Grown-Up Birthday Cake

By Midge
September 23, 2010

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
Prep time: 20 min
Cook time: 30 min


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

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


yellow cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  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. 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!

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Reviews (140) Questions (14)


kraftyczap June 29, 2018
Incredible!! I used Prosecco and strawberry jam. Reduced sugar in cake to about 1.5 cups.<br />Perfect!!
Sarah D. March 20, 2017
I made this cake this weekend and it was by far the very best yellow cake I've ever made. I used Sauvignon Blanc and 1/2 olive oil, 1/2 canola oil. It's incredibly moist and flavorful with a lovely, toothsome texture. I skipped the jam (not a fan of jam in cakes) and made a chocolate ganache icing. Really, just WOW.
Chelsea T. February 3, 2017
Made this last night/this morning. Will serve tonight for my mom's birthday. Baked the cake last night and let it cool out overnight. Felt a little bit crunchy to the touch, but I don't think that's a bad thing. The icing came out VERY thick. I used Hershey's Dark Choc. Cocoa Powder. I ended up using a stick and a half of butter rather than just a stick. Made the consistency a lot more spreadable and lighter. Hope that it will be a hit at the party tonight!
Melissa June 16, 2016
I made this cake and it was fantastic!!!! I used good wine (J Pinot Gris) and good olive oil and it was a huge hit :)
Jaclyn P. February 7, 2016
Really wanted this to turn out better.. I used a mild olive oil but the whole cake smells of olive oil and i trimmed some off while icing to taste and it was so strong tasting of olive oil it didnt taste much like cake.
Lily January 7, 2016
I found this cake to be way too sweet for me. I used strawberry jam instead of raspberry so that may have made the difference but overall I would cut the sugar in half at least.
Pessy H. October 7, 2015
i want to keep this dairy free. can i make that buttercream with coconut oil or would it just run all over the place? or would a ganache work just as well?
Boleyn June 1, 2015
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. <br />This will be my personal birthday cake from this day on out! Thanks for the recipe.
AM H. February 20, 2015
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.
Albert S. February 19, 2015
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?
Suzanne M. February 19, 2015
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.
ghainskom February 10, 2015
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!
Rohan January 22, 2015
Easy and time consuming recipe. Order special birthday cakes from monginis online shop and celebrate birthday of your loved ones.
Joanna W. December 26, 2014
Planning on making this for NYE party, can I substitute white wine with champagne?
Author Comment
Midge January 2, 2015
Would love to know if/how it turned out with bubbles?
Laura October 2, 2014
Can I make the cake portion a day in advance and refrigerate before icing? So excited to try for my birthday this weekend!
Petra U. July 27, 2014
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.<br />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!
Chef L. July 22, 2014
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!
Stephanie W. May 25, 2014
I don't see Baking Soda anywhere in the recipe. And I thought I had bad eyesight.
Stephanie B. May 26, 2014
The recipe was edited to remove the baking soda based on the feedback.
FoodIsLove March 21, 2014
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.
kross September 21, 2013
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.
Author Comment
Midge September 29, 2013
Thanks! I'll have to give rose a try next time.
Vinod August 29, 2017
Extra virgin olive oil sounds terrible in a cake. I think the consensus here is to use very mild olive oils.