Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes

Yup, you read the title of this post correctly. This here is a recipe that combines red wine, chocolate, and cake, three things that you not even in your wildest dreams probably ever imagined could be combined and consumed all at once, yet here are these cupcakes, proving you wrong. Despite my quick-and-easy recipe kick, and usual penchant for everyday cakes, I figured that a blog anniversary -- a second blog anniversary, to be precise -- deserved something as festive and over the top as these Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting. 

That's right, Pancakes and Biscotti turns two this week! It seems like just yesterday that I was researching Blogger vs Wordpress, figuring out how to write blog posts, and deciding what the first recipes would be. It has been a great first two years. This blog has pushed me to cook and bake even more than before and has taught me a lot about cooking and baking as well -- indeed, a lot of recipes  I experiment with don't make it on to the blog (most recently, less than satisfactory carrot cake muffins, a rather bland red velvet cake) while other recipes or methods I don't think will work have surprised me. I write far more (two blog posts a week) and I have learned about photography. Most importantly I've learned that I love having a food blog, love developing new recipes and experimenting in the kitchen, and love being able to share my recipes with others

Naturally, there have been a few changes the past two years. As you may have already noticed,  I am now the sole blogger here -- Gloria is now cooking full-time in England, which understandably leaves her with little free time  -- and a few practical changes in descriptions, photos, and links are being made to reflect this. The blog address is now www.pancakesandbiscotti.com, and the recipes and posts are no longer available in Italian. Changes aside, I hope to continue to provide good, consistently delicious recipes that you can make at home and that will hopefully become standbys in your repertoire. So, here's to many more years of blogging!

Back to these cupcakes! Since this blog has a good mix of Italian and American recipes -- not surprising from an American living in Rome -- I thought that American-style cupcakes infused with some Italian red wine and frosted with whipped mascarpone was a perfect mix of the two cultures. The result is a dense, moist, and intensely chocolate-y cupcake with undertones of sweet red wine and a hint of cinnamon. The frosting is similar to but a bit more refined than the usual cream cheese frosting, and makes a nice background for the sprinkling of bittersweet chocolate on top. Note that these cupcakes are not very sweet either, arguably more elegant and sophisticated than your typical yellow cupcake with buttercream. Think of these as cupcakes, all grown up. 

A couple of notes: The alcohol here does not bake out completely, so while these  cupcakes won't make you tipsy or anything, they wouldn't be the best thing to bake up for a child's birthday party, for example. If you'd like, you can also bake this cake in a round 9-inch cake pan, or double the cake and frosting recipes to make 3 9-inch rounds, making a 3 layer cake. Finally, you can make the chocolate shavings to garnish these by grating a bar of chocolate with a plain old cheese grater. Enjoy!

RED WINE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

Ingredients for the cupcakes:
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup red wine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup + 3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
A pinch of salt (a little less than half a teaspoon)
Chocolate shavings to garnish the cupcakes

Ingredients for the frosting:
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 cup + 3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter a 12 cup muffin pan and set aside. In a large bowl, use electric mixers or a standing mixer to beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together, right over the wet ingredients. Beat the mixture just to combine all the ingredients, then stir together with a wooden spoon. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan. Bake the cupcakes for 15 minutes or so, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of each layer comes out clean. I used my small electric oven for this which cooks very fast, so your cooking time could  be a bit more than mine was. Cool the cupcakes for about 10 minutes, then remove them from the pan and let them cool on a wire rack.

To make the frosting, in a medium bowl, beat the mascarpone with the powdered sugar, and vanilla extract at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy. Frost the completely cooled cupcakes, sprinkle with chocolate shavings, and enjoy. Makes 12 cupcakes.




Recipe very slightly adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.




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