I’m interrupting our regularly scheduled program for some sweet birthday wishes.

Dark Chocolate Fudge Merlot Cupcakes I howsweeteats.com

A few weeks ago, a super amazing guy (hi Drew!) contacted me asking if I could come up with something special and delicious for his girlfriend Christine’s birthday. Drew was so hopeful (and fabulously relentless) that I couldn’t say no… especially when he mentioned his passion for cooking.

Oh and that they are high school sweethearts and that he couldn’t imagine his life without her. !!!!!!!!!


Dark Chocolate Fudge Merlot Cupcakes I howsweeteats.com

[I’m totally hoping that you guys didn’t OD on those cabernet chocolate truffles from last week, are still up for some boozy desserts and can enjoy these super fudgy dark chocolate cupcakes that are piled high with a light buttercream (if that’s even a thing) that has just a hint of red wine. As rich as they may sound… they aren’t. I suggest having some extra wine with your cupcakes. Heck, even dunk it in there.]

Dark Chocolate Fudge Merlot Cupcakes I howsweeteats.com

Don’t look at me that way. Love and birthdays call for sprinkles.

Dark Chocolate Fudge Merlot Cupcakes I howsweeteats.com

Happy 23rd birthday Christine! I hope you have a fabulous day filled with love and more frosting than you can handle.

Dark Chocolate Fudge Merlot Cupcakes I howsweeteats.com


Dark Chocolate Fudge Merlot Cupcakes

Yield: makes 12 cupcakes


1 1/8 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup milk (2% or higher)
2 tablespoons merlot
8 ounces of high-quality dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
6 tablespoons merlot
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
melted chocolate for drizzle
chocolate sprinkles for topping


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, powder and salt. Set aside. Line a cupcake tin with liners.

In a bowl, whisk egg, oil and sugar until together until smooth and no lumps remain. Add melted butter, merlot and vanilla and mix until combined. Add half of the dry ingredients, stirring to combine. Add the milk, then the remaining flour mixture. Mix until batter is smooth with a large spoon. Fold in chocolate. Line a muffin tin with liners and using a heaping 1/4 cup measure, add batter to each cup until 3/4 of the way full. Bake for 15-18 minutes. Let cool completely before frosting.

Beat butter in the bowl of your electric mixer until smooth and creamy, for a full 2 minutes. Add in powdered sugar gradually (about 1/2 cup at a time) with the mixer on low speed, slowly increasing the speed until it's combined. Add in vanilla extract and merlot, then beat on medium-high speed for 5-6 minutes, occasionally scraping down the sides if needed, until thick and fluffy. Frost cupcakes and top with melted drizzled chocolate and sprinkles!

Note: neither the cupcakes nor frosting have a super strong merlot flavor - just a hint - so I do recommend serving them with small glasses of wine to intensify the flavor.

Dark Chocolate Fudge Merlot Cupcakes I howsweeteats.com

P.S. I think Drew’s a keeper.

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118 Responses to “Dark Chocolate Fudge Merlot Cupcakes.”

  1. #
    Larry — February 12, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

    That’s. Freaking. Awesome!
    Just another reason why we would be perfect for each other. ;D


  2. #
    Elizabeth H — February 12, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

    I made your chocolate peanut butter hot fudge cupcakes for my Swedish friend’s birthday today (she’s an exchange student)! They were fah-reaking amazing! Thank you so much for all the great recipes.


  3. #
    Amanda Kopp — February 12, 2013 @ 4:16 pm

    These look fabulous! I can’t wait to try to recipe for a Valentines Day treat! One question – what does “Fold in the chocolate” mean in the directions?


    • Jessica — February 12th, 2013 @ 4:22 pm

      fold the chopped chocolate into the batter. :)


      • Amanda Kopp — February 12th, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

        Thank you!!!

  4. #
    Michelle — February 12, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

    Saw a picture of these on pinterest and was 99% sure they came from you. Saw the word Merlot and was 100% sure.


  5. #
    Joanna @ things after the rings — February 12, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

    O.M.G. These look amazing! I may have to make these for my high school sweetheart ;)

    Happy Birthday, Christine!


  6. #
    Anna — February 12, 2013 @ 5:59 pm

    ‘Don’t look at me that way. Love and birthdays call for sprinkles.’ hahahahahaha!!! I love the way you write!!


  7. #
    Yammie @ Yammie's Noshery — February 12, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

    I don’t even know what to say. This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen.


  8. #
    Lauren — February 12, 2013 @ 7:17 pm

    These look great! I just did your peanut butter hot fudge ones for Fred’s birthday and he just sat there dumbstruck when he ate them. You really know how to bring people together over food!

    Oh…and by the way, I caught the Kate Spade sale and bought a purse for myself. Like you, I’ve got a thing for pink stuff. Well the purse I got is so pink…it’s so…neon pink, I think it might actually glow in the dark. I thought of you when I first opened the box!


    • Jessica — February 12th, 2013 @ 7:18 pm

      ahhhh that makes me so happy! xoxoxo.


    • Jessica — February 12th, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

      oh and PS just totally facebook stalked you and saw. LOVE IT.


  9. #
    ali — February 12, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

    the cupcakes. the love. and the birthday. oh just stop it! this is too stinkin’ cute, and perfect, all rolled up with a side of bacon. gosh that guy is definitely a keeper.

    james – take notes. <3

    oh and a very happy 23rd birthday christine!


  10. #
    Katie @ Blonde Ambition — February 12, 2013 @ 8:55 pm

    Bawwwww. Not only is this adorable, but those cupcakes also look SO GOOD.


