I’m having a bit of trouble lately… Call it hormones or the color blue… I am in dire need of comfort. And what do I do when in such desperation? You already know I like to eat so that was a giveaway. But another form of therapy that feels sooo much better than the retail variety is to cook something…. Especially when cooking means baking.

I’m going back to when I saw the movie Julie & Julia, when the modern epicurean Julie self reflects on the wonders of baking: ‘You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. You can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That’s such a comfort.’

I couldn’t have said it better. My first stab at anything culinary was as the tender age of 6, when I intelligently mixed water, flour and salt, stuck it in the toaster oven til it turned a different shade of beige, then force-fed them to the maids. Clearly, the latter party was not appreciative of me trading roles for a meal.

Thing is, I’m a bit anal when I cook, and bake. I hate mixes and refuse to “cook” anything out of a can. When I used to make Tiramisu (which, I will not lie, is LEGEN-wait for it-DARY) for friends, I was so OC that I made my own broas aka Madelaines from scratch so I could control the cushiness and softness of the bread element, which is imperative especially when you soak them in the coffee liquer. Well, at least I thought everyone baked the old fashioned way.

But when the mood madness gets really bad, only few things take me back to sanity. Tate’s Cookies is one of them; my other happy pill is Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcakes.

I think it’s the Angeleno in me… When the pioneer Beverly Hills branch opened, I zoomed right thru Santa Monica Blvd. to get me some minicake! I think part of the love affair was the interior of the store.

So muted and sleek, it felt more like stepping into a boutique than a cupcakerie. Owner/Baker Candace Nelson comes from a great granny who made a name for herself during the 1930s in San Francisco for her yummy desserts. The sweet thumb rubbed off on her and she opened the BH cupcakerie with her husband. I love that she “continues the tradition of simple and satisfying desserts handcrafted from the best ingredients – not too precious, always just right- our hope is that Sprinkles will conjure up lovely memories of our own childhood or family, or simple the pleasure of good taste.”

Cuteness.The best part would always be walking in, the scent of chocolate, butter and sugar wafting in the air, and having the initial visual connection to the cupcakes.

When I moved to NY in 2007, my indomitable spirit would not let the Sprinkles craze die, and forced my Westcoast peeps to send me some cupcakes when they visited for my birthday

Needless to say… I was one happy New Yorker chomping on some LA cupcakes (they didn’t have branches outside of Cali then)

What makes them so different? I’d like to think it’s magic powder or some aphrodisiac. The magic powder in the red velvet cupcakes is the exotic flavor of dark Callebaut cocoa which has a deep, rich flavor unique from the regular store bought cocoa. Red Velvet is actually a chocolate flavor, made more interesting with the addition of vinegar in the mix. The red comes from… well.. a LOT of food coloring. Trust me… you will be pooping red after a few of these cupcakes

So now I’m back in Manila… and I want comfort, and I want cupcakes, and I want Sprinkles. What do I do? I get the Sprinkles Red Velvet Cupcake Mix!!!

These mixes come in Chocolate, Vanilla, Banana, Lemon, Spice and my oh so favorite… Red Velvet! I’m so lucky that someone who knows me very well sent me two tins of the Red Velvet Mix to appease my reverse culture shock coming back home

So for the holidays, I decided to share the wealth and used the tins for good use: a birthday party and a holiday dinner!

So it starts with the contents of the mix tin.

A generous mixture of the dry ingredients, full instructions, and the signature multicolored candy dots fill up the cute cylindrical tin. It also gave the recipe for the cream cheese frosting… which I will share later on…

Then we come with the accessories to the cupcake crime:

Well, it’s butter, butter, cream cheese, a box of confectioners’ sugar, eggs, milk and (not shown) vinegar.

Once the butter was whipped and the dry ingredients mixed in with the eggs and milk+sugar, the mixing bowl becomes this scarlet scare of a mix that, when accidentally dribbled into bare hands, turns skin into a real red henna’d mess. It was soooo hard to take off! Oh, and did I tell you I couldn’t find my mixer? Yep, everything by hand beater and arm muscles! Hello Workout!

In the first batch, I made 12 giant cupcakes, and they were BIG! But for our Christmas celebration, I decided to spread the wealth and found tiny muffin tins, so I made 2 dozen baby cupcakes. Look at that color!

Once baked, the cakes are a beautiful rich red that is just waiting to be engulfed. But not just yet…

ICING! The best part of the Red Velvet Legend. The slight cheesiness balances out the vat of butter and entire box of powdered sugar in the mix. A drop of vanilla and it’s just whipping time needed. My icing skills, as demonstrated above, are clearly not haute couture… but my icing was good so I’m sure you can ignore the ickyness…

Topped with the signature red dot… my cupcakes looked like this… It’s PERFECTION at its finest. The cake was moist and filled with deep chocolate tones, with a refreshing tanginess from the addition of a little vinegar. But the icing literally takes the cupcake to the next level. I would make this icing just to smear it on toast or on any piece of baked goodie.

Now here’s the dealio… That picture is my cupcakes in a box. There’s a story to the box. As I knew I was transporting these cupcakes to a party… I had to think of a smart way to carry them.. So I sauntered off to Cupcakes by Sonja in Serendra with a plan.

ToT: Hi Miss I’d like to buy a cupcake
Miss: Ok Ma’am which one would you like…
ToT: Uhm.. Just one. But if I buy just one can you give me the big box of 12? I just really need the box…
Miss: Uhm… (weird look) sure.

And then I had this crazy conversation with my mom in the kitchen as I was about to bake:

Mom: What are you doing? Why is there so much butter in the fridge?!?
ToT: I’m making cupcakes…. I need butter
Mom: What’s this (sees big box in fridge)? Cupcake? There’s a cupcake in the fridge and your BAKING more cupcakes?
ToT: I needed the box…

When I gave it to the party, no one would believe that I made them! I guess the box also had to be explained, so I give them that. But then I got it from my maid who, upon watching my baking prowess, said “Ma’am, bilib na talaga ako sayo,” (Ma’am, now I’m really impressed with you) as if to insinuate that just because I don’t make my own bed I also don’t know my way around an oven.
My brothers are in LA right now, so AHEM AHEM, dear Californian friends if you are reading this right now: SEND ME COME CUPCAKES! TELL THE CUPCAKE LADY TO WRAP IT FOR AIRPLANE TRAVEL… OR SEND ME SOME MORE RED VELVET MIX!!!!! Thank you!

Here is the recipe for the cream cheese frosting… it is absolutely delish… and is MUCH more than needed which, I believe, is a good thing:

Sprinkles Cream Cheese Frosting Recipe
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick butter, firm but not cold
3 3/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Using the flat beater in your electric mixer, beat cream cheese, butter, and salt on medium low speed until smooth and creamy (approx. 2-3 mins).
  • Reduce speed to low and gradually add the confectioners sugar, beating until incorporated.
  • Add the vanilla and beat just until mixed.
  • Do not overbeat or the frosting will incorporate too much air (it should be creamy and dense like ice cream).
  • Add milk (1 teaspoon at a time) if frosting is not a spreadable consistency

Most photos from the Sprinkles Website.

Visit and salivate at the yummy Sprinkles cupcakes here
You can order the mixes there or at Williams Sonoma