Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Wine Buttercream are the ultimate chocolate and red wine combination. Whether you're busting these out for Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, bridal and baby showers, graduation, or any occasion, this creative red wine buttercream is sure to win the dessert game!
(This recipe was originally published in May 2012, but was updated with new photos and content in 2020).
Limitless possibilities surely make cupcakes a great choice for bakers. The classics are lovely, as are newer and more creative flavor profiles.
I absolutely love these tender-crumbed chocolate cupcakes with vibrant red wine buttercream frosting. The type of red wine you select will not only tweak the flavor of the frosting, but will also alter the color, since reds can range from red to purple in hue.
The frosting itself has a slightly tart wine flavor without being overwhelmingly strong or sweet. These cupcakes are surprisingly light from top to bottom, making them great crowd-pleasers for cupcake lovers and critics alike.
The chocolate cupcakes are so tender, it's like eating an edible chocolate pillow with boozy frosting. They practically melt in your mouth! The red wine buttercream is creamy, sweet but not too sugary, with a noticeable wine flavor.
Even though these cupcakes feature a boozy frosting, the majority of the red wine is cooked down into a syrup, and there's only 1 tablespoon of uncooked red wine. Once you divide that up over 12 cupcakes, these should be fine for people of all ages to enjoy.
How to make them
Let's begin with the chocolate cupcakes. Sift together cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl. You may substitute all-purpose flour for the cake flour, but the cake flour yields an especially tender cupcake.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the room temperature butter and sugar until light and creamy (PHOTO 1). Add the egg and beat until smooth (PHOTO 2).
Next, add half the dry ingredients followed by the milk, and then finally the remainder of the dry ingredients (PHOTO 3). Now you should have a nice, smooth chocolate cake batter.
Divide the batter into 12 paper-lined muffin cups, filling only about ½ to ⅔ full (PHOTO 4). Make sure you don't overfill the cups because this batter can overflow as it bakes.
Bake the cupcakes for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool the cupcakes completely before decorating them.
To make the buttercream frosting, first make the red wine syrup. Combine red wine and sugar in a small saucepan, and cook it down into a syrup. It should reduce to about 2 ½ tablespoons (PHOTOS 5-7). Cool the syrup before moving on.
In the bowl of an electric mixer beat room temperature butter until fluffy. Next, beat in confectioners' (powdered) sugar, about ½ cup at a time, until smooth and creamy (PHOTO 8). Carefully add the cooled red wine syrup along with some salt (PHOTO 9). Beat until smooth, adding 1 more tablespoon of red wine before turning off the mixer (PHOTO 10).
If the frosting is soft, chill it in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's firm enough to easily pipe on your cupcakes.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with whatever large piping tip you prefer with the frosting and frost cupcakes. Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 2 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before serving.
Please scroll to the bottom of the post for the full recipe (in a printable recipe card) including ingredient amounts and detailed instructions.
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Chocolate Cupcakes with Red Wine Buttercream Frosting
- ¾ cup cake flour
- ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon baking powder
- 2 ounces (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup plus 1 tablespoon red wine
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 ½ cups confectioners’ sugar
- Pinch kosher salt
- Adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners and set aside.
- To make the cupcakes: Sift together the cake flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugar about 5 minutes until smooth and creamy. Add the egg and beat until fully incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Stir half of the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the add the milk. Finally stir in the other half of the dry ingredients.
- Fill each liner about ½ to ⅔ full with cake batter, filling muffin cups evenly. Be careful not to overfill or the batter will overflow a bit when baking. Bake the cupcakes for about 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool cupcakes completely.
- To make the buttercream: place ½ cup of the wine and the granulated sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to simmer until the mixture has reduced to about 2 ½ tablespoons, about 15 to 20 minutes. It should be syrupy. Allow the red wine reduction to cool completely in the refrigerator.
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until nice and fluffy. Pause the mixer occasionally to add the confectioners’ sugar a ½ cup at a time and beat until combined (this will prevent the sugar from making too much of a mess when mixing). Beat until fluffy. Carefully add the cooled red wine reduction and salt and continue to beat the frosting until smooth. With the mixer running add the last 1 tablespoon of red wine one at a time and beat until smooth.
- If the frosting seems too soft to pipe onto the cupcakes (it may or may not depending on what room temperature is on that given day), place it in the refrigerator briefly for about 10 or 15 minutes (stirring it occasionally) until it gets just firm enough to pipe comfortably (you can also add more confectioners’ sugar, but that will make the frosting a touch sweeter). Fill a pastry bag fitted with whatever large piping tip you prefer with the frosting and frost cupcakes.
- Frosted cupcakes can be refrigerated up to 2 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before serving.
- If you don't have cake flour, you may substitute all-purpose flour, although the cupcakes are more tender when using cake flour.
- Please note that the color of the frosting will truly depend on the specific red wine you use. I've made these cupcakes with different wines, and yielded frosting that ranged from purple to pink.
- Buttercream adapted from Eats Well With Others
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*