“This year’s Pride is going to be crazy,” says Zac Young. The Food Network Kitchen favorite is well-versed in the concept of over-the-top celebrations. He’s the creator of the outrageous PieCaken, the dessert world’s answer to turducken that features two layers of seasonal pies, topped with cake and slathered with frosting. “This might be the Pride that no one remembers.”
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After last year’s pandemic shutdown, the LGBT community is in the midst of enthusiastic celebrations for June Pride month. Most major metropolises have canceled big events such as New York’s annual Pride march, which brought an estimated 5 million people to the city’s downtown streets in 2019. Instead, celebrants are focused on more intimate celebrations, although not all count as small. New York’s Horse Meat Disco party sold out 1,000 tickets in 90 seconds.
“Everyone has been cooped up for the past year, and as the weather has gotten nicer, restaurants have gotten busy and everyone wants to be out and social,” says the New York-based Young. “You’ll see another level of celebrating our community and be together again—safely.”
Over the course of the pandemic, Young saw business from his PieCaken Bake Shop grow 400% for such treats as the OG Original Thanksgiving Piecaken that started the business. As a result of that demand, Young is expanding his reach beyond seasonal cakes. Later this year, he’ll open Sprinkletown, which will include such new specialties as chocolate bars, macaroons, and cookie dough, sold directly to consumers and available in soon-to-be announced big box retailers.
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To commemorate this year’s Pride parties and test-drive a potential product for Sprinkletown, Young created sparkling rosé cupcakes. The base is a batter that’s flavored and moistened with pureed strawberries, which are enjoying a bumper crop this year, as well as a generous splash of rosé. The bright, pink frosting is infused with berries and wine.
Young also garnishes the cupcakes with sprinkles, ranging from gold to silver to rainbow, to make them sparkle, literally. And then he adds a secret component, a white chocolate crunch that’s made up of Rice Krispies and the ’70s candy Pop Rocks. Young tucks the crunch underneath the frosting to surprise when you take a bite. It’s genius.
Also genius is the addition of the rosé to the cake, giving it more than a light tang and a good talking point. “The acidity from the wine and the strawberries activates the baking powder and baking soda, so you don’t have to whip the eggs. It’s science,” says Young. “As flashy and glittery as so much of my stuff can be, there’s a ton of science behind it. And a ton of sprinkles.”
If anyone needs further reason to make these party-starting cupcakes, consider this: June 11 is National Rosé Day. “Everyone loves a drunken cupcake,” says Young.
Tester’s Note: An additional convenient thing about these cupcakes is the half-bottle of rosé left over after testing—ideal for the afterparty.
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Sparkling Rosé Cupcakes
Makes 18 cupcakes
1 cup granulated sugar
Half cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 pint (2 cups) fresh or frozen strawberries
1 and a half cups all purpose flour
1 and a half tsp baking powder'
Half tsp baking soda
1 pinch of kosher salt
One-fourth cup rose wine
1 cup rosé wine
One-fourth cup strawberry puree
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter – at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar
Rainbow sprinkles or glitter
Sparkling white chocolate crunch (recipe follows)
Make the cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a muffin tin with festive cupcake liners.
Puree the strawberries in a food processor. Measure out half cup for the cake and ¼ cup for the frosting.
In a medium bowl, whisk the sugar, oil, eggs, and the one-fourth cup strawberry puree until smooth. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir with a rubber spatula until just smooth. Stir in the rosé. Portion the batter into the prepared cupcake tin, using about three tablespoons for each.
Bake for 13 to 16 minutes, until the tops spring back when gently pressed with a finger. Let cool completely before frosting
Make the frosting:
In a medium saucepan, bring the wine and strawberry puree to a boil. Cook until reduced to about one-fourth cup, about 10 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer, beat the butter and powdered sugar until smooth. Add the wine reduction and beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.
Frost and decorate the cupcakes in festive style. Rainbow sprinkles and edible glitter are always welcome. Tuck a pocket of Sparkling White Chocolate Crunch in the center of the frosting to heighten the drama.
Sparkling White Chocolate Crunch
Two-third cup chopped white chocolate or white chocolate chips (4 oz)
One-fourth cup Rice Krispies
8 packets Pop Rocks, preferably strawberry flavored
Line a large plate with parchment. Microwave the white chocolate in 20-second intervals until almost completely melted, about 1 minute. Stir with a rubber spatula to let the residual heat melt the remaining chocolate. Stir in the Rice Krispies and pop rocks, then spread thinly on the prepared plate, breaking it up into small clumps. Refrigerate until hardened.