I’m generally not fond of February. I don’t love cold weather, and Oklahoma likes to use this month to start faking us out with beautiful 70 degree days before going full-on Elsa, only to repeat this cycle well into the next month. Despite the constant game of “Skimask or Sundress?”, February does have its perks.
February is Chocolate Season.
Ha! You thought I was going to say Valentine’s Day, didn’t you? Although we do have V-Day to thank for Chocolate Season, I could do without most of it. Especially those god-awful conversation hearts. I think I ate those until about 4th grade, when I realized that a much better way to get my crush’s attention was to just throw them at his head. (If you ask my husband, he will probably say I haven’t grown out of this.)
No, the best Valentine’s Day candy is obviously chocolate. And what goes best with chocolate? Wine.
Sorry, that was a trick question. Wine goes best with everything.
That being said, these are definitely grown-up cupcakes. Not only is there booze in here, but they lack the cloying sweetness that cupcakes so often fall victim to. They’re rich, gooey, and just the right amount of bitter. They’re the kind of cupcakes you’re going to have to eat with a fork. Though, I would recommend eating your Valentine’s Day cupcakes with a fork anyway, because it’s humanly impossible to look sexy while eating a cupcake with your hands.
You know what is sexy? These cupcakes. They’re also easy, and taste way fancier than they are. Even creating the recipe, I was able to get these done start to finish in less than two hours. I promise, it will take you less time. You might want to make the wine reduction as soon as the cupcakes go into the oven, then have that cooling while the cupcakes bake and cool down. The buttercream takes no time to throw together once the reduction is made.
Kids, go eat yourselves some sexy cupcakes.
Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Wine Buttercream
(Makes 12-16 cupcakes)
For the cupcakes:
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup strong coffee, hot
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
dark chocolate chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the cocoa powder and coffee until smooth, then set aside.
2. Add eggs, sugar, vanilla, and butter to a large bowl, then mix until well-blended and fluffy.
3. Sift together the dry ingredients in a small bowl.
4. Working with 1/4 of each mixture at a time, slowly alternate adding the coffee/cocoa mix and the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Once all the ingredients are blended, fold in the chocolate chips. (Listen, I’m not going to tell you how many chocolate chips to add. We’re all adults. Valentine’s Day is about following your heart. So, if your heart tells you to add half a bag of dark chocolate chips, well, who am I to tell you otherwise?)
5. Spoon batter into pan (I highly recommend using baking cups for this – things can get gooey) and bake for 15-20 minutes.
For the buttercream:
1 1/2 cups Zinfandel (Please, please, please use Zin, though if you just can’t, Cabernet Sauvignon would be a fine substitution.)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1. In a small saucepan, heat granulated sugar and red wine, stirring constantly. Keep the mixture at a low boil until the wine begins to thicken and reduce, about 10 minutes. When there is about 1/2 cup of the mixture left, remove from heat and refrigerate to cool.
2. While the wine is cooling, mix together the powdered sugar and butter until fluffy.
3. Slowly pour the wine reduction into the buttercream, continually mixing at a low speed until fully incorporated.
4. When the cupcakes have cooled, ice them using your preferred method.
Whatever happens next, I won’t judge.