Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes

Made with full-bodied red wine, Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes have rich, intense flavor. They’re the perfect date night dessert or a sweet ending to a special occasion meal.

There’s a reason why chocolate and red wine go together so well in desserts. Separately, each have bold flavors with lingering subtleties. Like, floral and berry notes, plum and molasses – just to name a few. And both will compete for your palate’s attention, so pairing them can be tricky. (I’ll leave that to the !) However, when married in sweet confections, the great equalizer and balance-giver is sugar. It tamps down the astringency of tannins in both ingredients. It rounds out sharpness and brings forward the bright fruity notes in red wine. The two become complementary, highlighting red wine’s sophisticated flavor.

These cupcakes begin with a dark cocoa cake batter enriched with red wine. The baked cakes are filled with simple three ingredient red wine ganache. Then, they’re topped with a big swirl of naturally wine-hued red wine buttercream. While these Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes are not health food, it’s worth noting that both dark chocolate and red wine have long been celebrated for their heart-healthy attributes. Healthy or not, these must be the most antioxidant-rich cupcakes I’ve ever made!

What are Tannins? Tannins are found in plants and naturally occur in nature. 
In wine, chocolate, coffee, and tea, they are often perceived
as a sensation of dryness and bitterness.
Tannins also have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.

Choose a Full Bodied Red Wine

Any red wine with more than 13.5 percent alcohol is considered a full-bodied wine. In general, these wines have more concentrated flavors and higher tannin content. Use your favorite dry merlot, cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, or syrah. I used merlot.

Three Ingredient Red Wine Ganache Filling

Chop 4 oz. (or, 1 bar) of milk or semisweet chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl. Add in 1/4 cup red wine and heat for 1 minute in the microwave. Allow the mixture to stand for one minute, then whisk together until a shiny ganache forms. While the ganache is still hot, finish it with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter. This will give the ganache a smooth silky texture. Set aside while you make the cupcakes.

Note: This ganache will be quite sharp in flavor, with some bitterness. This is by design. It tastes much milder as a cupcake filing, yet punches up the overall red wine flavor. I prefer using milk chocolate for this component because of its sweetness, but semisweet chocolate will work just fine, too.

Make the Chocolate-Red Wine Cupcake Batter

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl by sifting together the flour, dark cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda. Whisk together so everything is combined and well dispersed.

Next, cream butter, granulated sugar, and eggs together using a hand mixer. Add in a little sour cream to keep the cake’s texture moist. Then add half of the cocoa mixture on top of the cream mixture and mix until just combined.

Add 1/2 cup of red wine to the mixture, then beat to combine. Follow up with the last of the dry ingredients and mix again until just combined.

Portion the cupcakes into liners with a standard size trigger ice cream scoop (or by the level 1/4 cups). My yield was about 15 cupcakes. Bake until domed and a toothpick tester comes out clean, then cool completely.

Fill the Cupcakes with the Ganache

By the time your cupcakes are cooled, the red wine ganache made earlier has probably set up a little. If so, microwave it at 10 second intervals until pourable. Cut a little divot from the top of each cupcake using a paring knife (see video for action of this) and fill it with a spoonful of ganache. Trim the cake piece flat and replace it over the hole.

Make the Red Wine Buttercream

My favorite part! This buttercream is so delicious, I could eat loads of it straight from the bowl. Start with two cups or red wine, and simmer it on the stove top until reduced to 1/4 cup (about 20 minutes). Your house will probably smell like a winery the entire time, but that’s not entirely a bad thing.

Once the wine is reduced, let it cool completely. Then, cream butter, confectioners’ sugar, and the wine reduction in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Beat until fluffy and well combined. The frosting will have a naturally light red/wine colored hue which will oxidize and darken as it stands. Your frosting may be more red or more pink hued depending on the red wine you use.

Pipe a generous topping of red wine buttercream onto the filled cupcakes. You should have plenty enough for a nice double swirl on each.


I decorated these cakes with a mix of gold dragees. I love the look! However, the larger ones are a bit hard to chew. You have to – sort of – hold them in your mouth to soften before they dissolve enough to chew. Next time, I think I will opt to use just the smaller ones. If you’d like to purchase some, you can find them .

If you serve these chocolate red wine cupcakes soon after filling and frosting them, the ganache may still be liquid in the centers. It will set over the course of about an hour, and have a smooth truffle-like consistency. They are delicious both ways!

If you’re keen on making these, check out my video to help you along. There are a few steps, but all are pretty straight-forward.

Related recipe:

Chocolate Red Wine Cupcakes

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  • cupcake pans
  • 15 cupcake liners
  • disposable piping bag
  • large closed star piping tip
  • Trigger ice cream scoop



Red wine ganache

Chocolate red wine cupcakes

Red wine buttercream


Red wine ganache

  • Place the chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and add the red wine. Microwave at 100% power for 1 minute. Allow the hot mixture to stand for 1 minute.
  • Whisk the two ingredients together until a shiny ganache forms. While the mixture is still hot, add the 2 tablespoons of butter and whisk until melted and combined. Set aside.

Chocolate-red wine cupcakes

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Line cupcake tins with 15 paper liners.
  • In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, salt, and baking soda.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and mix again. Beat in the sour cream.
  • Using a trigger ice cream scoop, or a 1/4 cup measure, portion the batter into the cupcake liners. Bake 15-17 minutes, or until cupcakes are domed and a toothpick tester comes out clean.
  • Let cupcakes cool in the pans 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Red wine buttercream

  • Place the red wine in a saucepot and simmer over medium-high heat until reduced to about 1/4 cup. This will take about 20-25 minutes, more or less depending on your range. (When wine reduces by half, keep a close eye on it.) Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl or small pitcher to cool completely.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the cooled wine reduction and beat until light and fluffy, and the frosting’s color is consistent throughout. (Buttercream may appear light, but will darken over time.)
  • Transfer the frosting to a piping bag fitted with a large closed star tip.

Assemble the cupcakes

  • Stir the ganache that has been standing at room temperature. If it has thickened, microwave it for 10-15 seconds until loose and pourable.
  • Pipe a double swirl of red wine buttercream onto a cupcake. Immediately top with dragees, if using. Repeat with remaining cupcakes.
  • Keep cupcakes in an air-tight cupcake keeper. Or, allow cupcakes to stand uncovered until the buttercream crusts, about 30 minutes, before covering them with plastic wrap.




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