In college, my roommates and I would find our way to NYC every so often, whether to visit friends, interview for jobs, or just to get away from campus. But one thing was always constant – whoever went would always lug back a box of freshly baked cupcakes from Crumbs, Magnolia, or (our personal favorite) Buttercup Bakery. The hardest part was waiting – we tried to hold off until the majority of our blockmates were free, but once we had a decent number gathered it was a free for all. Forget dainty napkins and forks – we dug into those boxes of cupcakes with an intensity that was equal parts frightening and amazing. It. Was. AWESOME.
So naturally, when I ran across a recipe for wine chocolate cake on Smitten Kitchen, I was sold. Cake + Wine? GENIUS! Plus, I did have some Malbec left over from the Coq au Vin I made this weekend.
And while I don’t love cakes (too big and intimidating – and hard to grab on the run!), the idea of mini wine cupcakes had an irresistible pull on me. Plus the wine dyes the cakes a pretty burgundy, similar to my all time favorite cupcake flavor: red velvet. So while the recipe called for a mascarpone icing (I have no idea what that is, by the way…I should find out at some point…), I couldn’t get the idea of using a cream cheese frosting out of my head. Add a dusting of cinnamon on top and a mini chocolate chip, and you get a perfect bite of rich, chocolate-y goodness with a hint of spiced wine.
And just as a warning, the wine doesn’t bake away completely – when you bite into these, you still smell / taste a bit of the sharp richness of the wine. The frosting does a great job of balancing it out, but you’ll still get that warmth that wines are so good at bringing.
Mini Wine-infused Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
For the cupcakes
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup white granulated sugar
1.5 eggs (I used ~1/3 cup egg substitute)
3/4 cup red wine (remember what we said about wine you cook with? Make sure it’s one you like and would normally drink. Especially since there’ll be leftovers!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg (for a little warmth)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus extra for decoration
For the frosting:
2 tablespoon butter, at room temp
4 tablespoons reduced fat cream cheese
~2 cups of powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a mixer, cream the butter until it’s smooth (If your butter is straight out of the fridge, you can bring it to “room temp” by microwaving it on defrost for ~20 seconds). Add in the two sugars, and let it incorporate and get light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add the egg and mix until incorporated, then add the wine and the vanilla extract. This stage really doesn’t look pretty, since the wine / butter really don’t mix that well. But don’t worry, it’s just going through an awkward phase – it gets better.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add this to your wet ingredients, and mix until it’s mostly incorporated. Finish mixing by hand, folding together the ingredients. The batter should be a little glossy and a rich reddish brown color. If you want it to be really red like red velvet cake, you can add in red food coloring, up to you (By the way, at this point, the batter smells INCREDIBLE – like spiced wine on Christmas morning – minus the presents).
Spray a mini cupcake tray with cooking oil, and pour the batter into the cups, filling about 3/4 of the way.
Bake in the oven for 8-12 minutes, until the cupcakes pass the toothpick test – if you stick in a toothpick in the middle of the cupcake, it should come out clean. If it’s still gooey, let it bake for a little longer. They puff up into cute little button-like domes, adorable!
Let the cakes cool (but taste test one first though. See? Delicious, no?? Just wait until you have it with frosting…).
In the meantime, making the frosting by mixing the butter and cream cheese in a small bowl (I just used a spoon to do this). Slowly add in the powdered sugar, until the frosting gets to a consistency you like. If the frosting is too runny, just add more powdered sugar. If you want a spiced cream cheese frosting, you can add a pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon. Once the frosting is mixed, fill a piping bag with it, fitted with a tip if you want to get fancy with the piping. Or you can just transfer the frosting to a ziploc bag, seal it, and snip off the tip as an impromptu frosting bag.
Once the cupcakes are cooled (~15 minutes), pipe on the frosting.
Add a chocolate chip on top (I used mini ones – I think a normal sized one would look better), and sprinkle with cinnamon. I dusted mine with cinnamon poured over a sieve, so it’d come out evenly, but you definitely don’t need to do that. You can also mix a little powdered sugar with the cinnamon first, if straight cinnamon is too strong for you.
All done! I imagine these go really well with a cup of coffee, hot chocolate or leftover red wine =)