Let them Eat Cupcakes (and Drink Wine)
Some guidelines for throwing an at-home cupcake party and pairing these sweet, childhood favorites with wine varietals.
Cupcakes make people smile. Wine in moderation enlivens an event. Pair the two for an easy, impromptu party to remember.
Cupcake cafes are springing up like mushrooms across the country; in my neighborhood alone, there are three competing shops, while businesses like Saint Cupcake ship build-your-own kits of cakes, frostings and toppings. Even winemakers are piling on. Cupcake Vineyards packages wine with Sprinkles' cupcake mix in a pink bakery box.
Do a little research (it's fun), and pick your local favorites. Add cutting boards, cutlery, wine, and friends, and you've got everything you need for a pairing party. Create stations for guidance, but encourage guests to find their own fits.
Some will come just for the cupcakes, some for the wine, but as the sparks of sugar start to fly, grown-ups will dig in like kids.
Some Initial Pairing Ideas and Favorites
Peanut Butter Chip (Sprinkles) with Beaujolais (Georges Duboeuf Saint-Amour)
"It's like a decadent peanut butter and jelly," says Jessica Owens, a Bay Area venture capitalist. The fresh, fruit-forward, jammy Beaujolais complements the chocolate and peanut butter flavors, while the light mouth feel of the wine parries their denseness.
Coconut/Vanilla (Sibby's Coconut Snowball & Kara's Coconut) with sweet or late-harvest Gewürztraminer (Husch Late Harvest, Willamette Valley Vineyards or Navarro Cluster Select)
The tropical notes of the wine fit the dry, sweet, tropical-tinted coconut and vanilla flavors.
Red Velvet (Sprinkles) with Castello Banfi Rosa Regale
This distinct red sparkler's fresh sweetness and pleasant party appeal makes it a versatile cupcake companion. The effervescence complements the lively flavors of the cupcake, and the two distinct sweetnesses reinforce each in a cotton-candy combination. Perfect for sweet teeth.
Try Quady Winery's Elysium Black Muscat for a Cherries Jubilee flavor.
Chocolate (All). Port is pleasant (Taylor Fladgate L.B.V. Porto and Graham's Six Grapes Reserve). Banyuls is better (Banyuls L'Etoile Dore NV)
The two thick, pronounced flavors deliver a combination greater than the parts.
Pinot Noir (Anne Amie Winemaker's Selection Pinot Noir) accentuates the cacao tannins and texture, creating another nice fit.
Lemon cupcakes and Sauvignon Blanc or New Zealand Style whites (Cupcake Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc and Anne Amie Vineyards Cuvée A Amrita)
The crisp, green, tart wine cuts the lemon's acid and reinforces the pound-cake flavors of the confection.
For a sweeter approach, a Tokaji (Royal Tokaji Ats Cuvee) provides a gentle sweet wash over the lemon's zest. Late-harvest whites also work well (Mer Soleil Late), both by complimenting and intensifying the citrus notes of lemon.
Carmel Variants (Bebecakes Latin Bombshell and Sibby's Dulce de Leche) with Sweet Oloroso Sherry (Dry Sack Solera Especial and Gonzalez Byass Alfonso)
The dry, sweet caramelized notes in the wine parallel the caramel and burnt-sugar notes in the cupcake. Flavors merge and mellow with an incremental sweetness and a heightening of peanut notes.
Inniskillin's Riesling Icewine is as good a party partner as you can find. This luscious syrup pairs with carrot cake (Kara's Karrot), banana bread (Kara's Banana, lemon (Bebecakes Pucker Up and Sibby's Lemon Drop) and many others. The wine peaks at mid-palate and then fades to the rear to allow the distinct flavor of the cupcakes to return for the grand finale. If you are saving something for last, this is the one to finish with. Enjoy.