This is East Coast vs. West Coast. It is bigger than Biggie vs. Tupac.
Who will win?
I'm going to start this post off by saying I am a completely biased and unfair judge starting this competition. I'm a New Yorker. I love anything New York. I've never had a Sprinkles Cupcake in my life. I have, however, had a Magnolia Cupcake. I don't agree with the seemingly popular sentiment that these cupcakes are overrated. I have only eaten a Magnolia cupcake once, but I will tell you, it was the best cupcake I have ever had. Chocolate with vanilla frosting. The size was perfect. Light and moist with a strong cocoa flavor, that cupcake made my day. There was just one downfall. The icing to cupcake ratio was a bit high and I had to throw some out. But other than that? Pure perfection.
Made famous by Sex and the City, Magnolia Bakery is now a New York City institution, beseiged by Upper West Side mothers with their children in tow, trendy West Village bretheren, or throngs of female tourists dreaming to live like Miranda, Samantha, Carrie and Charlotte, shouting "You go girl!" with two snaps and a twist, teetering on their high heels and drunk off of their watered-down Cosmos.
On the other side of the country, we see paparazzi shots of the LA rich and famous walking out with large bags emblazoned with the Sprinkles logo, written in perfect cursive, with the "i" dotted by a tiny heart. I know what you're thinking. These LA actresses don't eat food, no less cupcakes! You are probably right. But maybe these cupcakes are good enough to forget your calorie counting for a day. To spend a little more time at the gym. Or to partake in other questionable activities that keep those LA actresses so slim, which we will not mention here.
I've been dying to try a red velvet cake recipe. Being that it is Valentine's Day, I decided that the time was right. I found the recipe for Magnolia Bakery's red velvet cupcakes, but I did not like the fact that they came with a vanilla buttercream and not a cream cheese frosting. Now, I'm not from the South, but I do know one thing: Southerners are very proud of their rich, caloric cakes! Go on many-a-recipe site that features Red Velvet Cake recipes, and I guarantee you there will be one southern woman saying "I KNOW my red velvet cake, and this is all wrong!" Actually, the cake is traditionally supposed to have a butter roux frosting (aka a boiled milk frosting), but I don't like warm milk. Don't ask.
Through further searching, I found Sprinkles Cream Cheese frosting recipe. My heart lept a bit. I can combine Magnolia and Sprinkles, all into one cupcake?! This is some serious cupcake lover's fantasy right now!
So who won out?
The Magnolia cake was very good. It features a perfect amount of cocoa, where the flavor is subtle enough that it is not a chocolate cake, per se, but you know it is not a vanilla cake. I like the use of the cake flour, which made the cupcake very light. It was pretty moist, but I have seen many red velvet recipes that use vegetable oil in leiu of butter, and I want to try that in the future to see the difference.
Onto the frosting. Ohhh. The frosting. I am trying to relieve the memory of tasting that frosting for the first time. Upon tasting, my eyes shot open in delight. I let out a slight squeal of joy. This frosting is unbelievable light and fluffy, with just the right amount of sweetness and cream cheese tang. I would have slathered it on my arm and eaten that if I could. This is going to be my go-to cream cheese frosting for everything. Carrot Cake, Spice Cake, Red Velvet Cake, Chocolate Cake, Cookies, Whoopie Pies, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, braised celery, beef provencal. You name it, it's on it.
I think Sprinkles just won.
Please don't hate me, New York.
3½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
2 ½ cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
6 tbsp red food coloring
3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa (I think I actually put 6 tablespoons. I liked it, so maybe it was a good mistake)
1½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tsp salt
1½ cups buttermilk
1½ tsp cider vinegar
1½ tsp baking soda
12 ounces cold cream cheese
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, firm but not cold
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 pounds (1 1/2 boxes) powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and lightly flour 2 cupcake pans (24 cupcakes).
To make the batter: In a small bowl, sift the cake flour and set aside. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. In a small bowl, whisk together the red food coloring, cocoa, and vanilla. Add to the batter and beat well.
In a measuring cup, stir the salt into the buttermilk. Add to the batter in three parts alternating with the flour. With each addition, beat until the ingredients are incorporated, but do not overbeat. In a small bowl, stir together the cider vinegar and baking soda. Add to the batter and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the batter in the bowl, making sure the ingredients are well blended and the batter is smooth.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans. Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and bake the cupcakes, switching positions of the pans halfway through baking, until a tester comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Cool the cupcakes in the pan 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a rack before icing. To ice, mound about ¼ cup of frosting on top of each cupcake and use an icing spatula to make a swirl on top. If desired, decorate with colored sprinkles.
Combine butter, salt, and cream cheese in mixer and beat on medium speed 2-3 minutes.
Add sugar until just incorporated. Don’t over mix. It should be thick but not fluffy.
Add vanilla. If necessary, add milk to thin.