Vegan MoFo #2: Saga of the Grape Soda Cupcakes (and recipe)

While perusing the beverage aisle during a grocery trip with recipe writing in mind, I tossed a few bottles of grape soda* in the cart thinking I’d have big plans with it, eventually. The bottles sat on top of my refrigerator for about two months before I decided what to do with it. Everything just sounded so…gross. Grape soda cookies? Yuck. Biscotti? VOM. Donuts? It’s been done. Sorbet? I don’t really like making ice cream-y type things. Muffins? Pass the barf bag.

How would grape soda taste good in a baked good? It’s fruity, sickly sweet, and fizzy, and grape doesn’t really go with anything. One day, I broke it down with the transitive property. Grape soda=grapes. Grapes=wine. Wine goes with chocolate. I thought of the chocolate cakes and cupcakes I made with Merlot and Cabernet recently and decided to try something similar with the grape soda. The worst that could happen is that they turn out gross and I’d have an entertaining kitchen disaster post for MoFo.

Grape soda is far from the elegance level of wine, unless you buy really crappy wine. Which I do. But grape soda trying to be fancy could not fool anyone, so don’t even try. It’s one of those drinks kids spill on themselves and turn into a sticky mess with, so cupcakes is the obvious choice. They’re single-serving, cutesy, and I guess you could make a huge mess with them if you really tried.

*Or grape pop, as we call it in the Chicago suburbs, which I get so much shit for saying in Milwaukee.

I laid out all my ingredients, then faced the moment of truth and tasted the grape soda.





I could’ve sworn I just took a shot of cough syrup. I used to really love grape soda as a kid and this is not how I remembered it tasting, at all. My hopes were not high after this initial reaction, but what the hell, I jumped right in and started making the reduction. Instead of just adding straight up grape soda to the batter, reducing it concentrates all the flavors. A little bit goes a long way without having to add extra liquid. This also makes it so the buttercream can be grape flavored.

I made the cupcake batter, tossed it in the oven, and held my breath for 16-18 minutes. Then, because I’m not a vampire and need to breathe, I passed out and had to be revived, waking up to a chocolaty grape-y aroma. I promptly started making the grape buttercream. It was actually yummy! Oh, and none of that passing out stuff actually happened.

After frosting the cupcakes and decorating with straws, sprinkles, and star gummies (mentioned in yesterday’s kitchen tour MoFo post), it was the real moment of truth. I bit into a cupcake. It was deep and chocolate-y, then the essence of grape wafted through my taste buds. Success! THEY WEREN’T DISGUSTING! While suited more to a whimsical, child-like palate, the flavors are more complex than you’d think. Just don’t try to pass them off as fancy and sophisticated. They would be perfect for a casual get together or birthday party.

The final product:

Please don’t judge that unicorn on the mug for eating honey. For all we know, maybe honey is vegan in unicorn world.

Grape Soda Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

Note: You will need grape soda in the cupcake batter in addition to the 4 cups for the reduction, so don’t drink the leftovers just yet!

4 cups grape soda

1 1/3 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup canola oil
1 cup grape soda
¼ cup grape soda reduction
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup vegetable shortening
2 ¼ cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons grape soda reduction

Pour the grape soda into a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a low boil and let boil for 30 minutes, reducing the soda to ¾ cup. If you reduce it too much, simply reconstitute it to make ¾ cup. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Combine the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a stand mixer or mixing bowl. Stir until combined.

Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the canola oil, grape soda, ¼ cup grape soda reduction, vanilla extract, and apple cider vinegar. Mix until just combined.
Using a cupcake scoop, fill each cupcake liner a little more than halfway. Bake for 16-18 minutes, until the tops of the cupcakes are firm and a toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. Cream together the margarine and shortening in a stand mixer or with hand beaters. Gradually add the powdered sugar, sifting as you go. Once half the powdered sugar is mixed in, start gradually drizzling in the grape soda reduction as well. Mix until completely incorporated and beat the frosting for 6-8 minutes. Add more powdered sugar or grape soda reduction to adjust the consistency of the frosting if necessary.

Dip the tops of the cupcakes in grape soda reduction, then pipe or spoon on some frosting. Drizzle with ½ teaspoon grape soda extract. Repeat for all cupcakes. Top with sprinkles or other colorful candies and edible glitter. Serve!

That concludes the grape soda cupcake saga. Love ’em or hate ’em.

Now, in all honesty, I’m really stuck in a rut with recipe ideas right now. I have a list of drink ideas on my bulletin board and I walked around Whole Foods last night looking for inspiration, but I’m not super inspired at the moment. I would love if you guys posted some of your favorite drinks or favorite kinds of baked goods, or both, in the comments and maybe I’ll play around with the ideas and turn them into desserts!
And while we’re at it, what other parts of the cookbook writing process are you interested in reading about here this month? I have some recipes, recipe failures, segments on publishing, and more in the works, but I’d love to hear what you guys want to hear about as well!

Thanks for reading!


16 thoughts on “Vegan MoFo #2: Saga of the Grape Soda Cupcakes (and recipe)

  1. uh, these only sound like the most awesome thing in the world! How is it that no one’s thought of grape soda baked anything before?! (and yeah, please don’t say “pop”. My roommate in college, who was from Colorado, would say “pop” and it used to make me gag. ‘Gotta be some regional thing cause I had never heard it til then.)

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Whiskey Sour when I’m feelin’ all tough & surly at the bar, and that vegan chocolate blondie thingamabob they usually have in the bakery section at WF.

  2. “I broke it down with the transitive property” – haha, love it.

    It’s pop! POP! I’m with you.

    Gosh, I don’t know if I could think of a drink you haven’t already thought of. I don’t tend to drink much besides water and coffee, anyway. Hmm…I’ll let you know if I come up with anything halfway unique.

  3. These look really cool!

    To your question: I’d love to read about the publishing – how do you find a publisher, for example, and what follows after you’ve found one. How do you find recipe testers, and what exactly do they have to do? Oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with even more interesting topics!

  4. Those look pretty great, definitely a fun birthday party cupcake. As for my favourite drinks, well, I’m kinda a water girl! I do love pink lemonade, cherryade, iron bru, Corona with lime, Pimms & lemonade, soda water & lime or ginger beer on occasion though.

  5. How about a cookbook tour?
    What was your first vegan cookbook, which do you use the most, which do you wish you used more often?

  6. This is not what I expected at all for the recipe! Thanks for posting…I want to make these now.
    As for drinks, how about almond amaretto, or strawberry margarita (I know the standard has already been done in cupcake form). I also really LOVE the watermelon fresca from Native foods, maybe that would be a nice summer baked good.
    Hearing any part of the cookbook process would be interesting too!!

  7. Wow! Thanks for having this. I am an RA at Alverno College and after hosting a wing dinner recently I made a dessert for my residents with a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe. I learned that one of my residents wasn’t able to eat them because she’s vegan. I felt horrible for making something she wasn’t able to eat! This site has helped me out very much. I’ll actually be making grape soda cupcakes for the next wing dinner.

    Thanks so much!

    Leah Stikel

  8. I love your creativity, I would never have thought to reduce it! I used to love grape soda as a kid too, but I haven’t had it in years- now I’m a bit scared that I would react the same way that you did, and ruin the memories!

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