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
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.