They take cupcakes to a whole new level: dark Belgian chocolate, Madagascar bourbon vanilla, sweet butter cream, 50 flavours, hand iced. As if their cupcakes weren’t enough on their own (and they are), we talk about how to pair them with different styles of wine depending on the cupcake flavour. Have fun with friends and a tasting party.
Natalie: Ottawa’s Cupcake Lounge takes cupcakes to a whole new level. Think dark Belgian chocolate, Madagascar bourbon, vanilla, sweet cream butter, 50 flavours, hand iced. Husband and wife team and owners of the Cupcake Lounge, Claudia Arizmendi and Bill will join me today to talk about pairing their cupcakes with wine. Welcome to you both.
Claudia: Hi Natalie! Thank You.
Natalie: Alright, well as if the cupcakes alone were not enough, which they are by the way, I’ve tried them. You are now on to pairing them with wine, which we are going to be on in a minute. But first I wanted to ask you how you developed a passion for cupcakes and baking? Claudia if I understand, you were born in Mexico, which is the birthplace of both chocolate and vanilla, so perhaps it had influence. But tell me more about why it is you’re so drawn to baking and cupcakes, especially.
Claudia: Well, when I was in Mexico like many, many other people, they bake with their moms. So I was really young when I started baking. Years went by, I had a couple children, I decided to raise them. And while I was baking a cupcake for one of my children’s party fourteen years ago, it’s when everything started. People went to the party, they loved it, they started asking me if I could do their cakes, it was a little different, and it was just curiosity. I started exploring different flavours and mixing different ingredients and everything just started fourteen years ago.
Natalie: Wow, and Bill your role, is it official taster or…
Bill: Yes, my role is CTO which is Chief Tasting Officer.
Bill: I relish it, yeah, entirely.
Natalie: Good job, what a great partnership in all ways. So we’re going to dive into this because I’m fascinated. You suggested some wine pairings today that are probably not what people would expect, i.e. sweet wine with cupcakes. I’m just going to pull a wine because that’s what I know, you’re the cupcake experts. I’m going to start with a sparkling wine. What I’ve got here today is a Pommery, it a little pop size. I think it’s ideal for a cupcake. It’s just too darn cute. So I’ll state the flavours of the cupcakes that we have. What would you pair a sparkling wine with and what sparkling wine do you have as well.
Bill: Well, I think sparkling wines go really well with cupcakes in general, but there’s a few that we’ve liked. Maple cinnamon would be one, vanilla-vanilla would be another and also butterscotch bourbon.
Natalie: Okay why those flavours in particular with sparkling wine and won’t the sparkling wine taste a little bitter with those?
Bill: I think with the maple cinnamon, the sparkling wine pulls out the maple, doesn’t seem to be bitter at all.
Bill: With the vanilla-vanilla, there’s just a nice balance between the two. There’s not a real conflict here. And butterscotch bourbon is one of my favorite cupcakes, it goes well with anything.
Natalie: That sounds great. So we’ll do a little nibble so we don’t have too much dead airtime here, but I’m dying to try this. You’ve got the cinnamon one. Yeah, I think that’s the cinnamon one, right?
Claudia: That is the maple cinnamon, yes.
Bill: So we have the Trius Brut (inaudible).
Natalie: All Canadian, very good.
Bill: All Canadian, yes.
Claudia: That’s good.
Natalie: That’s good, okay. We’ll just try this. Got to be… oh wait, it’s the cinnamon which is obviously baking spice that is working with the wine and it doesn’t taste too sweet, the cupcake versus the wine. I like that, that is really good, wow. And then the vanilla. What’s working there with the sparkling wine? Is it just the vanilla flavour goes well?
Bill: That’s a great question. We used classic Madagascar Bourbon Vanilla in the cupcakes, so you know what I was very careful to do that. There’s a vanilla bean frosting, it’s like, I don’t know. It really works. It’s hard to describe why, but it seems to work quite well. Vanilla is such a wonderful flavour, and especially if you’re using a high quality vanilla, I think it makes a difference.
Natalie: And is this the one? Sorry, is this the cupcake?
Claudia: That is no, that is the bourbon scotch.
Natalie: Oh, I’m glad you recognize them.
Claudia: That’s the one.
Natalie: That’s the one, okay.
Bill: That’s the vanilla-vanilla, exactly.
Claudia: And the right thing is, we’re not an expert for sure. It’s just, it started one evening. We got together and we got a couple bottles of wine and that was our appetizer. And we had wine, and we just start cutting a layer of each of them and tasting all of them. We just kind of got this one with this, and it’s probably for you or for other people to just try out and see.
Natalie: Absolutely and we were talking earlier, Claudia, and you had an idea, of like, you could cut a cupcake in four if you were going to make some sort of hors d’oeuvres of it. Because you were talking about appetizers before the meal and not for dessert and do a little mix and match tasting idea which would be fun.
Claudia: You know many people come and say “Well, why cupcakes and not cakes where it’s simple?” Well, you start making cakes because some people just like the cake and I say to my client, ‘it’s like you have somebody for dinner and everybody brings a couple of wine. And you have a couple of people with reds and whites and sparkling, so it’s just to have, to give your guests the opportunity to try a little bit’. So it’s really fun to have six different flavours, cut them in pieces and just try them out because you know, you don’t have one whole flavour, you can share and have different ones for sure.
