Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Wine Buttercream Frosting

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.

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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.

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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
2 eggs
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.

Biscoff Tiramisu

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For my first recipe post, I knew I wanted to do something completely me – something created from little pieces of my heart. (But not actual, literal pieces of my heart, because that’s gross.)

I decided to combine three of my great loves: coffee, tiramisu, and my main squeeze, the one and only Biscoff cookie. But this recipe also served another, darker purpose: when I take the leftovers to work, they will further my mission to infect the great state of Oklahoma with a love of all things Speculoo.

In Oklahoma there are no Trader Joe’s, and so the cookie butter phenomenon hasn’t quite caught on. Biscoff cookies are relegated to the sad bottom shelves of Wal-Mart Supercenters, where they remain – looking unloved and, in the words of a friend of mine, like “old people cookies.” I want to make one thing very clear: I will not stand for this. 

I knew I wanted to really highlight how perfectly coffee and Biscoff go together, so my already nontraditional tiramisu got a little more out of the box with the addition of instant coffee granules to the cream mixture. Also, because I try to try to make things with accessible ingredients, I used cream cheese in the place of the traditional mascarpone.

Trust me, it’s still delicious. The crunchy cookies take on a soft, dreamy texture and the bitterness from the coffee and cocoa powder make this dessert rich, but not overwhelmingly sweet.

Whip up this dessert in less than twenty minutes with less than ten ingredients, many of which you probably already have in your pantry or fridge. I made it as part of a double-date night menu, but I think it would be a hit anywhere. Serve it to company, bring it to work, take it to your weekly game night, whatever – just spread the word, alright?

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Biscoff Tiramisu
1 package Biscoff cookies
2 blocks cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp instant coffee granules (I like Nescafe), plus 1 tsp for sprinkling
1-2 tsp cocoa powder (optional)
1 cup strong coffee or espresso, cooled or room temperature

1. In a small mixing bowl, whip the heavy cream (I used a hand mixer, a stand mixer or even some pretty intense elbow grease would work) until stiff peaks form, then set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, add the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and coffee granules. Whip until creamy and no “grit” from the sugar remains.

3. Working a quarter at a time, use a spatula to gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.

4. In a square serving dish, (I would not use anything larger than 8×8 – you can use a bigger dish, but you would need to pick up a second package of cookies or make do with only a single layer of Biscoff) arrange the Biscoff cookies in a single layer across the bottom. Spoon the coffee over each cookie individually. Repeat this process with a second layer of Biscoff cookies – arranging them in the same pattern as the first, then spooning more coffee over each cookie.

5. Gently pour the cream cheese mixture over the top (but try not to drool). Spread the mixture to evenly cover the cookies.

6. Sprinkle the cocoa powder and coffee granules on top, maybe even crumble some leftover cookies and throw those on if you’re feeling daring.

7. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours, but overnight is best. I understand if you wake up at 2 a.m. and absolutely need to taste test this – I found myself stumbling out of bed this morning and sneaking a few spoonfuls of the leftovers straight out of the fridge. I am working on assembling a support group.

8. Serve right out of the fridge with a cup of hot coffee and make everyone happy.

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