How to Pair Wine and Cupcakes like a Pro

Enjoying a cupcake (or three) with a glass of wine is basically the definition of self-care, and this is the week to #treatyoself. But pairing wine and cupcakes can be difficult.

There are so many flavors to try – what wine goes with a gooey salted caramel cupcake? Or a zippy lemon cupcake? Or a festive funfetti? Don’t worry we’ve got you with a few tried and true guidelines to make pairing wine and cupcakes a breeze!

Take a look at this pairing guide the next time you want to indulge in two of your favorite things.

A Quick Note on Pairing Wine with Dessert

In general, when it comes to pairing wine with dessert, the wine should be as sweet or sweeter than the dessert – otherwise the wine will taste bitter. This is definitely not the time to bust out a French Pinot Noir, or any kind of dry, earthy Old-World wine. 

If you prefer a dry style of wine over a dessert wine, be sure to go with a fruit-forward New-World wine, as fruit notes can make up for a lack of sweetness. 

Here’s another quirk about pairing wine with cupcakes: In many cases, a cupcake is already a self-contained pairing of a particular type of cake with another type icing. When you think about which wine to choose, consider the main flavor of the cupcake – be it the cake, the icing, or the fun surprise in the middle. If all else fails, enjoy a delicious tasting experiment until you settle on something wonderful.

Wine & Cupcake Pairings

Chocolate cupcake on white countertop with chocolate frosting

Chocolate

For cupcakes with a chocolate base or a ganache filling, you’re going to want a medium- to full-bodied red. Wines like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec have flavor notes of chocolate, and so they bring out the best in devil’s food cake or a gooey, chocolatey center. Plus, reds that were aged in oak tend to have notes of vanilla and spice, which complement chocolate nicely.

Vanilla cupcake with white frosting with a blue and white cupcake liner

Vanilla

When vanilla is the main component – think angel food cake, rich vanilla buttercream, or both –  go with an off-dry Riesling or Chardonnay. The sweetness in Riesling will balance the sweetness of the cupcake. A creamy Chardonnay is a nice match for the texture of buttercream, plus notes of pear and vanilla make this wine a winning pairing.

Red velvet cupcake with red hearts on a white plate

Red Velvet

If you’re like, “Hey wait a minute, isn’t red velvet basically just chocolate?” Touché. But the thing that sets red velvet apart – aside from its mysterious crimson color – is the cream cheese frosting. Rich and slightly tangy, this cupcake pairs well with a light and fruity Pinot Noir.

Salted caramel cupcake with caramel drizzle on a wood board

Salted Caramel 

Gooey caramel is next level with a hint of sea salt, and these decadent cupcakes want a sweet wine by their side. Tawny port, which has notes of caramel from 7 years of oak aging, is a great option. You could also try a sweeter red like Banyuls, or an Australian Shiraz, with notes of dark fruit and spice. These wines also make good pairing choices for cupcakes flavored with hazelnut.

Peanut butter cupcake with chocolate glaze and on a white plate

Peanut Butter

Peanut butter cupcakes usually have a chocolate component, as that is the original perfect pairing. Sweet and nutty peanut butter cupcakes go well with a fruity red like an Argentinian Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon. You could also go with a red dessert wine like port.

Four cookies and cream cupcakes with white frosting and a cookie on top

Cookies & Cream

Cookies & Cream is basically the Oreo of cupcakes, and you have some options as far as wine pairings. Cookies & Cream pairs well with a fruity Pinot Noir or an oak-aged Barolo with notes of raspberry and cocoa. If you’re in the mood for a white wine, you could also go with an off-dry Riesling.

Lemon cupcakes in a white box with zest and lemons on top of the white frosting

Lemon

Whether it’s lemon cake, lemon buttercream, or lemon curd in your cupcake, you’ll want a light white wine like Sauvignon blanc. With light fruit notes and zippy acidity, Sauvignon blanc is a great palate cleanser between scrumptious bites.

Pairing wine and cupcakes – Apple streusel cupcakes in baking pan with white background

Apple Streusel 

Sweet and crumbly apple streusel goes well with a Rhône blend, since it has notes of cinnamon to complement the cinnamon in the cupcake. Rhône blends are red blends made of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, and have notes of raspberry, rosemary, and baking spice. Fans of white wine could also choose an unoaked Chardonnay or Sauvignon blanc, which feature notes of apple and peach.

Pairing wine and cupcakes – Cheesecake cupcakes with fruit swirl on white background

Cheesecake

Creamy cheesecake pairs well with a dessert wine like Sauternes. With notes of lemon curd and honey, Sauternes has enough acidity to cut through the creaminess of these dreamy cupcakes. 

Pairing wine and cupcakes – Funfetti cupcakes with colored sprinkles on top of the frosting

Funfetti

The party girl of cupcakes, Funfetti wants an equally fun wine at its side. Your best bet is a dry sparkling rosé. Not only do they look nice together, but a dry rosé will cleanse the palate after a sweet bite of Funfetti and vanilla icing.

In Vino Finito

There are infinite cupcake possibilities, so if you come across a cupcake you don’t know how to pair with wine, you can always shoot us an email.

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Bright Cellars

Our staff is full of passionate wine lovers. With our amazing sommeliers at the helm, we’ve been schooled on all things wine. We came together to write this article, in hopes of spreading a little wine-ducation with you.

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