Denver Book Club + Red Velvet Cupcakes

One of the best decisions I made last year was to ask my friends if they would be interested in joining a book club, aka an excuse to periodically enjoy good company, good food, and good wine. Denver was an enthusiastic member of this hodge podge group and I am glad so many people were able to meet Denver through my random get togethers.

I decided our next meeting should be Denver inspired and she had given me her copy of Mindy Kaling’s ‘Why Not Me’ the week before she passed, so it seemed appropriate to read it in her honor. The book is hilarious and I read it from start to finish one afternoon while Winnie looked up at me every time I laughed.

Mindy Kaling is relatable and everyone wants to be her friend. Denver had the same quality – she instantly made you feel at ease and you were a better person simply by being in her presence.

The menu I chose was not necessarily Denver’s favorite meal, but it was the meal that I had gotten in the habit of making for her over the last few months. While I would bring stacks of cookies or meals for her siblings and other friends, I kept it simple with Denver. She wasn’t always hungry, but it was healthy and I knew Denver would eat some of it. The meal was always a rotisserie chicken, a baked sweet potato, and roasted broccoli topped with Parmesan.

If I could get her to eat a little chicken, it was a good day. The roasted broccoli was one of her favorites and she made it for me one night when we had a girls dinner at my place.

I have been making broccoli this way ever since – roast raw broccoli in olive oil and salt at 400 for 15-20 minutes and top with Parmesan. She never ate the broccoli, but she liked having it there. I laughed when I noticed the mounds of broccoli on the veggie trays at her memorial – she wouldn’t have eaten it, but she would have liked it.

My friend Joanna was kind enough to host at her adorable home in Irvington and make the meal. We interned in the Governor’s Office together (the Governor in office before the current guy, who almost ran for president once, and his first name starts with a M) and bonded over politics, ridiculousness, and obscene amounts of pita chips.

For dessert I made red velvet cupcakes. Denver liked my chocolate chip and keylime cookies, but I wanted to make something full of love and it doesn’t get much more festive than red velvet. I cut out little hearts (use the fold in half paper trick) and wrote lowercase ‘d’s on them. I taped the hearts to toothpicks to make these Denver cupcakes.

While I have made so many different versions of red velvet, this was the one I chose for book club. The cake flour really does make a difference, the buttermilk makes it moist, and the little drop of white vinegar makes the color bright red.


Recipe via Annie’s Eats

2½ cups cake flour
1½ cups sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
2 large eggs
1½ cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk
An entire bottle of red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp white vinegar


10 oz. cream cheese, chilled
6½ tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3¼ cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 tsp. clear vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° Line cupcake pans with paper liners. In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder and salt; whisk to blend. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla and vinegar. Beat on medium speed until well blended. Mix in the dry ingredients on low speed and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared liners. Bake, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 18 minutes. Let cool in the pans 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

Combine the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.  Add in the confectioners’ sugar and mix on low speed just until incorporated.  Increase the speed to medium-high and beat 2-3 minutes more.  Blend in the vanilla.  Frost cupcakes.

Xx, Libby


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