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Thursday, May 1, 2014

UPDATED (2014) Weight Watchers 4 PointPlus Red Velvet Cupcakes [Recipe]


This past Valentine’s Day, I decided that I wanted to bake a red velvet cake for the Spousal Unit. As I set out on my mission, I remembered that the wife had just started back on Weight Watchers and was very conscious about what she ate. A brief search on das here Interwebs, and—BLAMO!—Weight Watchers red velvet cake recipes! I soon realized that all the search results were blog re-postings of a recipe originally posted to Food.com in 2005 by a user going by the name mariposa13.

I decided to give it a try. It was only 4 Points a serving, after all.

The cake turned out nice and was a hit with the wife. It was denser than regular cake but still pretty moist and flaky. The frosting, when the pudding and Cool Whip were blended together (more on this later), had a consistency and flavor similar to whipped frosting used by bakeries. Overall, the end results were unmistakably red velvet cake.

However, I wasn't satisfied. I had encountered several stumbling blocks as I prepared the recipe as originally written. These challenges got me thinking about ways to improve and update the recipe. When I learned that I could follow-up on my theories for my final project in the technical writing course I'm taking at Georgia State, I leapt at the opportunity to experiment.

So, dear friends and followers, I am proud to present to you the results of this culinary endeavor. We'll call this the first installment of "Taste Bud Thursdays," a new randomly-recurring series serving as my response to the over-saturation of Throwback Thursdays. I hope you enjoy the results, and—Please!—feel free to comment with your reviews and suggestions for improvement.


INGREDIENTS & INSTRUCTIONS
My notes on how and why I felt that the original recipe needed to be updated can be found after the jump.


Makes 16 servings at 4 PointsPlus each [1]

Cake:
  • 1 box (16.5 Oz) Duncan Hines Signature Red Velvet Cake Mix [2]
  • 12 oz diet Dr. Pepper soda [3]
Mix cake mix and diet soda. Line cupcake pan with cupcake liners [4]. Pour mix into cupcake pan. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until toothpick poked into the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool completely.

Frosting:

  • 2 small boxes of Jell-o fat-free, sugar-free instant cheesecake pudding mix [5]
  • 2 cups skim milk
  • 4 oz (half a container) fat-free Cool Whip, thawed 
Whisk pudding mix and milk together until smooth. Pudding will thicken as you mix. Once the pudding is thoroughly mixed, add Cool Whip and whisk well. Refrigerate until ready to serve [6].


Tips and Things I Learned While Play with My Food:




[Image Source: Food.com]
[1] The original Food.com recipe valued each serving at four points each at 15 servings. This valuation is based on whatever formula the Weight Watchers program used in 2005. For this update, I recalculated the recipe into the PointsPlus system using the “Recipe Builder” feature on the Weight Watchers website. I inputted the ingredients into the program and the number of servings, then allowed the system to calculate the points for me. According to the “Recipe Builder,” the original recipe is now valued at 5 PointsPlus a serving. By reducing the amount of Cool Whip and increasing the number of cupcakes from 15 to 16, I was able to bring the points value back to four points per serving. Of course, by limiting or cutting out the frosting altogether, you can further reduce the points value of each serving to roughly two points per serving.

[2] The original recipe called for an 18 oz. box of Duncan Hines red velvet cake mix back in 2005. However, nowadays the only size I seem to be able to find is 16.5 oz. This update takes into account this change and factors it into the point valuation.

[3] The original recipe uses 8 oz of diet Dr. Pepper. I found this volume made the mixture awkwardly thick and difficult to work with. Since the Weight Watchers points tracker feature valued a 20 oz bottle of diet Dr. Pepper at the same zero points as 8 oz, I added a little more soda to the mix until it was a more manageable consistency.

[4] I’m taking a cue from Wendy Zitzman of LaaLoosh.com. Pre-proportioning the recipe into 16 cupcakes is a lot easier and less messy than cutting a sheet cake slathered in frosting.

[5] The original version of this recipe called for one large box of pudding mix, which in 2005 made eight servings. In 2014, the large box only makes six serving. (I think you all are seeing a pattern here. That’s the Recession for you!) For this update, I used two small boxes at four servings each to achieve the original volume. The updated points valuation reflects this change.

[6] One of my biggest problems with mariposa13’s version had to do with the frosting. Her recipe called for the pudding to be spread onto a sheet cake separately from the Cool Whip, which was dolloped or spread on top of the frosting. I found the pudding too thin for this to work well. Also, I felt that the frosting tasted like pudding with Cool Whip on top, not cream cheese frosting, especially since her recipe uses a whole 8 oz tub of Cool Whip. Instead, I placed the mixed pudding in the refrigerator for about 10 minute prior to adding the Cool Whip. Doing so gave the pudding a consistency more like that of the frosting you might buy off the shelf. The pudding was less runny and easier to work with. I then whisked in only half the tub of Cool Whip. This actually made the frosting taste and behave more like whipped frosting used by bakeries. Also, by cutting the ratio of pudding to Cool Whip from 1:1 to 1:½, the points value dropped back down from 5 PointsPlus to 4.

Coincidently, empty Talenti gelato jar are excellent for storing extra frosting.


Weight Watchers Red Velvet
Creme Cakes Nutrition Label
On a side note: ever since I did a paper on 

a study published in the February 3, 2014 online issue of the JAMA Internal Medicine linking sugar consumption to death from heart disease, I’ve started being a little more self-conscious about my intake of artificial sugars, especially high-fructose corn syrup. I fail more often than succeed at regulating my consumption of these “bad sugars,” but at least I try. Unfortunately, everything nowadays, is infused in these added-sugars, making it hard to get away from it all. This recipe is no exception. When compared to the prepackaged Weight Watchers 2 PointPlus Red Velvet Creme Cake snacks, however, we find that this recipe fares somewhat better in regards to all those unpronounceable ingredients. If the points difference is a big concern, you can easily match the value by increasing the number of servings to 24 cupcake.

Still, my biggest concern is the ingredients in the diet Dr. Pepper. Weight Watchers is all about substitutions. Although diet Pepper is better than many of the other options, I feel it would behoove me to investigate this further since I like this recipe enough to make it again, after all. If I do any further experiments, I will of course let you all know about in a future post.