Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes

It is less than three months before we make the big move to Canada. Our house is in shambles. Boxes are piled high, the bookcase, usually full of beautiful cookbooks and novels, is empty, save for small piles of misplaced items. Half our furniture is gone. I grieve as each item walks out the door (oh! our table!), but at the same time I feel a little more.. free. We eat each meal perched on the couch, balancing out plate on our knees. Our wine glasses on the couch arms. The posters and artwork are slowly coming down from the walls as they are filed into their appropriate boxes. My entire life’s worth of clothes are divided into three piles: to store, to take, to give away.

We did a practice pack last evening. We packed every item we plan to take into our suitcases. Zipped them up. Made a list of everything. Then filed them back into their drawers.

Apparently this is strange. Apparently most people don’t do this. Is this strange? Meh, I say – most people aren’t packing up their life and moving to a completely foreign country shortly. I simply couldn’t bear the thought of doing our final pack the day before we leave and realising I could have bought that coat after all, but can’t as it’s packed tightly into the bottom of our ‘to store’ box on the other side of the country…

Although the main part of our house is a mess, the kitchen is more than fully functioning. It is the only space that is untouched, and I will ensure it is maximised until the day we leave. Amidst the chaos that our life/house has become, I can bake. It seems to be the only thing that keeps life normal.

We happened to have a couple of reds left over from Christmas, and a block or two of Lindt Dark Noir so, naturally, I baked Chocolate and Red Wine cupcakes. These cupcakes can speak for themselves. You’ll see – the cake is moist and fudgey, the frosting is light and tinted with alcohol. Although most of the wine is reduced to a syrup meaning the alcohol is cooked out, throwing in a few tablespoons at the end ensures they have that Shiraz kick. These are something quite different – best enjoyed towards the end of the evening.

Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes
Recipe from Sprinkle Bakes
Makes 12

Chocolate cupcake:

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
50g dark chocolate (72%) broken into small pieces
1/4 cup boiling water
120g 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 red wine (I have used both Shiraz and Merlot and both turned out great)

1. Preheat oven to 180˚C. 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!

Red Wine Frosting:

EDIT: Because I favor cream cheese over buttercream, I didn’t use the following recipe for frosting, but have included it here as per the recipe on Sprinkle Bakes. Users have commented that it makes far too much – I suggest halving it. I made the syrup as per recipe below, but folded it in to a basic cream cheese frosting. Although an unlikely combination, the tang of the cream cheese complimented the sweet red wine syrup perfectly.

1 cup Chianti wine plus 4 tablespoons, divided
1/4 cup granulated sugar
225g butter, softened but still 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.

48 thoughts

  1. A practice pack is one of the smartest things I have ever heard of, especially when moving to a foreign country. Not weird, I say!

    And of course these cupcakes look delicious, I think I might try them with some Pinot Noir this weekend!

    • Mags: Thank you – it will be madness! I will share any tips that I can offer. My latest one is: try something a little unusual, eyecatching. Like putting your cupcake in a wine glass – who would’ve thought!?

  2. Well I didn’t pack until the *day* I was leaving and ended up have to leave things as well as pay $75 because my bag was overweight. Practice packing sounds like the way to go! Also, isn’t it somehow liberating to get rid of things you thought you needed only to find that you can do just fine without?

    • Ugh Jian, that’d suck! I so so hope we don’t have to pay overweight fees.. Unfortunately we didn’t have scales so couldn’t weigh them – they do feel pretty darn heavy tho :S

      It is so liberating. We are giving clothes to friends and passing items on to community opportunity shops, and it feels great! Has shown how we can accumulate stuff SO easily, and has made me rethink about buying anything. A really good experience really..

      • I never knew you had a blog!! (I’m sure there’s lots I don’t know) 😉

        So – did you have to pay overages or anything, or were your bags weighted correctly? Anything you wish you’d have taken?

        These photos and this recipe both look amazing!! Going to definitely try it!

        • Nope – we managed to get everything into one suitcase, one carry on and a small backpack each. They were heavy that’s for sure! We had to pretend our carryons were lighter than they were… and spent a 14 hour flights with them crammed under our feet. Our suitcases were right on the limit for Air NZ and over for Air Canada (but they waived the fee). Starting afresh is such fun – we were glad we sold/left everything behind. Going back might be harder now that we own more and understand how much cheaper things here are 🙂

  3. The idea of a practice pack has never come across my mind – but that is such a good idea and so organised! I guess I’ve moved country/city enough times now to be able to pack reasonably well, and luckily I don’t have that much stuff either which also makes it much easier. I hope your pack goes well and that you have lots of fun baking while you are still in this house!

    Those cupcakes sound and look like a wonderful indulgence! Love the pic of the cupcake perched atop a wine glass 🙂

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  5. Love the photo of the cupcake on the wineglass – your photos are amazing! All the best for your big adventure and looking forward to lots of interesting blog posts on Canadian food!

  6. Such a fabulous idea!! I just love this. Wow, can’t believe you leave guys leave for Canada so soon!! Very wise of you to do the practice pack. 🙂 Good luck with all that is left to do in the last month before your departure! We drove through Hamilton yesterday on our way back from camping the East Cape with friends from Canada and thought of you- I should have contacted you prior to pop in for a quick hello! If you have any q’s or are in need of some connections in Vancouver or Edmonton, let me know!


    • Melanie – thank you, it’s all coming together really well, and really fast! I will certainly contact you shortly – I would love some connections in Vancouver cause I fear I will be lost for the 4 weeks that J is studying/examing! Looks like we’re heading up to NWT now, but hope to visit Edmonton at some point. Would’ve been nice to have met you in Hamilton! Bless, C.

  7. Canada?! It’s exciting and scary to move countries! I hope it’s a pleasant one! Will be strange to share the seasons with you – I got used to this blog being my summer connection… Best wishes, and thanks again for the beautiful recipe!

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  10. I just came across this recipe and cannot wait to get to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients. I love wine and cake so this will be awesome

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    • I like my chocolate dark and rich, so I used high quality chocolate with 70% cocoa solids. Use whichever chocolate you like eating as it comes through in the final cupcake.

      Now, I’m not sure how much that would be in cups as I usually weigh it or use a quarter of a 200g block! My research tells me it is about 1/4 cup packed.

  12. Really excited to try the cupcakes!!! I do have one question….Chianti is to be used in the frosting….and a red in the cake itself? So two different wines?

    • Really you can use whichever wine you like to drink. This frosting recipe is simply the one that Sprinkle Bakes used, with a buttercream icing. I used the same wine in my cream cheese icing as I had used in the cupcakes. It’s all personal preference!

      • So I used red wine as you suggested and the cupcakes are absolutely delicious and so so moist! 😀 I faced one problem though. My icing was too runny and it started to curdle :/ Any idea why that might have happened?

        • Hi Shashank! Glad you gave them a go. That’s a shame about the runny, curdled icing. I don’t know if you used the buttercream or cream cheese recipe.I can’t say much about the buttercream as I haven’t used that one. It’s normally a temperature variation that causes curdling, ie the buttercream was cold and the wine was still warm from being reduced. Or perhaps too much wine was added. As you can see in my photos, mine went slightly runny because I didn’t reduce the wine enough, and of course adding more icing sugar makes it far too sweet which I avoided. I just accepted slightly looser icing – it still tasted darn good!

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  16. I just made these with my friend today and these were so delicious. I just used a basic butter cream with a few splashed of red wine and some cocoa powder but these cupcakes were full of chocolatey goodness! We both loved!

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