Grown-Up Birthday Cake

By • September 23, 2010 • 122 Comments



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 (122) Questions (12)

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Stringio

1 day 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!

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6 days 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!

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2 months ago Stephanie Wiggins

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

Steph

2 months ago Stephanie Bourgeois

Stephanie is the Head Recipe Tester of Food52.

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

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4 months 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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10 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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10 months ago Midge

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

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11 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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10 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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about 1 year 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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about 1 year 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

12 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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11 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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about 1 year 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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about 1 year ago Dima Haddad

I have to try this cake!

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over 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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over 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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over 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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over 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

over 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

over 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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over 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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over 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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almost 2 years 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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almost 2 years 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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over 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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over 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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about 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!

Gina.half

about 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!