Grown-Up Birthday Cake

By • September 23, 2010 • 118 Comments


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Author Notes: I had already started to make my mom's go-to birthday cake--a yellow cake made with white wine that she cribbed from the Chicago Tribune eons ago--when I realized I didn't have the 1 cup of vegetable oil the recipe called for. So, hello olive oil substitute! I did worry that it would overwhelm the delicate taste, but it actually turned out beautifully--richer than the veg oil version and very moist. - MidgeMidge

Food52 Review: We've wanted to award this beauty a Wildcard win for some time but Jenny beat us to it: http://www.food52.com/blog/1610_grownup_birthday_cake. Olive oil and wine make the cake fruity and complex (do use good ones, as you will taste all of their delicious nuances); the jam layer swings in with a little flash and tartness; and the thin coat of creamy chocolate icing seals the deal. It's altogether very grown-up, but with all the pleasure of a sweet, spongy cake. Tips: Line your cake pans with parchment circles to make sure the layers turn out without a hitch. And if you run into any trouble with lumps in the frosting, just whisk like mad till it smooths out. - A&MA&M

Serves a birthday party

yellow cake

  • 2 1/2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 7 ounces raspberry jam, preferably homemade, but I used Bonne Maman
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Butter and lightly flour 2 nine-inch cake pans.
  3. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.
  4. In a standing mixer, blend sugar and eggs on med-high for a minute. Slowly mix in vanilla, wine, and oil.
  5. Gently fold dry ingredients into cake batter until smooth.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes until cake tester comes out clean. Cool on wire racks.
  7. Spread jam on one layer; then top with the other. Frost top layer with icing (recipe below).

bittersweet chocolate buttercream icing

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 cup Dutch processed cocoa
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Blend butter and sugar. Fold in cocoa and gradually add milk until it starts to look like icing. Mix in vanilla.
  • This recipe is a Wildcard Contest Winner!

Tags: Jennifer Steinhauer, Jenny, Jenny's in the Kitchen, jestei

Comments (118) Questions (12)

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about 1 month ago FoodIsLove

Living in California you get to appreciate the differences between the flavors rendered in olive oil and wine. I made this for my husbands birthday tonight and it was wonderful. Since I've never used olive oil in a cake before, I grabbed the most buttery, mild olive oil in the pantry. Personally, I'm not a fan of the grassy green oils and believe that this cake made with one of those would be a bit overpowered. I chose a pinot gris from Toulouse in Mendocino County and it all blended and worked well. We liked the cake so much that I will next try it with an infused olive oil from Olive Press in Sonoma County. Their Clementine or limonata will be my next experiment as the subtlety of the flavor should work well. I'm thinking about trying a Riesling or Gewurztraminer. The Pinot Gris was a little bit too acidic for my taste so I'll try something more Mellow. Instead of raspberry jam I used Sarabeth's Mixed Berry Jam. Itls a bit loose and excellent as it soaked into the cake. I also sliced each layer in half to add extra jam - yum. Finally, we changed out the chocolate frosting for Chocolate Italian butter cream as we really like it. Thanks so much for the wonderful inspiration this recipe offers. I've read other cake recipes calling for olive oil and now I'll be more experimental.

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7 months ago kross

I had a great experience this recipe. Thank you! I used rose since that was what was open. I would recommend a mild olive oil here.

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7 months ago Midge

Thanks! I'll have to give rose a try next time.

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7 months ago Jenn

I agree with Rhonda. The batter tasted so bad I threw it away and baked a chocolate cake instead. I used Trader Joe's Presidents Reserve EVOO, and Paul Becher white wine, which was not sweet but not dry. My guess is that unless it is super sweet table wine, this batter will continue to taste awful. Maybe I will try it again when I have a sweet wine in the house. I really wanted it to work.

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7 months ago Midge

Sorry to hear that Jenn. I've always used dry white wine in this recipe and it's always turned out great.

