Hugh Mercer Apothecary & Red Wine Cupcakes


We spent some of our visit to Belle Grove Plantation in nearby Fredericksburg. Fredericksburg is a hub of history, given its importance as a port town during Colonial times and location halfway between both Civil War capitals.

On Caroline Street sits an eighteenth-century building, restored by Preservation Virginia, which houses a reconstruction of the Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop.


In the middle of the 18th century, Dr. Mercer fled Scotland and traveled to Pennsylvania. He moved to Fredericksburg on the advice of George Washington whom he met during the French and Indian War. Washington encouraged him to practice medicine and operate a pharmacy in the Virgina town.


For the next 15 years, Dr. Mercer did just that. The medicines and treatments of the time are now on display in this first-person, interactive museum.


Tours are led by Dr. Mercer’s assistants who are dressed in period clothing and stay in period character. They explain the combinations of herbs, extracts, and barks used to cure patients.


In the surgery room, guests learn how toothaches were treated, broken limbs were mended, and patients were bled. Live leeches are the stars of the tour and ensured my gratitude for 20th century medicine!

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I loved learning that many Colonial era medicines are in present-day kitchens


and, while some were fashioned into pills, others were mixed and taken with wine.

But the Hugh Mercery Apothecary wasn’t the only Colonial site that left an impression on me during our time in Fredericksburg. Just down Caroline Street is Colonial Cupcakes,

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an ingenious shop where you get to choose your cake, icing, and extras; they customize your cupcake while you wait in their cozy living room.

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Seemed to me that cupcakes would be just as good a medicine-delivery method as wine. Or, better yet? Red wine cupcakes!


Click Here To Print This Recipe.


For the Cake

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups red wine
  • Cinnamon

For the Frosting

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons red wine


For the Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tins with 24 liners; set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In the stand of an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla and beat.
  • Alternate addition of dry ingredients and wine, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and mixing until just incorporated.


  • Fill cupcake liners 3/4 full and bake for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  • Remove to wire rack to cool completely. Dust the cake with cinnamon.


For the Frosting

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter until light and creamy.
  • Slowly add sugar; beat until incorporated.
  • Add vanilla and wine.
  • Mix on medium high for 3-5 minutes or until desired consistency is reached.


Yields 24 cupcakes. This recipe was adapted from



4 responses

  1. Enjoyed your narrative on Hugh Mercer’s, which is worth a visit when in Frederisksburg. The info on Colonial medicine and treatments is truly fascinating, almost draw-dropping. :-) The red wine addition to the cupcakes also sounds fascinating – would love to try it!

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