Just like Easter is the Christian version of Passover, Pentecost is the Christian celebration of the Jewish festival of Weeks. It marks the 50th day of the season. Originally the day celebrated the first harvest of the year. It means that spring is over and summer is here. The first grain harvest was offered in thanksgiving to God by a ceremonial fire.  

In Christian tradition, the day takes on a different meaning, but the image of fire remains. While people from all over the world were gathered to celebrate the Jewish festival, the Holy Spirit came upon a group of Christians and tongues of fire danced on their heads. They were spiritual first fruits. They left that experience with a new kind of power that propelled the Christian faith around the globe.

Pentecost is often called the birthday of the church, and is a celebration of how our differences are overcome by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is what makes Christ present in the world through the sacraments and in the Holy Church. Pentecost is a great time to celebrate each other and the way that the Spirit has brought us together. It is also a great day to pray for unity and revival in the church.

In our congregation, the tradition is to have a Red Velvet Birthday Cake after church. For our recipe we’ve chosen to do them as cupcakes, but it would also works as a cake. Red Velvet Cakes, prized in the south, probably originated  in Maryland. During WWII rations, bakers began to use the deeply red beetroot to color and sweeten their cakes. Today we often use red food coloring. While traditionally iced with a rich French butter roux icing, today most cakes are made with an equally good cream cheese topping. Our recipe makes 24 cupcakes. You may even want to add birthday candles for the 12 tribes and the 12 apostles to celebrate the people of God throughout time. Happy Birthday Church!

Girolamo Muziano, The Pentecost, 16th century

Red Velvet Cupcakes

Makes 24 Cupcakes


2 cups (400g/14.2oz) granulated sugar
3 tablespoons (23g/0.75oz) unsweetened dark cocoa powder
3 cups (345g, 12oz) cake flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ sticks (170g/6oz) unsalted butter, cut into pieces (room temperature)
3 eggs
1 ½ cups (360g/12.7oz) buttermilk
1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons red food coloring

Cream Cheese Frosting
12oz cream cheese
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened
1 ½ tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (6oz) confectioners’ sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line two 12-cup muffin tins with baking liners.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or with a hand mixer), combine the 2 cups granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons unsweetened dark cocoa powder, 3 cups cake flour, 1 ½ teaspoons baking soda and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Mix on low for 1 minute.
  3. Add the 1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, cut into pieces (room temperature) to the mixer bowl. Mix on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until the mixture resembles wet sand.
  4. In a liquid measuring cup, whisk together the 3 eggs, 1 ½ cups buttermilk, 1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons red food coloring.
  5. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour in the egg/buttermilk mixture. Mix for 1 minute. Scape down the sides and then continue mixing for 1 or 2 minutes more. Scape down the sides again.
  6. Using a ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop prepared batter into the prepared muffin cups.
  7. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. Let the cupcakes cook in the pans for 30 minutes and then transfer them to a cooling rack to cool completely.
  9. Once completely cooled, icing the top, if desired.
  10. For the Frosting: Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat 12oz cream cheese, 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, 1 ½ tablespoons sour cream, 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, and ¼ teaspoon salt on medium-high speed until smooth, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to medium-low, and slowly add the 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar. Beat until smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.