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


Bonus Post: Peanut Butter S’Mores Cupcakes


My colleague, E, is celebrating her 30th birthday on Thursday, and since she has to share her  very special day with Thanksgiving, I thought she needed a very special cupcake for her celebration at work today! When asked for flavor ideas, she said a combination of chocolate, peanut butter, and marshmallow would be her ideal dessert. Immediately, I flashed back to our camping-themed book club and Lauren’s s’mores made with peanut butter cups. Enter Peanut Butter S’Mores Cupcakes — graham cracker bottom, chocolate cake with a mini Reese’s peanut butter cup baked inside, and topped with marshmallow buttercream frosting. Sweet wishes for a happy birthday, E!


Click Here To Print This Recipe.


  • 1 1/2 cups (1 package) graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 cups + 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 cups + 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups brewed coffee
  • 1 tablespoon espresso powder
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract, divided
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2/3 cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
  • 1 – 7 ounce jar marshmallow creme
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cream
  • Optional Garnish: 2 Hershey’s bars, Teddy Grahams, Crushed Graham Crackers


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees; line cupcake tins with 24 liners.

For the Crust

  • Using food processor, crush graham crackers.
  • Pulse in 3 tablespoons sugar and 4 tablespoons melted butter.
  • Spoon in one heaping teaspoon into each cupcake liner. Press down with a small glass; bake for 5 minutes.

For the Cake

  • In a medium sauce pan, melt 1 cup (2 sticks) butter. Add coffee, espresso powder, cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon vanilla and whisk until combined. Set aside to cool slightly.
  • In a large bowl, combine 2 cups sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the sour cream and the eggs. Slowly whisk in chocolate mixture until combined completely.
  • Combine wet and dry ingredients, whisking until smooth.
  • Spoon two tablespoons of batter into each liner. Add peanut butter cup. Cover with 2 tablespoons batter until candy is covered.
  • Bake 17-19 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to cool on a wire rack.

For the Frosting

  • In the bowl of electric stand mixer, beat 1 cup (2 sticks) butter until smooth.
  • Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and marshmallow creme.
  • Gradually beat in powdered sugar, scraping sides of bowl as needed.
  • Add 2 tablespoons cream; beat to combine.
  • On high speed, beat frosting until it is light and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

This recipe is constructed with Java Cupcake’s Double Chocolate Layer Cake and Joy of Baking’s Marshmallow Cupcakes.

Night Market & Peanut Butter Bacon Cannoli Cupcakes


Headquartered in Center City Philadelphia is The Food Trust, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving access to affordable, healthy food and providing nutrition education. But if you ask most Philadelphians about The Food Trust, they’ll tell you the organization sponsors Night Market!


Night Market is one of Philadelphia’s most popular food festivals. Since 2010, the Food Trust has worked with community partners to host Night Markets across the city and showcase Philly’s eclectic food scene.


There are four events in a season, and each event spotlights arts and culture along with the city’s best restaurants and food trucks.


The largest Night Market to date took over 9 blocks of the famed South Street and covered it with more than 80 food trucks and restaurants.


With so many options, it’s best to choose your food — and your company — wisely. I always attend with my one of my favorite Philly foodie friends, Lauren from Pumpkin Prose, and her husband, M. The three of us have navigating Night Markets down to a science! We approach the events with the following rules:

1. If you can get it anytime at a brick-and-mortar restaurant, skip it.
2. If you think you want it, have one person wait in line while the others go up to the window to check out the food that’s coming out and decide if you should stick it out on line.
3. Sharing is caring! Offer bites, licks, and tastes. Share orders. The more dishes you share, the more you can try!
4. Eat and critique.

As with any good food experience, we always end a Night Market with dessert. When Lauren and I saw Peanut Butter Bacon Cannolis, we couldn’t resist!


One bite and we were…disappointed. (And you know how I hate a disappointing dessert!) The flavor combination had so much promise yet we were left wanting. It didn’t take long before we acknowledged that we could make a better version. Thus began a culinary brainstorm that led to Pumpkin Bacon Cannoli Cupcakes! Using my cannoli cake recipe, a hybrid ganache recipe, and Lauren’s frosting, we knew we created a winner.

Lauren and M are moving this summer, and I know Night Markets won’t be the same without them. However, now I can make these cupcakes anytime I need an edible memory of our fun foodie adventures.

photo 1-8 Click Here To Print This Recipe.


For the Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1 cup milk

For the Filling

  • 4 ounces dark chocolate
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon butter, room temperature
  • 3 strips crispy bacon, crumbled

For the Frosting

  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 strip crispy bacon for garnish, optional


For the Cake

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 24 cupcake pans.
  • Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in bowl; set aside.
  • In a stand mixer, cream the sugar and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, scraping after each addition. Add vanilla and almond extracts.
  • On low speed, alternate adding flour mixture and milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until smooth.


  • Fill liners 3/4 way. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted comes out clean, approximately 15 minutes. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and transfer to wire rack. Cool completely.


For the Filling

  • Break chocolate into small pieces and put in a medium bowl.
  • In a small pot on the stove, heat the cream until simmering. (Do not boil.) Pour cream mixture over the chocolate and stir until smooth. Add the butter and stir until melted.


For the Frosting

  • In a stand mixer, cream the butter, cream cheese, and peanut butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and sugar; mix until smooth. Switch stand mixer to high and beat for 2-3 minutes.


Putting It All Together

  • Use an apple corer to remove centers of cupcakes.
  • Use small spoon or piping bag to fill holes with ganache.
  • Pipe frosting on cupcakes.
  • Garnish with a piece of bacon, if desired.


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