My goal had been to make Halloween cupcakes that were blood-red. Or at least not the day-glow red that many red velvet recipes have to offer these days. After a couple of bouts of fruitless searching on Google and Pinterest (yes, I got that desperate), I remembered the amazing “Red Wine Velvet Cake” from Smitten Kitchen‘s cookbook. It doesn’t bake up bright red and it would be the perfect addition to a grown-up Halloween party. You can find a similar recipe on her blog. It is “red wine chocolate cake”.
I am not a wine connoisseur by any means. I chose a cheap red wine. I went in looking for a wine with a sweet flavor and a brighter red color. A fun label helps my decisions as well. I’m sure I didn’t spend more than $8.00. My reasoning for choosing a bright red wine was simply I thought it would add to the red color rather than the chocolate color. I don’t believe it did, but that may have also been because of my next mistake.
The recipe calls for cocoa. Specifically, Dutch cocoa. I cannot find Dutch cocoa at my local grocery stores. I typically use just regular powdered cocoa with good results. Often, I use dark chocolate cocoa since I am a fan of dark chocolate. My intention was to use the regular cocoa. But while I was baking, I got a little distracted (or something) and grabbed the dark cocoa instead. The darkness of the cocoa overpowered any hope I had of having a red tint to the cake. I don’t think even a bottle of red food coloring would have helped.
Since I had an entire bottle of wine at my disposal and there were going to be no children at this event, I decided to take the red wine flavor a bit further and add it to the frosting as well. Many recipes for frosting with alcohol just replace the milk (or cream), with the alcohol. Alcohol, while a liquid, is also a dehydrator. Think about how you feel after a night out. I have found that leaving in at least one Tablespoon of milk, helps retain the moisture needed. Adding the milk has helped with my ability to pipe the frosting onto cupcakes.
To make these truly Halloween worthy, I added black fondant cutouts. I used a marshmallow fondant. I have found I like the taste the best. Plus, it uses 3 ingredients versus the other types which would require finding a specialty baking shop. Most recipes yield about 2 pounds of fondant. I rarely need that much. I discovered that it is simply a matter of dividing the recipe so you end up with the amount of fondant you want. In this case, I divided by 4 to end up with one-quarter of a pound. Another trick I learned (and forgot to do this time) is to add the food coloring to the melted marshmallows before adding the confectioner’s sugar. This means you will only have one color, but it will save you from having to knead the color into a sticky brick.
You can follow the link for the cake recipe. To make the cake into cupcakes, I used a muffin pan lined with cupcake liners. I baked them for 20 minutes, which I think may have been a minute too long.
Red Wine Frosting
- 16 ounces confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 Tablespoon milk
- 3 Tablespoons red wine
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- red food coloring (optional)
- Cream butter in mixing bowl. Add vanilla.
- Slowly add confectioner’s sugar until it is all in the bowl.
- Add 1 Tablespoon milk.
- Add red wine 1 Tablespoon at a time. You may not need all 3 Tablespoons depending on the consistency of frosting you want.
- If you want your frosting more red, add a touch of red food coloring. (I didn’t have any on hand, so my frosting stayed pink.