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All photos: Moriah VanVleet

I recently 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.

Their wedding, too, was teeming with delight and sweetness. Alongside many other fun features, 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 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 cupcakes (12)

Aperol spritz cupcakes (makes 12-16 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 paper cupcake liners; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil and sugar until smooth. 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 the lined cups of the pan, filling cups halfway. Bake for 10-14 minutes — 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.

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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.

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Without delay, spoon the icing onto the cooled cupcakes, letting it reach the edges but without overflowing. 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 (best to not refrigerate).

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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 nuptials that sparked their inception. Cheers!

*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 is at its best in proper proportion to the prosecco-grapefruit cake it’s designed to be eaten on.

Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind butter, sugar, flowers where this post first appeared.

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Freelancer Moriah VanVleet is the voice behind butter, sugar, flowers, a blog she started in 2011 to showcase her original (and often unusual) dessert recipes....