I love my job.  Really… Of course it can be hard and working for a non-profit in a small mountain community where you spend literally all of your time with the same people can be tough but it is well worth it.  Cal-Wood Education Center is staffed by some remarkable people with talent and enviable enthusiasm for outdoor education and environmental education.

This is a beautiful view of Longs Peak with the Lodge at Cal-Wood Education Center taken on Wednesday morning.

A diverse population use the facilities at Cal-Wood but the main type of group to come up to the retreat center are school groups participating in our outdoor education program.  Most of the groups are kids from ages 9-11.

It is a never-ending delight to see these kids get off the bus and just stare at the surrounding mountains.  The energy and happiness that emanates from these little people is infectious.  They are just having a good time and it shows.

One of the main concerns for most kids is the food and what is going to be served to them and if they will like it or not.

With super picky kids to kids with long lists of food allergies my job can be difficult and I  am constantly working to create foods that are not only delicious and healthy but cater to everyone despite allergies or food dislikes.

This brings me around to why I am writing this post.  A couple of weeks ago and young lady came to the door of my kitchen after dinner.  She had a huge grin on her face and she was bouncing up and down.  “Did you make those red velvet cupcakes” she gushed.

“Yes” I replied.  “Did you like them?” I asked.

“Oh yes, those were the best cupcakes I have ever had!”   She continued to jump up and down and asked if she could have the recipe so that her mom could make them for her birthday coming up at the end of May.  I said “of course just visit my blog”.

This is why I do my job and go the extra mile for every single thing that I make at Cal-Wood Education Center.  This moment is what it all boils down to.

So here is the Red Velvet Cupcake recipe that has been requested by a young lady who took time out to come in my kitchen and make my whole week!

Red Velvet Cupcakes  (inspired by The Brown Eyed Baker and Cooks Illustrated)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup sugar
1 egg at room temperature
2½ tablespoons natural unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons red food coloring
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk at room temperature
1 cup
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1½ teaspoons distilled white vinegar

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line your muffin tin with papers and spray lightly with non-stick baking spray.

On medium-high speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Turn the mixer to high and add the egg. Scrape down the bowl and beat until well incorporated.

In a separate small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and red food coloring to make a thick paste. Add to the batter and mix on medium speed until completely combined.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add half of the buttermilk. Add half of the flour and mix until combined. Scrape the bowl and repeat the process with the remaining milk and flour. Beat on high until smooth.

Again, reduce the mixer speed to low and add the salt, baking soda and vinegar. Turn to high and beat for another couple of minutes until completely combined and smooth.

Divide the batter evenly between the cupcake liners and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife or skewer inserted into the center of the largest cupcake comes out clean.

Let cupcakes cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting
4 ounces butter, at room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2½ cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon sea salt

In a stand mixer or with hand held mixer whisk butter and cream cheese for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar until all is incorporated. Add the vanilla and sea salt and mix to combine. Increase the speed to medium high and whip for a few minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as necessary.