  11. #
    Michelle @ Brown Eyed Baker — February 12, 2013 @ 9:05 pm

    Aw, I love that you made these for a reader’s girlfriend! That buttercream looks heavenly, I’d love to dive head-first into a bowl of it!


  12. #
    Heather @ Sugar Dish Me — February 12, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

    #1- These are WONDERFUL.
    #2- This is such a sweet gesture- on your part, on Drew’s part- I’m feeling pretty over-emotional about it right now.
    #3- I love this post!!!


  13. #
    Julianne — February 13, 2013 @ 2:01 am

    Not only do these look absolutely amazing but I love the way this post is written. “Heck, even dunk it in there”- awesome


  14. #
    Nicky @ Pink Recipe Box — February 13, 2013 @ 9:23 am

    Wine in cupcakes. Does it get any better?!?!
    Love these and can’t get over how cute the sprinkles photo is!


  15. #
    purelymichelle — February 13, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

    need these now :) bookmarking this to make soon!


  16. #
    elizabethranger (bubbleteafordinner.com) — February 13, 2013 @ 5:31 pm

    wine & chocolate… and a sprinkle heart? perfect b-day festivus-stuff, they look killer, too.


  17. #
    Simone — February 13, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

    I just got engaged. Want to celebrate and make me something delicious? They can be shipped to Virigina :]


    • Simone — February 13th, 2013 @ 5:42 pm

      Virginia. I do now how to spell, sometimes.


  18. #
    Michelle — February 15, 2013 @ 8:38 am

    The most ridiculous, amazing, beautiful (etc.) cupcakes I have ever had.


  19. #
    danielle — February 16, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

    YUM!! I wanted to let you know that I featured this in my “What I Bookmarked This Week” post today – stop by and see!


  20. #
    Chelsea Parrott — February 18, 2013 @ 8:08 pm

    I saw this recipe last night after work and had dreams of eating these cupcakes. This morning before I could even eat breakfast I went to the grocery store and grabbed the ingredients I didn’t have on hand to make these suckers… Let’s just say my breakfast was filled with merlot and dark chocolate. Perfection for a day off.


    • Jessica — February 19th, 2013 @ 11:28 am

      you’re my hero.


  21. #
    fayedavis — February 20, 2013 @ 5:45 am

    In order to celebrate my kids b-day with classmates it’s always the same traditional cupcakes but this dark chocolate fudge merlot cupcake is an answered prayer.


  22. #
    Vicky — February 20, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

    If I don’t want to put in the merlot, do I need to put in anything to replace it?


  23. #
    Lexie — March 12, 2013 @ 3:26 am

    These look amazing!!
    But is there meant to be 6 tablespoons of merlot in the icing? Cause I tried that and it became a runny mess…. Help?


    • Amanda — April 20th, 2013 @ 10:27 pm

      I used a bit less merlot and used a bit of cocoa powder to cut the sweetness of all the powdered sugar and it made a vast improvement in the texture of the frosting.


  24. #
    Connie — March 12, 2013 @ 9:09 pm


    I also tried making the icing but once I added the merlot It turned purple……………. Is the frosting in your picture the merlot infused ones? I want to try making it again :) Thanks!


    • Christina — April 1st, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

      use more icing sugar maybe, i put in more wine icing sugar and some shortening and the icing was a very, very pale purple, hardly noticeable against the darkness of the cupcake


  25. #
    Christina — April 1, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

    I made these cupcakes yesterday, but i made them mini cupcakes instead of regular size and added a little extra wine into it (Syrah not Merlot because I had drank the Merlot last week) and they were amazing!

    Great Idea… keep them coming, I want to try as many alcoholic cupcake recipes as possible, my parents anniversary is coming up and I am planning on having as many different deserts as possible and these are definitely going to be there.


  26. #
    Amanda — April 20, 2013 @ 10:25 pm

    I tweaked these just a bit because I prefer my butter creams a little less sweet so I generally add less powdered sugar than most recipes call for. With this one, however, the powdered sugar is necessary to absorb the wine. If I use less, the frosting gets a bit too runny. So I used a little less merlot (I doubled the recipe and used 10 tbsps instead of 12) and added a bit of cocoa powder to cut the sweetness a bit. This batch was even better than my first batch.


  27. #
    easy cupcake recipe — August 5, 2013 @ 5:55 am

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  28. #
    Michelle — August 29, 2013 @ 12:36 am

    Cupcakes were fine, but the frosting (soup) was not! Since there are so many great recipes out there, I’d use a different recipe. As far as this recipe goes, maybe using colder butter would help. I had to add over 4 cups of dry ingredients (cocoa and powdered sugar) to get the frosting back to a normal consistency using room temperature butter. I wish I had read the comments from others who made the recipe before I wasted the ingredients.


    • Michelle — August 29th, 2013 @ 1:13 am

      I was able to salvage these successfully with the additions (and refrigeration and subsequent frosting whipping) mentioned earlier. However, they turned out to be chocolate-chocolate cupcakes. The ones in the picture looked so good, I wish they had worked out. I’d recommend adding the Merlot gradually if you’d like non-chocolate frosting.


  29. #
    Jessica — February 2, 2014 @ 1:39 am

    I just made these for my father-in-law’s birthday and they came out absolutely divine!! Thank you so much for this amazing recipe!


  30. #
    Sophie — February 13, 2014 @ 7:14 am

    I just made this cupcakes but instead of using wine i used brandy and it was soooooo good! Everyone loved it, we can smell and taste the brandy, the dark chocolate and the sweetness of powdered sugar.. I had some issues with the icing though its kinda runny but nxt tym I can just add a few tbsp of shortening maybe.



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