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10 months ago Rhonda

Okay I just ate a few bites of this cake I made and I must say this is the worst tasting cake ever. I'm a professional baker and I followed the recipe to the letter. Total waste of time and I put it into the trash.

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10 months ago jeanine dunn

I bake this cake a while back and it was good! Didn't use wine as I didn't have any in the house. And I would bake it again.

Stringio

9 months ago Sara DeViva

Maybe it's the difference between extra virgin and light olive oil? I am baking mine now - used untoasted sesame oil because I'm out of OO - batter tastes amazing!

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8 months ago Midge

I'm sorry to hear the cake didn't work out for you @Rhonda. I'm curious about what kind of olive oil you used? Seems like the weight, taste, and freshness of olive oils vary greatly so maybe that's the issue? I've been making this cake for years and have never had a problem.

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10 months ago Rhonda

I just made this cake and followed the recipe exactly as printed...my cake caved in the middle also!!! What's up with this?

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10 months ago Dima Haddad

I have to try this cake!

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about 1 year ago Chelsey1818

This cake was amazing. My family and boyfriend loved it! I put fresh rasberries on the top of it and next time would add a thin layer of chocolate frosting in the middle with the rasberry jam.

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about 1 year ago Cena

I made it as jelly filled cupcakes to bring to a party. A little dry (maybe needed extra jam?), but a big hit.

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about 1 year ago Morgan Brooks

Just made this and it is delicious! Took a chance and used sweet vermouth and blackberry jam. It's rich and just the right amount of sweetness for my taste. Definitely making this again and looking forward to all the possible variations.

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about 1 year ago Shelia Cooks

It was baking soda. Now I see the recipe calls for baking powder, but origanlly it was baking soda. After reduced the baking soda the cake was really good.

Stringio

about 1 year ago Negar Mokhtassi

In the recipe under ingredients you say "baking powder" and then in description you say "baking soda" which is it, baking powder or soda? was this a misprint?

Steph

about 1 year ago Stephanie Bourgeois

Stephanie is the Head Recipe Tester of Food52.

Hi, Negar. Originally the recipe called for baking soda, but many people were having trouble with it. The recipe has since been adjusted to use 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder.

Steph

over 1 year ago Stephanie Bourgeois

Stephanie is the Head Recipe Tester of Food52.

Based on the feedback about the baking soda, we've adjusted the recipe to 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder. The cake's olive oil and white wine really shine with the adjustment.

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about 1 year ago zingyginger

Thanks for the fix, it's fabulous with baking powder. Don't forget about Jenny's column too http://food52.com/blog...

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about 1 year ago neighome

Made this again last night. Reducing the baking soda to 2 1/4 tsp was brilliant. Thanks for the fix!

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over 1 year ago Shelia Cooks

Today is Tues. My cake is in the oven now. I'm making it for my daughters birthday on Th. Thank goodness I made a sample. 1 TBSP is way to much baking soda. I'm going to make another one tomorrow (Wed.) and cut the baking soda to 1/2 a TBSP. The texture of this cake is lovely, but the taste of baking soda...not so good. I hope cutting the baking powder by half works. Otherwise I'll be buying a birthday cake.

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over 1 year ago neighome

Mostly loved this cake, especially how lovely and rich the olive was. I did, however, notice a distinct flavor of bicarbonate that was unpleasant. I seemed to be only one that could taste it (or everyone was too polite to say)! So I'm trying to figure out how to reduce the Baking Soda and still get enough leavening. Maybe whip some of the egg whites? Any ideas?

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about 2 years ago dreonrice

I followed all the instructions to the T but for some reason the center of the cake never set, and it caved in the middle as it cooled. It tasted SO GOOD, which is why I want to get this kink worked out before I make it again! I saw that a couple of other readers had the same issue from reading the comments on Jenny's post, so if anyone else had this problem and figured out a solution, please share your secrets! This cake is tooooo good!

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about 2 years ago Midge

I'm glad you liked the cake, but I am so sorry it caved. I've never had this happen, but I reread some of the comments from Jenny's column and I wonder if using baking powder, rather than soda would help? I also wonder if it depends the olive oil? Might be interesting to make it with half veg oil and half olive oil next time.

