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Makes 24 cupcakes

2¾ cups plus 1 tablespoon (12 ounces) flour

2 cups (14 ounces) sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

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1 teaspoon salt

3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1½ ounces) cocoa powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1½ cups vegetable oil

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

¾ teaspoon red food coloring, or as needed to achieve desired color

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon coffee extract or strong coffee

Simple syrup (¾ cup sugar dissolved in 1½ cups water), optional

Prepared cream-cheese icing (recipe below)

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with 24 paper liners.

2. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder and cinnamon. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, vanilla and coffee extract or coffee. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet, stirring just until combined to form a smooth batter. Add additional food coloring if needed to achieve the desired shade of red.

3. Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin pans. Bake until the cupcakes are puffed and spring back when touched, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes and cool on a rack.

4. If desired, gently brush the tops of the cooled cupcakes with simple syrup to keep them very moist (the hotel places the syrup in a squeeze bottle and inserts the tip into the top of each cupcake to add a little syrup). Frost the cupcakes with the cream-cheese icing and decorate as desired.

Cream-cheese icing

¾ cup butter (1½ sticks), softened

1 pound cream cheese, softened

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon lemon oil extract

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, cream the softened butter.

2. Add the cream cheese and beat, scraping the bowl once or twice, until fully incorporated but still a little stiff.

3. Add the sugar and beat until somewhat fluffy and spreadable.

4. Beat in the vanilla and lemon oil, careful not to overmix.

Note: This makes about 4½ cups frosting. You may not use all of the frosting for the cupcakes; the remaining will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week (soften at room temperature and beat again before using).

Los Angeles Times

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