Birthday Red Velvet “Owl” Cupcakes, Johnnycake, & The One Room Schoolhouse

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My daughter is so grown up for a second grader. She chose going to a Broadway show instead of a birthday party to celebrate her 8th birthday. She is a Broadway show tune junkie! πŸ™‚ Another grown up choice was choosing red velvet cupcakes for her special birthday dessert. I thought that I wasn’t a red velvet fan- but these were super moist and wonderful. When we saw the owl cupcakes on Nancy CreativeΒ around Halloween, we both knew that we had to make them! I would say that the owl cupcake choice was the 8-year-old part of this birthday celebration, but I want them for my birthday too!! πŸ™‚ The cupcake recipe was adapted from Martha Stewart Living.

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To make the owl’s eyes, I microwaved the oreos 3 cookies at a time for 7 seconds, but I still had trouble getting a clean split. I need more practice… I suppose it’s been too long since I’ve eaten oreos the right way! The eyeballs and beak were made out of m&m’s. The eyebrows are made from the remaining filling-less sides of the oreo cookies, scored slightly less than in half. Adorable!

Yield: 12 cupcakes

For the Cupcakes:

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  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
  • 1 large egg, room temperature (can put in a bowl of warm water to quickly change the temperature)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red gel-paste food color
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees (convection). Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners. (I used foil-lined paper liners.)
  2. Whisk together cake flour, and cocoa; add salt.
  3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, whisk together sugar and oil until combined. Add the egg, beating until 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.
  5. Stir together the baking soda and vinegar in a small bowl (it will foam); add mixture to the batter; mix on medium speed 10 seconds.
  6. 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 18 minutes (on convection). 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.
  7. To finish, top with Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below).

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:

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Yield: 2 cups, enough to frost 12 cupcakes

  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 cups) confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • scant 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  1. Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low.
  2. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then vanilla; mix until smooth.
  3. Using a pastry bag with a large fluted tip, pipe onto cupcakes in a circular motion, starting on the outer rim.

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Number Cookies: Our Family Tradition! πŸ™‚

Another highlight of her birthday was that her class went on a field trip to a historic One Room Schoolhouse. She has been desperate to go on this trip because part of the fun is that everyone is supposed to dress in old-fashioned attire. She absolutely loves dressing up for everything- but this was particularly special because she wore one of my old dresses! (Thanks to her Nana who saves everything! :)) With a felt bonnet too. Super cute.

The kids also bring their lunch in baskets- with each item wrapped in bandanas or cloth. She brought an apple, a buttered roll, dried fruit, and a buttered johnnycake. We had problems coming up with a vessel for her drink…. Makes one appreciate modern conveniences!

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For the New England Johnnycake:

Yield: 12 standard muffins or 1 8-inch square cake (12 squares)

  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 2 large eggs
  1. Preheat an oven to 375 degrees (convection).
  2. Sift together the dry ingredients.
  3. Add the milk, syrup, oil, and eggs. Stir until just incorporated.
  4. Bake in a lined or greased muffin tin for 14 minutes, or in an 8-inch square pan for 20 to 25 minutes.

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One Year Ago:

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About Josette@thebrookcook

I live in Stony Brook, New York on Long Island. I love garlic and baking. My hobby (and love) is to try new recipes. My favorite recipe resources include The New York Times, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, and Martha Stewart Living. Enjoy!

10 responses to “Birthday Red Velvet “Owl” Cupcakes, Johnnycake, & The One Room Schoolhouse

  1. jessicanadelson

    Adorable! I love owls! You’ve outdone yourself!

  2. My MIL lives owls. This is a great surprise dessert for her!

  3. Awww these are soooo cute!!! And your daughter certainly is a grown up little second grader! That’s so great!

  4. This is amazing. You are extremely talented!

  5. These are just gorgeous! Such cute owl red velvet cakes. Happy 8th to your super star! Time flies. I remember her last year’s birthday post from you and number 7 cookies :).

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