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almost 2 years ago dreonrice

Thanks so much for your thoughts. I just read the article about leavening agents posted yesterday and am going to try out less baking soda or using a tablespoon of baking powder instead. And if that doesn't work, it must have something to do with the fact that I have an old oven with an inaccurate thermostat, especially since others seem to have had success with the recipe just the way it was written originally. Anyway, thanks for sharing thoughts and the recipe - it's a keeper for sure!

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almost 2 years ago Gseghi

I made this cake today and my center caved too. Pretty gooey. I made sure the was 350 and even cooked it for a few minutes more (as we have an older stove too). Not sure why this happened. Sad. Will try above changes next time.

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over 2 years ago CookinEssexCT

Excellent. A moist well, flavored cake. I made 1/2 the recipe and baked it in a deep 8" cake pan. Sliced the layer in half for the raspberry filling. Perfect for my mom's 85th birthday. Note: used Colavita 100% olive oil - no bitter or strong olive oil taste.

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over 2 years ago Midge

Oh I'm so glad it worked out. That's exactly how my mom makes it and then she sifts powdered sugar on top instead of icing. yum!

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over 2 years ago jeanine dunn

This cake was fantastic!

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over 2 years ago jeanine dunn

I don't have wine in the house do I really need it ? What can I use instead

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over 2 years ago jeanine dunn

I don't have wine in the house do I really need it ? What can I use instead

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over 2 years ago jeanine dunn

I don't have wine in the house do I really need it ? What can I use instead

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over 2 years ago jeanine dunn

I don't have wine in the house do I really need it ? What can I use instead

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over 2 years ago jeanine dunn

I don't have wine in the house do I really need it ? What can I use instead

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over 2 years ago jeanine dunn

I don't have wine in the house do I really need it ? What can I use instead

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over 2 years ago Saccharine

Hi Midge,

I made this but somehow it has this unpleasant bitter taste which I suspect is extra virgin olive oil I used. Did you use just normal olive oil?
Also just want to make sure the baking soda is the bi-carb soda ya? Or is it suppose to be baking powder?
Thank you.

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over 2 years ago cheese1227

Saccharine -- bi-carb soda is indeed baking soda.

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over 2 years ago dymnyno

If you think it's the olive oil, it would be because your olive oil is old or has been exposed to excessive heat or light and has lost it fresh fruity flavor. Olive oil doesn't keep much past a year. It doesn't get better with time.(unlike fine red wine)

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over 2 years ago gingerroot

I've been dreaming of your cake for awhile now - probably since you posted it - and I finally made it two nights ago and loved it! All of the components make for rich, flavorful bites full of delicious contrasts - the moist, fragrant cake, the fluffy chocolate icing and the sweet, tart jam. I look forward to making this again.

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over 2 years ago Midge

Oh I'm so glad! Thanks so much for trying it gingerroot. I'll be making it again soon for my husband's birthday.

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over 2 years ago LauraMychal

I made this and love it! I tried red wine thinking it'd turn a beautiful red, but that it did not. It definitely is incredibly tasty, so rich and moist! I put my rendition on my blog with a nod to you of course.

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Thank you!

~Laura

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over 2 years ago Midge

Thanks so much for your comments and lovely blog post, Laura. Really glad you liked it. It's become the only layer cake I ever bake now.

Checker

about 3 years ago checker

So many, many congrats on the Wildcard win! I too have been eyeing this. I have one last jar of homemade jam left, and it might have the honor of making this beautiful cake.

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks so much checker! I'm honored that you'd consider using your last jar of homemade jam on my cake. Hope you like it.

Junechamp

about 3 years ago ChefJune

June is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I'm also curious which white wines you've used for this cake. Sounds almost healthy! Got to try it. ;)

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about 3 years ago Midge

Thanks ChefJune! See my response on the wine below. Would love to hear how you like it and which wine you end up using.

