink.
  12. To assemble cupcakes: Cut out 24 hearts from brownie in pan using a 1 1/2-inch heart-shaped cutter. Use a small offset spatula to spread cupcakes with frosting. Top each cupcake with a heart. Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before serving.

Makes 24 cupcakes.

*I used regular red food coloring.

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