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Wine Cupcakes? Wine Not!

Little did I know my recent foray into making Merlot ice cream would turn me onto a whole new world of alternative uses for wine. While drinking it is most likely still its best function, wine is capable of such a dynamic variety of flavors that the possibilities seem almost endless. This is why I decided to remain in the safe bosom of tasty treats for my second experiment, and when it comes to delicious desserts, my happy place is cupcakes. Don’t believe me? Ask my waistline. I’m only kidding – my waistline can’t talk.

Terrible jokes aside, as much as I like a good old-fashioned yellow cake with buttercream icing, I especially love me a creative cupcake. But the sheer trendiness of cupcakes sometimes undercuts the artistry and science that goes into baking. Though I’m certainly not a master pastry chef, I do know that the chemistry of baking matters as much as which ingredients you choose. Too much sugar, a slight imbalance of flavor proportions, over-beating a batter – and it’s good night nurse. But when all of the measurements and processes come out right, it’s simply bellissimo!

With the pressure of perfection in mind, I knew I might be getting in a little over my head adding a fine wine into the mix. But when I got my hands on a 2007 Carina Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, I couldn’t help myself. Why have wine and cupcakes when you can have wine IN cupcakes?

With Cabernet in hand – and, of course, with some in a glass for sipping — I decided to use the wine as the centerpiece to my cupcake design and build the rest around it. This is where tasting notes come in handy. Just like in a normal wine tasting, you will want to try the wine and use the flavors you taste to inform what flavors would pair well with it. For example, Cabernets tend to have dark berry notes and sometimes hints of cocoa – so chocolate and/or berries might be a good starting point. These, conveniently, are what I decided to use for my wine cupcakes.

My first stop was consulting the master cupcake chefs at Robicelli’s for tips when baking with wine. Allison reiterated the importance of sticking to the recipe proportions to a T, as well as using the tasting notes from the wine to help you select other flavors. For the novice baker, she suggested making a fruit compote and swapping the wine in for water and then using the compote as either a filling or a topping. Robicelli’s often uses wine in their recipes and I recommend checking them out for inspiration, or for eating, or for both!

After scouring the internet for some D.I.Wine (I’ll stop with the puns) inspiration, I found a simply di-wine (last time, seriously) recipe from the Adventures in Cupcakes blog perfect for my first Cabernet cupcake. Although I remained faithful to the gist, I decided to modify it a little and throw a homemade raspberry Cabernet glaze on top for good measure. Now that you have the back story, here’s the recipe:

Cocoa Cabernet Cupcakes with Rasbernet Glaze 

Raspbernet is the last portmanteau pun, I promise. Here’s the best part – the recipe is relatively simple, but the final outcome is richly rewarding.

First things first, I preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. I always find the oven heats faster than I mix, but if I don’t do it first thing I end up waiting around for the oven to heat up with a whole lot of batter on my hands – because I’m eating it with my fingers.

While the oven heated, I mixed the dry ingredients. Though not 100% necessary, I recommend you sift all of the ingredients through a sieve if you have one readily available. I sifted flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon first. Before adding the essential powder, I threw in a few pinches of nutmeg and a few pinches of cayenne pepper. Lastly, I added, sans sieve, ½ a cup of organic, Dutch-pressed cocoa powder.

After mixing the ingredients by hand, I put the bowl in its complementary standing mixer. Now as much as I love my standing mixer, mixing by hand is still a safe option. You may get a few drops of sweat in your batter, but you’ll get a sick bicep muscle — more importantly, your cupcakes still have a fighting chance.

Once the bowl was securely locked down in the mixer, I attached the flat beater and started adding in the “wet stuff” on low. First two eggs, next some canola oil and then vanilla. After beating those into a chocolatey batter, I added the wine. Just ¾ a cup of Cabernet is enough to take your cupcake to the next level. You don’t need to boil it either, just pour it straight into the mix – simple, I told you! Lastly, I threw in ¼ a cup of Mast Brothers organic chocolate nibs for texture and an extra punch of flavor. Then, I turned the mixer on high speed for a few minutes until the batter looked irresistibly creamy.

This particular recipe will yield you up to 18 cupcakes, but I only had a 12-cup baking sheet. So, naturally I disposed of the leftover batter. In my stomach.

After pouring each cup about halfway full – I popped the cupcakes in the oven for 20 minutes. In the meantime, I set out to make a raspberry and Cabernet glaze for the top. I stuck ½ cup of Cabernet on the stovetop to boil, and gathered confectioners’ sugar, salted butter, salt, vanilla and fresh raspberries. After the wine boiled for about 10 minutes, I combined it with vanilla, half a stick of melted butter and ½ cup of the raspberries. After it was a thick, pink soup, I added the powdered sugar bit by bit until combined.

Luckily, this almost perfectly coincided with the cupcakes. After letting the cupcakes cool only a bit, I drizzled the raspberry glaze all over the hot cupcakes. The raspberry seeds might bother some, but I loved the texture they added to the overall cupcake experience.

I’m not even a huge fan of chocolate cupcakes, but tasting a warm, glazed cocoa Cabernet cupcake made me exclaim “holy moly!” And in the words of Martha Stewart, it’s a good thing.

Ingredient List: Cocoa Cabernet Cupcakes with Raspbernet Glaze  (adapted from Adventures in Cupcakes)

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

pinch of cayenne

pinch of nutmeg

½ cup of Dutch-pressed cocoa powder

½ cup canola oil

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 eggs

¾ cup of Cabernet Sauvignon (Make sure it’s one you would drink on its own!)

¼ cup of Cocoa Nibs


1 cup of Confectioner’s sugar

¼ cup of Cabernet Sauvignon (use your judgment – I used more)

½ stick of salted butter

½ cup of fresh raspberries

1/8 tsp of salt

½ tsp of vanilla extract

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