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about 3 years ago zingyginger

Congrats on the wildcard! I've been eyeing this for months but haven't had the occasion to make it yet-I've decided I'll just make up one. :) Which white wines have you used for this recipe?

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about 3 years ago Midge

I've used reasonably priced Gruner and French Sauvignon Blanc. My sister likes to use Chardonnay. Really, whatever you like to drink and have on hand!

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about 3 years ago zingyginger

It's like a painter's canvas, eh? Even better! I'll try it with a muscat I have on hand then.

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about 3 years ago kmartinelli

Love this recipe! Can't wait to make it for whatever birthday rolls around next... Congrats on the wildcard! Well deserved.

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks so much km!

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about 3 years ago cheese1227

Congrats, Midge!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks cheese1227!

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about 3 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I can't wait to try this! I've had my eye on it for months, and now I've just got to come up with an event to make it for (otherwise, honestly, I'm sure I could eat the whole thing myself). Many congrats, Midge, for the wildcard win!!

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about 3 years ago Midge

Thanks CS. I'm with you on cake. I always end up giving half of it away, so I don't eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I made Louisa's cake on Tues and it's already history.

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about 3 years ago Fran McGinty

Made this but used an orange olive oil. I didn't know how it would work with the wine. It was fabulous! the orange and chocolate went very well together. I did the chocolate frosting and added some orange rind in it. I used apricot jam. I am going to have fun playing with this one. Thank you for sharing.

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about 3 years ago Midge

Oh wow, sounds great!

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about 3 years ago Table9

congrats!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks Table9!

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about 3 years ago wssmom

Very nicely done!!!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks wssmom!

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about 3 years ago TasteFood

Congratulations, Midge!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thank you TasteFood!

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about 3 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

WOOT! Yay Midge! And - yum!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks aargersi!!

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about 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Big congrats, Midge! This is a lovely choice for a wildcard win!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks so much hla!

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about 3 years ago Kitchen Butterfly

Congratulations Midge....this is on my to-make list.

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks KB! I'd love to hear how it goes.

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about 3 years ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

Hooray Midge!!!! This is such a well deserved wildcard! I'm thrilled for you and that it's going to be in the book. And I definitely know what I'm making just as soon as a birthday rolls along.

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about 3 years ago Midge

Thanks fiveandspice! Would make a fab dessert after your winning shrimp dish.

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about 3 years ago lapadia

Congrats, Midge! Oh, and nice tweak on your mom's go to cake!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks lapadia!

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about 3 years ago Midge

Wow, what a super lovely surprise to see this. I'm so thrilled you guys liked my cake. Thanks so much everyone for your congrats and nice comments!!

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about 3 years ago dymnyno

I love wine of any color in cake! I make a chocolate version using red wine and raspberry jam.

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about 3 years ago Midge

Sounds amazing dymnyno. Will you post the recipe?

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about 3 years ago Sagegreen

Yay, Midge!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thank you Sagegreen!

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about 3 years ago gingerroot

Congrats Midge!! This is such a lovely cake.

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks gingerroot! Hoping to make your manapua this weekend.

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about 3 years ago healthierkitchen

congrats, Midge! this is definitely on my list to make!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks healthierkitchen! Already looking forward to my next batch of sesame noodles.

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about 3 years ago lastnightsdinner

Whoo hoo! Congrats on your Wildcard win!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thank you lnd!

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about 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Wow. I'm so glad this is a wildcard--I love this recipe!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks drbabs!!

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about 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Yay Midge! Congrats on the wildcard win!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks mrsl!!

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about 3 years ago Bevi

Congrats Midge - I am a sucker for a great cake!

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about 3 years ago Midge

thanks Bevi. So am I!

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about 3 years ago DianaP

I have a small cookie press that has an attachment that looks like a thin tube, so I filled it with jam (a little messy) and inserted it into the center of the cupcake. They came out pretty, but it was definitely not enough jam. I'll try again in a few weeks and let you know how they come out.

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about 3 years ago Midge

Thanks, I love this idea.

