Champagne Cupcakes for Valentines Day

Katie is back with her monthly guest post and I am SO excited to share this one with you all. If you don't remember Katie she's the girl who brought us popcorn and wine pairings in January! She will be stopping by once a month dishing out some wine knowledge from her sommelier studies as well as showing us a fun recipe, pairing or other wine related content!  This month? Break out the champagne emoji because it's Champagne cupcakes! 

If you need a solid way to impress your significant other this Valentines Day then look no further. If my popcorn and champagne pairing wasn’t enough bubbles for you…how about adding them into your baking? 

One thing I have learned to love about my journey with wine is that I love to cook with it. And since the wine I cook with is usually not the dinner wine…it gives me a good excuse to open a second bottle and keep a glass in my hand while I’m cooking. 

I sat around this weekend thinking about what to do for a Valentines post. I am not a big chocolate fan and while many people rave about chocolate and wine pairings…they aren’t perfect for each other. I was staring at my wine rack when a bottle of bubbly caught my eye. 

If there’s one thing I had a sweet tooth for…it’s cake. I remembered finding a recipe long ago on Pinterest for Champagne cupcakes and Voilà! I had my new wine pairing. 

Champagne isn’t only for celebratory events and appetizers. I am a firm believer in Champagne all day every day. And when you’re not feeling a super sweet dessert wine with your already sweet dessert…bring in champagne!

For this recipe I used my new favorite Cava. 

Cava is the Spanish version of sparkling wine. The grapes traditionally used are ones you probably have never heard of. The grapes are macabeau, parellada and Xarel·lo. If you can’t pronounce them don’t worry, I can’t either. Hopefully I will soon or else I won’t pass my sommelier exam. 

Much like the prestigious region of Champagne in France a wine cannot be labeled “cava” unless it has undergone a certain method of production. This method is called "champenoise traditional method”. 

Quick lesson: After the initial fermentation (where the yeast turns sugar into alcohol) and the bottling and blending another second fermentation will occur inside the bottle. The bottles are laid horizontally and are required to age on the lees (dead yeast cells) for 15 months. Here comes the tedious part…the wine must be riddled each day for 8 to 10 weeks. Riddling is when the lees are consolidated in the neck of the bottle for removal (called disgorging)

Finally, after disgorging, the liquid is topped off with a mixture of the base wine and sucrose. This process is called ‘Dosage’. The amount of sugar added gives you the sweetness level of Champagne. The sugar content can vary. 

Here are some words to remember: 

Doux (Very Sweet, more than 50g residual sugar)

Demi-Sec (medium dry 32-50g residual guar)

Sec (dry, 17-32g. residual sugar) 

Extra-Sec (Extra Dry, 12-17g residual sugar)

Brut (Very, very dry, less than 12g of residual sugar)

Extra Brut (very dry, 0-6g of residual sugar)

Brut Nature (bone dry, 0-2g. of residual sugar)

Phew. Lots of information in very few words. I think my main take away from this lesson is…holy crap there’s a lot of sugar in sweet wine. Stick to the dry stuff.  

Cava is usually never sweet. It is much more like a Non-Vintage Champagne, which is why I used it in these cupcakes. The recipe I found called for something slightly sweeter, a demi sec perhaps? But my sweet tooth isn’t that big so I opted for a dryer bubbly. 

Now, I’ll be honest with you. I took the easy way out. You can be lazy like me and use a Betty Crocker mix and just substitute champagne for the required amount of water.

Or you can be fancy and do the recipe from scratch via the blog below. 

Also be sure to add three to four drops of red food coloring to batter before you spoon it into the muffin tin if you wish for the insides to be pink. 

I also made sure to make the champagne icing as well. It wasn’t as sweet, and gave the cupcake a bit of a zesty flavor. If you chose to use a bottle of slightly sweeter champagne I imagine it would make a big difference in the flavor. 

You can’t really tell in my pictures but I baked these cupcakes in a heart shaped muffin tin and added slight food coloring to make them turn pink. But hey, it’s the thought that counts right? 

Pour yourself a glass of the sparkling wine that you didn’t use in your baking, sit down and enjoy one of these damn delicious champagne cupcakes. You deserve it. 

Happy Valentines Day!


Katie Beeks