Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Italian Inspired Chocolate-Red Wine Cupcakes

When it comes to wine, it’s pretty hard to compete with Italian reds. Almost four years ago, my husband and I spent our honeymoon drinking our way through Italy, making stops in Tuscany, Rome and the Amalfi Coast. Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a glass of Montepulciano d'Abruzzo right about now! All this reminiscing over the breathtaking views of Tuscan hills and vineyards is making me hungry, but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! The April FOOD & WINE issue is devoted to all things Italian, so when they asked me to create an Italian inspired dessert, I knew immediately that red wine had to be involved! Luckily, FOOD & WINE has the most delicious recipe for a chocolate-red wine cake. The chocolate flavor is rich, but there’s enough red wine to make this cake more decadent than any chocolate cake you’ve ever had. The recipe suggests serving with fresh whipped cream so I decided to turn the cake into cupcakes and top with a dollop of whipped cream (easy and delicious!)

Since I can’t seem to bake anything without busting out the food coloring and fondant, I took some inspiration from the art of Florentine marbled papers and created edible versions to garnish the top of the cupcakes. If you find yourself in Florence, it’s hard to walk by any gift shop without spotting this beautifully intricate marbled paper. It’s as Florentine as a good cone of gelato. Dating back to the 17th century, the process of making the paper is truly an art form and I wouldn’t begin to use those techniques in making my edible versions. (This would be a very long how-to!) Instead, I used gel food coloring and toothpicks to mimic the marble patterns on fondant. The traditionalists of Florence may not approve, but I’m sure they would enjoy the cupcake. Plus, this is the perfect way for me to remember just a couple of the reasons I love Italy so much. Mangiamo!

Chocolate-Red Wine Cupcakes
Recipe adapted from FOOD & WINE

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp. Confectioner's sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a muffin tin with liners or parchment cups. In a bowl, whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

2. In a large bowl, using a handheld electric mixer, beat the butter with the sugar at medium-high speed until fluffy, 4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and beat for 2 minutes longer. Working in two batches, alternately fold in the dry ingredients and the wine, until just incorporated.

3. Scrape the batter into the cups, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool completely.

4. In a clean, chilled bowl, beat 2 cups of cold heavy whipping cream until stiff peaks form then mix in the confectioner's sugar. Use a pastry bag or spoon to top the cupcakes with the whipped cream. 

Make sure you use a high-quality unsweetened cocoa powder. Opting for the good stuff makes all the difference in a chocolate cake like this one.

Make your own cupcake liners by cutting squares of parchment and forming them into the muffin tin cups. It’s a great solution if you’re all out of liners and they look pretty fancy, too.

Lightly drop the muffin tin a few times on your counter top to make sure no bubbles are lurking in your batter. 

Now, onto the marbled garnish. You’ll need gel food coloring and fondant (which you can find at any craft or specialty baking store), clean paintbrushes, toothpicks, a light dusting of powdered sugar (so the fondant doesn’t stick) and a rolling pin. I also love edible gold dust but it’s not a must.

I used a 1.5” circle cutter to cut the fondant, but you could make your marble garnish any shape you like.

Although there’s no right or wrong way to apply the color, I found it works best when you lay the food coloring on pretty thick. The more coloring, the easier it is to swirl ‘em together. 

Then, draw lines with your toothpick to “pull” the food coloring. Keep it simple in the beginning, starting with just 2 colors until you find a method that works for you. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way so have fun with it. Let your edible marble garnishes dry overnight before placing them on the cupcake.


  1. I LOVE your marble garnish!!! :) They are SO pretty! :)

  2. WOW! This is really an amazing and attractive post about Wine based Cupcakes . I appreciate your posted wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing such an interesting post.

  3. My friend usually skips dessert saying she prefers her sugar in the form of wine. So, when it came to her fiftieth birthday I merged her wine with a real dessert and made these cupcakes. They turned out really nicely and the whipped cream was the perfect topping, making for a not too sweet but flavorful dessert. I'll keep this in my files. Thanks!


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  5. WOW! This is really an amazing and attractive post about Wine based Cupcakes
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