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about 3 years ago lifestooshort

I just made this cake last night, with homemade strawberry jam and whipped cream in the middle, and just a sprinkle of powdered sugar on the top instead of frosting. I used a mild-ish olive oil and a dry riesling. Delicious! The flavor was great yesterday, but it really came together today--when I had a big piece for breakfast :)

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about 3 years ago Midge

oh wow, that sounds great,

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about 3 years ago DianaP

I just made these as cupcakes - I inserted the jam into the center of the cupcake and then frosted them. I thought it would be a nice surprise.

They were delicious - although I found that I didn't insert enough jam. They would have been even more fantastic if I had.

I think next time, I will spread one layer of the jam, and then a layer of frosting.

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about 3 years ago Midge

What a great idea. How did you insert the jam?

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about 3 years ago Amber

I just did this, and it worked well. My jam was a little on the runny side, so I let the cupcakes sit after I applied the jam layer until it dried out a little and then added the chocolate on top. So good.

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about 3 years ago PeterBeynon

I think this cake sounds fantastic; when I make it, I think I will use marmalade or apricot jam in the middle (Maida Heatter has a great recipe for homemade apricot preserves with rum--it's easy and good); I will also grate some orange zest in the batter. The photographs are really enticing too.

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about 3 years ago Midge

Thank you! Apricot jam is a great idea. I'd love to hear how it turns out.

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about 3 years ago Constrained Cook

My mom's bday is coming up - I will have to surprise her with this one. Thanks for a great recipe!

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about 3 years ago Midge

I hope she likes it!

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over 3 years ago mosteff

I enjoyed both making and eating this cake. I love that it has olive oil in it. The flavors and texture were outstanding. One strange thing that happened though is that the raspberry jam I made (boiled frozen raspberries with sugar) seeped into the cake and turned it blue - seriously, that blue that we always associate with fake raspberry flavor - or a smurf-like blue. Any food chemists reading will have to weigh in on this. The color of the jam layer itself remained unchanged.

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over 3 years ago Midge

I'm so happy you were pleased with the cake, the smurf-like quality notwithstanding. I wonder if its some reaction with the olive oil that caused it? When I look at my photo, it does seem like maybe there's a blueish streak near the jam. Weird.

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about 2 years ago khoops

Sounds like either you used baking powder instead of baking soda (unlikely), or there's aluminum in your baking soda. Check this out: http://smittenkitchen.com...

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over 3 years ago MIGirl

Midge, Just made Mom's cake but am using Sarabeth's strawberry rhubarb jam filling with plain buttercream icing. Then with the extra batter made a few cupcakes with coconut on top. Yum, I can't wait.

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over 3 years ago Midge

Yum! Any jam is fine; Mom always uses blackberry.

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over 3 years ago Huckelberry

Midge, You take nice photos. I can only imagine how great this tastes...and I will.

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over 3 years ago KLL5

This looks fab!! Thank you for sharing.

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over 3 years ago lapadia

Delicious and nice photo. My husband's BD is coming up soon, what a find, thanks for sharing!

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over 3 years ago gingerroot

This is my kind of birthday cake! I have been wanting to make an olive oil cake - and I think I have found one to try.

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over 3 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

I've made olive oil cakes (Alice Medrich has a great one in one of her cookbooks) and agree they come out so nice and moist, but have never made one with wine. I must know SOMEONE with a birthday, anniversary or something I can make this cake for! But first I've gotta make your apple pie :-)!

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over 3 years ago Sagegreen

Thanks for sharing your findings! So good to know.

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over 3 years ago healthierkitchen

ooooohhhh!

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over 3 years ago Midge

Thanks for the nice comments. I'm having a slice right now and it may be even tastier today.

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over 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Hmmmm....who has the next birthday? I want to make this!

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over 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Yum. Sounds delicious!!

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over 3 years ago WinnieAb

Wow. Sounds extremely interesting and delicious!

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over 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Gorgeous! Definitely going into the "simply must-try" file. ;o)