Saturday, October 15, 2011

Red Velvet Cupcakes / Brahms First Symphony

{Homemade - with a little help. Thanks, Sprinkles!}
In just a few days, I'll be heading to St. Louis to visit one of my best friends. Jess and I became close several years ago while carpooling to Pacific Symphony rehearsals. (Three hours in a car together can do a lot for cultivating friendships.)

{Celebrating her achievement at a BBQ back in 2009}

Although I was, of course, elated that she won a position in the St. Louis Symphony two years ago, I was extremely sad to see her go. Luckily, we've had ample time to spend together during her numerous planned and spontaneous trips to LA. Now, it's my turn to visit! We've got loads planned, including attending an exposition tennis match (her cousin, Michael Chang, will be going head-to-head with fellow legend John McEnroe) and making these bourbon pumpkin pie milkshakes.

{Instructions and Cream Cheese Frosting recipe}
During one of Jess's recent visits, she left me with a sweet parting gift: a package of Sprinkles-brand Red Velvet Cupcakes. I was inspired to make them in anticipation of my impending trip to St. Louis. In all honesty, however, I've been desperate to bake ever since my husband hopped on this cockamamie "diet" bandwagon. (Baked apples are great and all, but moral support might be a tiny bit over-rated.) I saved him one and brought the rest to LA Chamber Orchestra rehearsal.

Having followed the instructions exactly, I thought these turned out fantastically well. I'd made red velvet cupcakes from scratch in the past; and while they were moist and their flavor was great, they almost always left their paper wrappings saturated with unappetizing oil. The Sprinkles mix resulted in cupcakes that were fluffy, moist, and flavorful, but not nearly as oily as other recipes I'd tried. I happily took all the credit for my colleague's complements. The cupcakes looked, smelled, and tasted homemade, so who's to say they weren't? Plus, what they really loved was the frosting - and I had no packaged help there. I subtracted a bit of the recommended quantity of sugar and found the balance perfectly sweet and perfectly tangy.

Cream Cheese Frosting
Recipe adapted from Sprinkles Cupcake Mix

One stick of butter, firm but not cold
3 1/4 cups powdered sugar
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8 tsp salt

In an electric mixer, beat the butter, salt, and cream cheese together on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar 1/4 cup at a time. Once it is incorporated, add in the vanilla.

{Hubby couldn't resist}

For a musical pairing, enjoy the last movement of Brahms' 1st symphony. The french horn call in 2:45 always makes me think of my most treasured friendships. While vacationing in the Alps, Brahms heard an Alphorn (of Ricola commerical fame) play a beautiful theme. He jotted down the notes on a postcard to his best friend, along with these words:

"High on the mountain and deep in the valley, I greet you a thousand times."

A pretty poetic way of writing just to say hi! Admittedly, his feelings for this particular best friend of his were hardly just platonic. But regardless, this musical moment always makes me think of the special majesty and sweetness of close friendships. It's like a musical representation of what great friends can do for your mood and your life. Prior to the horn call in 2:45, the music is intense, anxious, and brooding. It's like someone going around in circles inside their own head. And out of nowhere, the noble friendship theme turns music that was dismal and complex into something sunny, simple, and rich with joy.

{In a less-than-serious moment, but one that sums up our friendship quite nicely}
See you soon, Jess! And thanks for the cupcakes.


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  2. I love the toppings of your cup cake, is that edible? Haha. Would love to eat the toppings actually. Those cup cake was indeed deliciously made and somehow you've taken a perfect shot. :)

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  3. Cara Violoniste, you can't imagine how I deeply love Brahms. I've been listening to this concert so many times that I can't stop myself to start singing every single note when I heard it. I really love this symphony as well as the 3rd one and your description of this frienship is so moving that I can feel it very well.
    I would like to know which ingredient gives this magnificent red colour to the dough. Have a beautiful week. xxx PAt

  4. those look delicious!!

  5. Congratulations to your friend Jess on her position at the STL Symphony and how awesome is it that her cousin is the tennis legend Michael Chang? I am so glad to have come across your blog, I used to play the piano...actually moved to the city with the grand and also I love to bake! TY for sharing the red velvet cupcake recipe and have fun with your bff :)

  6. Im hungry now. can you so send me one please!

  7. Ah-mazing! The craziest thing is that we don't have red velvet cake here in Australia! When I flew to NYC for fashion week I tried it and fell in love! I'm going to give this little recipe a try, thankyou, yuuummmyy!! xxx mandy

  8. Such fun pics, sounds like you had a great time.
    Thanks for the recipe - I've tried dozens of Red Velvet recipes, I have yet to find the best one.

  9. Those cupcakes look so good!!!
    P.S. I have to say that I LOVE classical music! :) What do you play?

  10. Thank you for stopping by again and I have not yet had time to make these delicious red velvet cupcakes but hope to for thanksgiving ;)

  11. Those cupcakes look delicious! I love the mix of food and music on your blog. Congrats to Jess.

  12. Mmmmmmm...I love cupcakes....Now I'm hungry! :-) Maybe you’ll have time to visit my blog :)

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