Thursday, February 28, 2008

Merlot mania

As a followup to my experiments with that horrible, horrible bottle of "merlot" (I still can't figure out what to call it - hooch is too refined for this crap, and it's not quite a wine cooler yet. Fauxlot, maybe?), I have made cupcakes.

Why cupcakes? Well, why not? Cupcakes need no rationale; they simply need to exist. Preferably briefly, before winding up in my belly. I've made cocktail-based cupcakes before - black Russians are a particular favourite - and I have friends experimenting in this vein regularly, so a blackberry fauxlot cupcake didn't seem like too much of a stretch.

And, pleasingly, it wasn't! I used one of my standard baking bases, a sort of spongey, lightish cake base that I figured would work well with the slight carbonation in the fauxlot. The resulting cake turned out a little on the sticky, dense side, but with a big open crumb and generally pleasing texture. The wine flavour wasn't too pronounced - I bet it'd be a lot better with a big, assertive red table wine with some acid to it.

To bolster that wine flavour, I made a quick cream cheese frosting and dumped a good bit of the fauxlot into it. Better - tangy and rich, with just a hint of acid/berry/grape flavour to it. A couple dashes of food colouring to turn it purple helped on the eye-appeal front.

Verdict? I'll try again with REAL wine sometime and see what happens.

Blackberry Fauxlot Cupcakes

1 1/4 cups AP flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup blackberry fauxlot (you could probably reduce to 1/2c with a good red wine)

  1. Preheat oven to 350F; line muffin pan with cupcake liners (I like the silicone ones)
  2. Whisk together egg, sugar, and oil (or cream with mixer if you're less lazy than I)
  3. Whisk in vanilla and fauxlot; you'll have to stir REALLY vigorously if you're using a carbonated alcohol here, because it won't want to incorporate without some persuasion of the physical kind. Get medieval on it.
  4. Stir in dry ingredients (flour, BP, salt) until mixed through.
  5. Pour into prepared cupcake pan
  6. Bake for 20-30 min or until golden, with a slight sheen and crust to the top of the cakes, or until a wooden toothpick comes out clean.
  7. Frost (recipe follows)
Fauxlot Cream Cheese Frosting

4oz cream cheese (half a block)
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, give or take
3 tablespoons fauxlot or red wine
3 drops blue food colouring
3 drops red food colouring

  1. Beat together softened butter and softened cream cheese until well blended
  2. Beat in powdered sugar little by little, until the frosting has increased dramatically in volume and is the desired amount of sweetness. I usually use a cup to a cup and a half of powdered sugar, but I'll go up to two cups if the cakes I'm frosting aren't very sweet or I need more frosting.
  3. Beat in food colouring
  4. Crank up the mixer and really go to town on the frosting. The more you beat it, the lighter and fluffier it'll be, and the nicer the finished product
  5. Stick the bowl in the fridge for 15-20min before frosting. This'll firm up the frosting's texture and let you get nice dollops of frosting on each cupcake, making those pretty little swirls you see on the commercial ones. It's a lot easier to do with a knife and chilled frosting than with runny frosting ... although if you REALLY want to get fancy, you'll need to dirty yourself up a piping bag. Alas, the Kitchen Ninja is too lazy for all that.

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