Grown-Up Birthday Cake

By • September 23, 2010 131 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: 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&MThe Editors

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!

More Great Recipes: Cakes|Desserts|Olive Oil

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Comments (131) Questions (13)


3 months ago Boleyn

I loved this cake! The combination of the moist, chardonnay-flavored cake, the raspberry jam and the delicious chocolate frosting were a big hit with all who had a piece. On recommendation of previous posters, I used a mild-flavored olive oil, and the taste complimented the white wine without being overpowering or even clearly discernible at all. The cake was a breeze (!) to make and assemble, but looked elegant and worthy of a formal occasion.
This will be my personal birthday cake from this day on out! Thanks for the recipe.


6 months ago AM Hansen

Made this cake with Prosecco and a bit of orange blossom water and it was delicious! The birthday girl said it was the best birthday cake that she"s ever had.


6 months ago Albert Sammons Jr.

Is it suppose to rise so tiny? Mine rose to about an inch. The taste is okay. When you stated to fold in the flour did you mean hand folding?


6 months ago Suzanne Mariani

I almost didnt make this after reading some of the negative reviews, but I ended up trying it and it was great! Very easy, nice texture, and the easiest cake to ice as it doesnt make a lot of crumbs. I used apricot jam, and a sweet riesling wine in the cake.


7 months ago ghainskom

I was really skeptical but the wine does come through. In my case, it also increased the sweetness of the cake so beware. All in all a keeper!


7 months ago Rohan

Easy and time consuming recipe. Order special birthday cakes from monginis online shop and celebrate birthday of your loved ones.


8 months ago Joanna Wu

Planning on making this for NYE party, can I substitute white wine with champagne?


8 months ago Midge

Would love to know if/how it turned out with bubbles?


11 months ago Laura

Can I make the cake portion a day in advance and refrigerate before icing? So excited to try for my birthday this weekend!


about 1 year ago Petra Usie

I just made this cake and it turned out beautifully! Don't have olive oil on hand, so I substitute it with regular veg oil.
Baked it in 350 for 40 mins and top it with lemon curd. I found the sourness pleasantly match the fruity notes of the wine. Great recipe, thanks!


about 1 year ago chef Lisa

I have made this cake so many times! I love it! There is a "but"...I have never been able to get the texture of the cake to my satisfaction. I even posted something on the hotline about what might have gone wrong. It has always been full of air bubbles, and I have done everything I know to do. I have not tried this revised version, but will. I did not alter the cake portion, but I did add a touch of Chambers to the jam and a bit of Kahlua to the icing (see a theme here). Any comments are appreciated!


over 1 year ago Stephanie Wiggins

I don't see Baking Soda anywhere in the recipe. And I thought I had bad eyesight.


over 1 year ago Stephanie Bourgeois

Stephanie is the Head Recipe Tester of Food52.

The recipe was edited to remove the baking soda based on the feedback.


over 1 year 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.


almost 2 years 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.


almost 2 years ago Midge

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


almost 2 years 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.


almost 2 years ago Midge

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


about 2 years 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.


about 2 years 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.


about 2 years 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!


about 2 years 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.


about 2 years ago Rhonda

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


about 2 years ago Dima Haddad

I have to try this cake!


over 2 years 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.


over 2 years 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.


over 2 years 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.