December 2, 2016 • FOOD, HOLIDAYS, RECIPE

Hello, Sugar: Southern Plate’s Red Velvet ‘Holly Leaf’ Cupcakes [RECIPE]

For good old Southern recipes passed down through generations, we click on over to Southern Plate. Penned by Christy Jordan of Madison, AL, the blog tempts us with breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes passed on to Christy by her grandmother via her mother. But it’s those dessert recipes that really send us.

Christy, who is currently greeting sugar fiends like us on her book tour for her latest cookbook—Sweetness—took a moment to share a red velvet holiday cupcake with us.


Christy Jordan of Southern Plate baked these red velvet cupcakes and decorated them with holly leaves and berries made from candy clay. Served with our Draper James holiday home items, including Wreath Mugs, Melamine Wreath Plates, Wreath Placemats, and Deck the Halls Cocktail Napkins, they are irresistibly festive.

Tell us about these cupcakes!
This is an old family recipe for red velvet cake that came from a dear friend of my mother’s. To use a Southern phrase, I’d call this “the red velvet recipe to end all red velvet recipes” because it is the ultimate. My mother often uses this recipe to make cake layers several weeks in advance and freeze them. Then, as Christmas gets closer, she pulls them all out and has a big old Red Velvet Cake Decorating day! I started making red velvet cupcakes—instead of cake—because they are so easy to serve.

You made them look so festive. . . 
The holly leaves and berries on top of the cupcakes are made from candy clay. Candy clay is my secret weapon for cake decorating because the ingredients can be purchased at any grocery store (the recipe only requires two things!) and anyone with basic play-doh skills from childhood can form whatever they need out of it.


“I picked up a simple holly leaf plunger cookie cutter at a craft store to form these cake decorations, but they would be simple to make by just rolling out the candy clay and cutting out holly leaf shapes with a pairing knife,” says Christy. “In fact, if you have a child who enjoys playing with play dough, make up some candy clay and put them to work making cake decorations!”

Needless to say, we love the way you styled the cupcakes with the Draper James tabletop pieces.
I love the traditional colors of red and green for Christmas, but the pop of dark blue from these gorgeous mugs is a beautiful background to more traditional colors and really elevates the table a notch. The plates are large enough to use as serving pieces or for friends to grab and fill at a holiday buffet!

Can you recommend some other dishes from your site (sweet or savory) that we might try for the holidays?
One of my personal holiday favorites is Sweet Potato Creme Brûlée. It’s actually very easy to make and requires no special ingredients or equipment. A slow cooker turkey breast is simple, too—just throw in a crock pot in the morning and have a juicy and flavorful supper in the evening. I do this when it’s just the four of us and a full turkey can be a bit much. And of course, cookies! We have a special Christmas cookie recipe that goes back to some of my earliest memories and decorating them on Christmas Eve has become a tradition in my own family.

Christy Jordan’s Phenomenal Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing

Ingredients for Red Velvet Cake

Makes about 18-20 cupcakes.

  • 2½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1½  cups vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-ounce bottle red food coloring

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Icing

  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • ½ cup butter (or margarine), at room temperature
  • 1 pound confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


Directions for Cake

In a medium bowl, stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In a separate large mixing bowl, mix together sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs, and vinegar. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and beat on medium speed until well blended. Add vanilla and entire bottle of red food coloring to batter and mix again on low speed until well blended and uniform in color. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with papers. Fill each paper about ¾ full with batter. Will end up with 18-20 cupcakes. Bake at 350°F for 20-25 minutes, or until center springs back when pressed lightly with finger. Allow to cool completely before icing.

Directions for Icing
Cream together cream cheese and butter. Add sugar and vanilla and beat with electric mixer until smooth and creamy, scraping down sides as needed. Ice cooled cupcakes. Cupcakes can be left at room temp, but I love them refrigerated!

Christy Jordan’s Candy Clay Recipe

Note: You must use gel food coloring for this, rather than traditional food coloring drops. Gel food coloring can be purchased at most craft stores and many grocers. Be careful not to let even one drop of water get near your chocolate or it will seize up and be unusable.


  • 12 ounces vanilla chips or white candy melts
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • Christmas tree green gel food coloring
  • Red gel food coloring


Place chips in medium microwave-safe bowl. Heat at one minute intervals, stirring after each, until just melted and smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in corn syrup until fully combined. Remove about ¼ of mixture to a separate bowl and stir in enough red food coloring to reach desired shade. Repeat with the remaining mixture and green food coloring. Pour candy out (separately) onto waxed-paper-lined baking sheets and allow to harden. To speed this up, place in the refrigerator.

Break off a bit of candy clay at a time and knead until smooth and pliable. Form tiny balls for the berries. After kneading, roll green candy clay out between two sheets of waxed paper, using a rolling pin, to a thickness of about ¼”. Peel off top sheet of waxed paper and cut out holly leaves with a pairing knife or a holly leaf cookie cutter. Allow to sit for at least one hour or so before using, so that the shapes stiffen up again.


Christy Jordan of Southern Plate blog.