Sunday, October 21, 2007

red wine cupcakes

A red wine cupcake posing with some flashy leaves

Ta-dah! After 9 months I've finally turned Dulcedo from an idea floating in my head to something visible on my computer screen. But why now--why October? Did I have more time this month than usual? No, not really. Did my desire to chronicle my culinary endeavors finally give me some forward momentum? Well, sort of. The blog is finally up and running because someone set a deadline - a Cupcake Roundup deadline, to be exact.

After oohing and aahing over all the creations submitted for the last roundup - hosted by Garrett at Vanilla Garlic and Cheryl at the Cupcake Bakeshop - I just couldn't resist participating in the next go around. The theme this time is "reinvention." Not wanting to simply reinvent my favorite dessert (not that I'd ever be able to chose anyway), I decided to pry myself out of the box and try to come up with an appetizing entry that not only fit the theme, but also utilized traditional fall flavors and was worthy of being included in my first official blog post.

It didn't take me long to cross many of my own favorite foods off the list of possibilities. (Rare tuna in cupcake form? No, thank you.) I could, however, turn a favorite fall memory into a cupcake. With lots of hayride and s'more-making adventures to choose from, I could probably put together a whole cookbook on this basis alone. But in the interest of time and my own sanity, I settled upon the most recent memory in my mental file: a comforting evening of good conversation, restorative glasses of red wine, and dark, buttery squares of Fran's Gray Salt Caramel.

For being a very experimental recipe, I'm happy with how the cake turned out. The crumb is soft and tight, but not dense, and the red wine gives the chocolate an interesting depth. However, I think next time I will make these in souffle cups rather than cupcake papers so the caramel can also be used as a filling. I wanted a flat-topped cupcake, so my cakes were too shallow to accommodate the caramel any other way.

So, here it is: Blog Recipe #1 at long last. Champagne may be the typical celebratory libation, but I'll christen my blog with red cupcake form.

Red Wine Cupcakes with Chocolate Glaze and Salted Caramel Dollops
Yield: 30 shallow cakes

Adapted from Cooking With Wine by Anne Willan, via Bon App├ętit October 2001
2 cups flour
1 scant cup unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups red wine*

Chocolate Glaze
2 cups (6 ounces) semi or bittersweet chocolate, chopped**
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Caramel Dollops
1 cup cream
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 cup water
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon butter
Fleur de sel (sea salt) for garnish

To make the cakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds after each. Mix in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the red wine and beginning and ending with the flour. Mix until thoroughly incorporated (because you don't want any white, buttery chunks in your dark batter).

Bake in your cupcake containers of choice for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 5 minutes or so, and then remove to a wire rack to finish cooling.

To make the glaze:
Heat the chocolate, butter, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over very low heat until shiny and smooth. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract. Spoon over cupcakes.

To make the caramel:
Warm the cream in the microwave or a small saucepan until heated through, but not boiling.

In a separate pot with very high sides (this is important!), heat the sugar and water over high heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. When the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and allow the mixture to come to a boil. When it reaches a medium brown shade, remove it from the burner. (The mixture will continue to cook after you remove it from the heat, so if you wait to see the dark amber color while it is still on the stove, you will run the risk of burning it.) Wearing oven mitts for protection, CAREFULLY and SLOWLY pour in the cream, whisking constantly. The cream will cause the mixture to seize and bubble up violently, so don't just dump it all in at once! Return the pot to the burner, add in the butter and salt, and continue to whisk over low heat until smooth.

Allow the caramel to cool and then refrigerate or freeze until it is thick enough to drop by dollops onto the glazed cupcakes. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. (Any remaining caramel will keep in the refrigerator for two weeks. It's delicious over ice cream...or straight from the bowl with a spoon.)

*I used a local wine by The Magnificent Wine Company called "House Wine," which is a blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah. No matter what you choose, I would think you would want a wine with some noticeable tannins (so maybe not a Pinot).

** Better chocolate = better glaze, so you might want to consider picking out some nice bars rather than just melting down your Tollhouse chips. But more importantly, choose a chocolate that you like; don't just buy and expensive bar for the sake of buying an expensive bar. I used Valrhona...because it's so new at my local QFC that they didn't have it priced yet and gave it to me at $2.99 a bar. (Hey, I was honest and pointed out how it would normally be priced compared to the other bars on their shelf. The clerk told me to consider it a deal because the real price would come in within a few days, so I did...and bought half their stock.)


  1. i can't wait to try this... what an awesome idea!

  2. I love your wit!!!
    And it's a wonderful combo - the red wine/salted caramel!

    I've been doing a chocolate zin cake for some time and that is a wonderful idea!!!

    Looking forward to more of your blog

  3. These look delicious! I can't wait to try the recipe.

  4. Thanks! The only additional note I would make is to say that these are best when eaten within a day. The cake started to seem a little dry after two days.

  5. What a fantastic idea for a cupcake! I might give this a go on the weekend... accompanied with a few glasses of red wine!

  6. Interesting; I'm a huge fan of red wine and, well, little cakes.

    A while ago, I made red wine chocolate almond muffins (because I clearly don't know where to stop).