I've always had the opinion that red wine and chocolate were made for each other, so when I happened upon a recipe for chocolate red-wine cupcakes, all my other baking plans flew out the window. Now, I'm no wine connoisseur, but I do have a favorite red. I keep a bottle of Chianti squirreled away in my wine cabinet for special occasions. I couldn't wait to see how it tasted in cake form.
The red wine flavor in the chocolate cake is subtle, so I felt punching up the Chianti taste with frosting was an absolute necessity. I made a simple confectioners' icing with a wine reduction and finished it with a few tablespoons of Chianti strait from the bottle. I've made these twice; once as full size cupcakes and once (shown here) as minis. I loved the minis, and could imagine them lined up on a fancy platter for the perfect sweet bite at a cocktail party.
I used tiny Bunchins table grapes as a cupcake garnish (remember them from this post?). I like the added freshness in both flavor and appearance. If you can't find this tiny variety of grape, an average-size grape can be halved and perched on top.
Chianti Chocolate Cupcakes
Cake portion adapted from Silvana Nardon's recipe [click for printable version]
Makes about a dozen cupcakes or 2.5-3 dozen mini cupcakes
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 oz. dark chocolate (72%) broken into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling water
1 stick (8 oz.) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup plus 1/8 cup all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup Chianti red wine
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place liners in cupcake pan cavities.
2. In a medium heatproof bowl, combine cocoa powder and chocolate pieces, whisk in the boiling water until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is thoroughly combined.
3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and granulated sugar. Beat in the eggs until well blended. Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until just combined. Alternating, add the chocolate mixture and wine, mix until batter is smooth.
4. Divide batter among cupcake liners, filling them about halfway full. Bake for about 20 minutes for regular size cupcakes - 10-12 for minis. Allow to cool completely before frosting.
*Note: These cupcakes have a flat top when baked, so don't expect a nice rounded top. That said, they are very moist and tender. Don't let the flat tops fool you!
1 cup Chianti wine plus 4 tablespoons, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 sticks of butter, softened (not room temperature, butter should still be a little cold)
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Small seedless red grapes for garnish
1. Place 1 cup Chianti and granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved, and simmer until mixture is reduced to scant 1/3 cup. Allow to cool completely
2. In the bowl of a standing mixer with the whisk attachment, combine the softened butter and confectioners' sugar. Mix on low speed at first, and then on high until mixture is fluffy. With mixer running, gradually pour in the cooled Chianti reduction. Add salt and beat until well combined. Scrape down the bowl as necessary.
3. Again, with the mixer running, gradually pour in the 4 tablespoons of Chianti one tablespoon at a time until thoroughly mixed. Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large french decorator tip. Frost cupcakes and garnish with grapes.