NarBan's Nuptial Chocolate-Merlot Cupcakes
1 box devil's food cake mix
1 small box chocolate pudding
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup warm merlot reduction (see below)
1 1/2 cup good semi-sweet chocolate chips, gently melted
First, reduce 1/3 bottle of fruity merlot with 1/2 bag of tart red cherries (I got mine at Trader Joe's -- probably about 1/2-3/4 cup. It's not an exact science...). Reduce it WAY down, so that you have a half cup of liquid, plus a couple extra tablespoons. Strain the liquid through a cheesecloth. Chop the cherries finely and set them aside.
Combine 1/2 cup of the wine reduction with all the other ingredients, except for the chocolate chips. Beat with a stand mixer for 3 minutes. Then, fold in the melted chocolate and reserved cherries. Put into lined cupcake pans and bake at 350 for about 18 minutes, or until a straw comes out clean.
For the frosting
Beat together 1/2 pound neufchatel cheese, 1/2 pound cream cheese and 1/2 pound butter until it is fluffy. Add 2-3 Tbs. of the reserved merlot reduction, and 1/2 tsp vanilla. I also added a bit of food coloring, so that it would look rosey for the wedding, but I wouldn't do that unless you really need a certain shade of pink. Then, slowly beat in 1 pound sifted powdered sugar.