Negronis are a classic cocktail made with just three ingredients: gin, Campari and sweet vermouth. Each of these ingredients – the Campari, in particular – adds its own bold flavor to the cocktail, which is a beautifully balanced mix of bitter orange and herbacious gin, with a touch of sweetness. I like my Negronis served on the rocks and I also like to put my own twist on them from time to time. While this includes cocktails, it’s not limited to them and these Negroni Cupcakes are a wonderfully delicious way to turn this classic drink into dessert.
The cupcakes feature all three of the basic ingredients from the cocktail. The cupcake batter includes both Campari and sweet vermouth, which bring their unique flavors to the buttery cupcake batter. Campari is a vivid red color and that will come through in the cupcakes, though a few additional drops of red food coloring can heighten the color and make it stand out a little more, if you’d like. The cupcakes are soft and fluffy, with a nice flavor of both orange and bitter orange that is reminiscent of marmalade. Adding a little sweet vermouth to the cupcake batter tempered the bitterness of the Campari, though it doesn’t come through strongly on its own. In the cocktail, the sweet vermouth supplements and tames the Campari, as well, without stealing its place in the spotlight.
The cupcakes are topped with a gin-spiked buttercream. If you’re a gin fan, you’ll love the frosting. If you’re not a gin fan, you’ll probably love the frosting anyway. Gin is a neutral spirit that is infused with juniper and other herbs and spices. The botanicals vary by brand, so the exact flavor will be different depending on which gin you reach for. As with all things, a gin that tastes nicer before it goes in will make a better frosting. You can’t go wrong with something like Beefeater, Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire.
As a finishing touch, I squeezed a orange twist over the tops of the finished cupcakes, just as I would do for a freshly-mixed Negroni cocktail. You can make an orange twist by peeling a strip of peel off of the fruit with a vegetable peeler, then folding it in half (skin side out) to express the orange oils. This should be done over the cupcakes so they have a hint of orange aroma when served. You can use a smaller twist as garnish, too, if you’d like.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp orange zest
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp Campari
2 tbsp sweet vermouth
2-4 drops red food coloring (optional)
1 batch Gin Frosting (below)
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a muffin pan with 12 paper liners.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and orange zest until well-combined. Stir in half of the flour mixture, followed by the buttermilk, Campari, sweet vermouth and food coloring (if using). Stir in the remaining half of the flour mixture, mixing until no streaks of dry ingredients remain visible. Divide batter evenly into prepared muffin cups.
Bake for 16-19 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center of each cake comes out clean.
Take the cupcakes out of the pan and place them on a wire rack. Allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
2 1/2 tbsp gin
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
2 1/2 – 3 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
In a large bowl, beat together gin, butter and 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar. Gradually blend in remaining confectioners’ sugar until frosting is thick, smooth and spreadable.
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes.