Last summer I had the privilege of making cupcakes for the wedding of a wonderful couple. The whole process was a joy for me, from the moment the bride asked me in her lovely demeanor, to my merry hours of creating and decorating each little dessert. My delight arose from fondness of both baking and the bride, but also from knowing that the couple and I had the same simple dessert priorities: delicious and made with love.
Their wedding, too, was teeming with love and sweetness: an evening so moving and heartwarming, I felt aglow for days. Alongside other fun features (from performances to postcards), the couple’s favorite cocktails were highlighted at the bar; his: a whiskey sour, hers: an Aperol spritz. The latter left me dreaming of a new dessert creation — an edible rendition of the drink’s most distinctive ingredients. Bubbly-sweet prosecco and tangy Aperol were soon to find their home in a toothsome new treat.
I experimented futilely with layer cakes, then cookies — and finally, perhaps naturally, my path led back to cupcakes… with marvelous results. Their reminiscent form was simply meant to be, and I added a bit of grapefruit for a complementary twist. The outcome was a delicious, vibrant, cocktail-inspired creation: lusciously delicate and bittersweet at once.
Aperol Spritz Cupcakes (makes about 14 standard sized cupcakes*)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, plus more for icing
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Finely grated zest of one pink grapefruit
- 1/2 cup fresh, bubbly prosecco
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line muffin tins with about 14 paper cupcake liners; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and sugar. Beat in the eggs one at time, mixing until incorporated. Stir in the vanilla. Over the bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt; mix until smooth and even. Stir in the grapefruit zest until evenly dispersed. Gently fold in the prosecco until just incorporated and batter is even.
Promptly scoop the batter into lined cupcake pan, being careful to fill cups only halfway; this will allow some room for the glaze. You should have about 14 cupcakes (if you end up with several fewer cupcakes than this, your cups might be filled too high with batter). Bake for 10-14 minutes, or just until centers test clean with a toothpick. Let cool in pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack, platter, or towel-lined countertop nearby. Let cool completely before icing.
- 2/3 cup Aperol
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- sprinkles or sugar decorations (optional)
In a small saucepan, bring the Aperol and salt to a steady simmer, stirring occasionally. Let simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until reduced by half. (When it looks almost halved, carefully transfer hot Aperol to a heatproof measuring cup; return to heat and re-measure as needed, stopping when you have 1/3 cup.) Remove from heat and quickly stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla while Aperol is still hot, whisking vigorously until smooth.
Without delay, spoon the icing onto the cupcakes, letting it reach the edges but without overflowing. (You may want to swirl it to the edges with your finger or a spoon, especially as it thickens). Icing will form a shell quickly; re-whisk as needed, and if you want to top your cupcakes with sprinkles, do so one cupcake at a time, immediately after icing each one so that the decoration will stick. Let icing harden in the open air for at least 30 minutes before serving. The cupcakes are best the day they are made, but can be stored covered at room temperature for up to 24 hours.
With their tender, airy, citrus-speckled crumb, these cupcakes offer a lovely texture and flavor in each bite. Delightfully well-balanced, the whisper of mild, warming prosecco hits its stride beneath the lively layer of tart Aperol glaze. Sweet, sour, and scrumptious, Aperol spritz cupcakes are a nod to the cocktail they celebrate — and to the sweet nuptials that sparked their inception. Enjoy them with a hot cup of coffee or afternoon tea — or better yet, a fizzy glass of prosecco. Cheers!
Maybe next time… If you don’t have prosecco around, feel free to use sparkling wine or champagne in its place. While I found the grapefruit to be a perfect pairing, orange zest would work nicely in its place, as could lemon. If you have mini muffin pans, bite-sized Aperol cupcakes would be delicious and dainty: just remember to fill the cups only halfway with batter, and to reduce your baking time significantly, testing for done-ness after just 5 minutes. Instead of sugar flowers or sprinkles, try dressing up the newly iced cakes with fresh raspberries or edible flowers; they’d be a lovely match.
**A note to tempted spoon-lickers like me: On its own, the icing has quite a powerful punch. It mellows as it cools and dries, and it’s at its best in proper proportion to the prosecco-grapefruit cake that it’s designed to be eaten on.