Natalie: Right! That makes sense. That’s what we do in the wine world, too. We have flights of wine like when you want to pair by course and just have, you just have (inaudible) or for someone who loves experience and taste experience who want to try lots of different things. So I know when I go to a restaurant I don’t always like to commit to just one bottle, well especially if I’m alone. No, I wouldn’t drink the whole bottle but you know you like to have different glasses of wine. One thing I thought about is, maybe the vanilla works with the sparkling wine or anything with the touch of oak in it because oak aging wine will impart a vanilla flavour. So there maybe something going on there.
Bill: Exactly, that’s entirely possible. So I understand – I’m not a wine expert of any sort but American oak has a vanilla, a bit of a vanilla flavour to it.
Natalie: Yes, vanilla or coconut. Those are all the flavours that would dovetail together. I would suggest, if you propose a theory and say it with conviction, it will be accepted.
Okay, let’s move on to a Moscato which is what I would expect to have as a pairing because Moscato, a wildly popular category in the liquor store these days. It’s got a bit of sweetness, a bit of grapiness or floral notes. A pretty wine, it’s a light wine and I’ve got Jacob’s Creek, it’s a nice valued price Moscato. Which Moscato do you folks have?
Bill: So we have the Batasiolo Moscato d’Asti.
Natalie: Yes, from Italy.
Bill: From Italy, exactly.
Natalie: Okay, and which, sorry, which cupcake are we thinking?
Bill: Uh, carrot cake.
Natalie: Oh, I love carrot cake. Let’s see which one is that. I don’t recognize them here. The carrot cake has the silver on top?
Bill: Claudia, it’s got the… does it have…
Claudia: It’s a walnut. That’s the one. Has pineapple, some spices, for sure, cinnamon, and carrot.
Natalie: Okay and why do you think this one, in particular, goes with Moscato, the carrot flavour.
Bill: That’s a great question. I think the Moscato has a soft, sweet taste, of course, it’s fruity and grapey and I think just the way the carrot cake was put together, just some of the different ingredients that we used, so not so much of the walnuts but maybe more of the pineapple, I think makes a great combination.
Bill: Also, cinnamon, sure.
Natalie: Yeah, those spices really do bring it together. Because they’re balancing the sweetness, they give a savory, however you may describe it, is really working with the wine.
Bill: So we’re going to try some cupcake, Natalie. Hope this just doesn’t get too messy.
Natalie: Yes, okay. We have to be thorough with our research, and it’s a lot of fun. Oh my goodness, this would be really fun to divide this up among people and just be passing around, you know having different glasses and different slices of cupcake.
Claudia: Yes. Yes, it is really nice.
Natalie: Very good, and you know, oh the Moscato as you said, touch of sweetness. Very nice. What I’m liking is both the sparkling wine and the Moscato, the cupcakes are not making them taste bitter, they’re really working. Moscato also can have a little bit of effervescence or spritz which is a nice palate cleanser for that thick icing that you guys put on top of these cupcakes, especially if you are a person who likes to lick up all of the icing after.
Natalie: Okay, alright. So that’s a great pairing for that. Let’s see, before we move into the red ports, I’ve got a Riesling. You know, what would you pair with a Riesling? I’ve got a terrific Niagara Riesling from the Reif Estate, pretty dry. So what would you, what might you put with that, cupcake-wise?
Bill: Again, you might want to try out something like the maple cinnamon. So definitely it does, the Riesling, like if it’s with the sparkling wine or Riesling, it tends to pull out the maple.
Natalie: Okay, yes. Absolutely. And this one has a lemon and kind of, it almost…
Claudia: Lemon? So we could want lemon-coconut? Ginger-lemon? I don’t know if they could go with that, get some flavours.
Natalie: I’m starting to smell icing on these. Okay, alright. So why don’t we pause here and come back again to talk about some of the more robust red wines, dry red wines that you’ve chosen for some of the robustly flavoured cupcakes. I really appreciate your time today. This has been a great chat and we will come back again because we haven’t even touched chocolates yet. Thank you!
Bill: Thank you! Thanks.
The Cupcake Lounge offers all-natural, gourmet cupcakes baked fresh daily. No artificial flavours, preservatives, or trans fats. The cupcakes are iced by hand with spatula, not simply piped.
Above, Claudia chats with Mayor Jim Watson … who seems to be surprised in a hungry sort of way. Claudia is a graduate of the Baking and Pastry Arts Program at Algonquin College in Ottawa, has more than 10 years of related experience, and was awarded Latin American Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012 by Mayor Jim Watson. Bill has a background in communications and almost 15 years in the high tech business.
Claudia was born in Mexico where coincidentally two of the world’s most important baking ingredients ― vanilla and chocolate ― actually originated. She was a natural in the kitchen at a young age. Claudia later studied art in places like San Miguel de Allende and early childhood education at the “Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey (ITESM)” in Monterrey. And it’s her unique sense of creativity, design, and whimsy that’s evident in many of her cupcake creations today.
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