Red Wine Chocolate Cake

September 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm 69 comments

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Everybody has guilty pleasures.

For my mom it’s a hot croissant, one with crispy edges that flake all over her lap. Maybe you have a friend like my floormate J-, who herds people out of the room on Tuesdays when Gossip Girl airs. Is it terrible to admit I sometimes sneak downstairs and swipe a spoonful of leftover hot fudge? I don’t even reheat it or drizzle it over ice cream. Instead I eat it cold and truffle-y, straight from the fridge.

Recently, though, I’ve been obsessed with wedding blogs.

I especially love the photography. Close ups of the bride’s shoes, a brilliant pop under the white hem of the dress. The color palettes, more flowers than I can name, the blown out look of Christmas light strings as the dancing begins. Every wedding is a fairy tale.

I’d never been to a wedding I could remember. So when my boyfriend I- invited me to his cousin’s wedding at the end of August, how could I resist?


We arrived at the barn where the wedding was set. Because we were early, and because we were staying at the venue, I got to see first-hand the absolute mania that takes place before “I do.”

The flower girl cried because she didn’t like her hair, makeup running down her face. One aunt couldn’t find her beige pumps, and another broke the lens of her glasses. A bridesmaid made a frantic last minute run for basil. Wedding photography never shows the groomsmen all distraught, mixing more pink lemonade, or the wind that keeps knocking vases over.

Despite everything, this wedding was beautiful. The couple looked happy, so truly in love, that misplaced napkins and creased dress pants didn’t matter. The ceremony was short and sweet, everyone clapped, and we felt connected standing there in the sun.

I haven’t seen the photographs yet, but here are some things I don’t think they’ll capture… The bride’s unplanned thank you speech, which brought people to tears, or the square of star-flecked sky visible through the barn’s window. The way I felt dancing with I- to the first song, the hum of crickets outside.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake Batter

When we got home I noticed a new entry on my favorite wedding blog. I scrolled through the photos and couldn’t help but smile. Not a hair out of place, every bouquet perfectly arranged, even the cupcakes looked done up. I still loved reading the post, but it didn’t compare to the raw imperfection of a real live wedding.

I’m starting to think the same is true for food.

Food bloggers have the luxury of writing and photographing their own posts. I can pick the five prettiest cookies to stack for the opening image, and you’d never know that the rest of the batch came out like shapeless amoebas. If I burnt the first pan of caramel, I don’t have to say so. You can’t imagine the splatter of egg whites or the smudges of chocolate that end up all over the counter when I’m done cooking. There is no baker messier than I.

Enter this Red Wine Chocolate Cake. I almost didn’t share the recipe. Not because it didn’t taste incredible (it did) and not because it wasn’t liked (not a crumb survived.) No, I almost didn’t post out of vanity. The photos aren’t very good.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

This loaf is tight crumbed and soft as a lamb’s ear. The color is so dark and rich, I expect flowers to bloom from it. The wine gives the chocolate a flavor that impressed everyone, something deep and complex and mystifying. And it tastes even better Day 2.

But none of that comes through in the photos. (In my humble opinion, they’re kind of flat and ho hum. They don’t make me want to open a bottle of wine.)

My excuses are that the light was poor, I was too lazy to reshoot, and that this everyday chocolate cake is plain to begin with. But let me tell you what the photographs don’t show.

My disappointment when I smelled our buttermilk, and my recklessness when I decided to use merlot in the batter instead. My friend D-’s surprise as he tried to pin down the mystery ingredient. The thick, unashamed second slices my neighbors cut for themselves.

My mom’s sneaky footsteps down the hall in the middle of the night, the click of Tupperware being opened and shut again, and quiet chewing as she returned to her room.

Guilty pleasure for sure.

Cocoa Rouge Cocoa Powder

The original recipe called for buttermilk. Our buttermilk went bad and we didn’t have regular milk, so I couldn’t sour it myself with lemon juice. I was about to use coffee as the liquid instead when I saw the bottle of Merlot.

Buttermilk is acidic. So is Merlot. I’m not an expert, but isn’t red wine supposed to pair with chocolate? I don’t know… maybe? Why not? I poured out the merlot and decided to use that instead. The final cake doesn’t taste exactly like wine, though there are hints. So delicious.

I didn’t use a quality red wine in this cake, but I did use the same excellent cocoa powder from the Red Velvet Cheesecake. It’s a red-tinged Dutch-process cocoa, which results in a taller and prettier loaf. If you can only find Natural-process cocoa, leave out the baking powder and use 1/2 tsp baking soda.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake
Adapted from At Home With Magnolia Bakery (via Smitten Kitchen)
Makes a 9×5″ loaf

1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (6 7/8 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (4 ounces) granulated sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature
3/4 cup red wine
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
3/4 cup (2 5/8 ounces) Dutch cocoa powder (see above for a natural cocoa adjustment)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Butter and flour a 9×5″ loaf pan.

Beat the butter on medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the sugars and cream until lightened and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg until well combined, then mix in the wine, yogurt, and vanilla. The batter might look curdled, but don’t worry. Sift in the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir with a spoon until there are no streaks of flour left, scraping down the sides of the bowl and being careful not to over mix.

Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and bake 60-70 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool the loaf in the pan on a rack for 10-15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and turn it out.

Printer-Friendly Version – Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Entry filed under: Breakfast/Brunch, Cake/Cupcakes. Tags: , , .

Red Velvet Cheesecake Peanut Butter Jelly Loaf

69 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Silvia  |  September 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    Wow, I love your posts, your blog, pics, writing, notes, everything is overwhelming, I would never think of red wine instead of buttermilk :) Looks delicious!

  • 2. Nicole  |  September 1, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I love these happy accidents. The best scones I ever made in my life happened because I had run out of all dairy ingredients except yogurt. I’m not sure I would have tried red wine however. It is always great when you take that risk and it comes with great rewards. I will keep this recipe in mind.

  • 3. Chef Tom Minchella  |  September 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    Really great post and I would love to photograph a wedding some day! I also take pics that I don’t care for but I keep trying. Thank
    you for the great read!

  • 4. Cheery  |  September 1, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    The part where you say ‘soft as a lamb’s ear’ has to be the best thing I’ve read in a long, long time. It evokes such emotion and imagery…

  • 5. mollyparr  |  September 1, 2011 at 2:09 pm

    Like your friend J, the guilty pleasure in our house is Gossip Girl, although, it runs on Monday nights, not Tuesday nights. :-)
    I think your photos are wonderful, I can clearly see what you mean by it being as soft as a lamb’s ear (great line, btw). I definitely want to jump right and take a bite.

  • 6. Candace  |  September 1, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    I think your photos are absolutely wonderful and I love your writing style. We all have guilty pleasures. Mine is Nutella straight from the jar. I have had a red wine chocolate cake on my mind since I opened a bottle of sweet red wine the other day only to not enjoy it as something to drink. It was much too sweet. In a cake, however, it would be fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. I’m going to make it for the weekend festivities.

  • 7. Becca @ Cook, Rejoice, Repeat  |  September 1, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    My guilty pleasure for my first two years of college was “America’s Next Top Model.” My roommate introduced it to me and every Thursday night, we’d have a race to see who find the new episode on YouTube first. I always won because I’m … ahem … dedicated. Not to say obsessed.
    P.S., I love your writing! It’s always so fluid and well thought out.

  • 8. Ayesha  |  September 1, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    im so glad youve written buttermilk as the replacement for the wine. i want to make this, but i cant use wine because of religious views. thank you! :D

  • 9. Benthe (@bebjebenthe)  |  September 1, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    I’m curious which wedding blogs you follow, could you post something about it?

  • 11. Kelsey  |  September 1, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    this is an extremely delicious creation, such a delicious masterpiece!

    xoxo <3

  • 12. Helen  |  September 1, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Please try to make printing a little FRIENDLIER!!!! VERY disappointed that I needed to print 5 PAGES to get this recipe.
    I will no longer be recieving your blog!!

    • 13. Marta  |  September 1, 2011 at 7:24 pm

      Helen, there is a printer-friendly version available right at the end of the recipe…

    • 14. Linnet  |  September 1, 2011 at 11:50 pm

      Wow. Who pissed in your cheerios? There is a print friendly version located at the bottom of the blog entry. Don’t lash out at Elissa when you’re the one at fault.

    • 15. Fatima  |  September 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      Hi Helen, why don’t you just copy and paste the recipe onto a word document? You’d be able to get just the recipe and not the entire post and comments.

  • 16. Elissa's Dad  |  September 1, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    It was so good that none was saved for Dad :)

    Is the fact that you are suddenly obsessed with wedding blogs a subtle way of telling your dear old Dad something? Please tell me it is just the photography! I have been ready and eager for each change your life has gone through but I think I am not quite ready for this one….at least not just yet.

    Keep the vids coming and I’ll do the same.

    • 17. Julie  |  September 4, 2011 at 8:11 pm

      Hi Elissa’s Dad,

      I wouldn’t worry too much, I enjoy seeing Etsy’s offerings for weddings and I’m not ready yet (even though I’ve been in a long term relationship, we’re just not ready for that step). For me it’s the designs of the unique dresses, engagement rings and wedding bands, the favours, the decor, the handmade silk or other fabric flowers, etc. Not to mention the beautiful photography showing off the product; the photos themselves are beautiful and detailed, just like Elissa’s baking photos or the photos on those blogs she shared with us.

      When the day comes, Elissa’s Dad, you’ll be ready. She’ll always be your little girl and she will always love you. :)

    • 18. Elissa's Dad  |  September 5, 2011 at 10:22 pm

      Thanks Julie, I know that too but for an instant your brains only response is YIKES!

  • 19. Stephanie  |  September 2, 2011 at 2:56 am

    Ho I’m so surprised and amazed you add red wine in this chocolate cake! I’ll try once ’cause it looks so delicious and I’m sure it’s pretty surprising when you have guests to make them taste it! And thank you for the recipe!!! :)

  • 20. Sarah  |  September 2, 2011 at 5:09 am

    Loaf cakes and tray bakes are usually the least photogenic things you cna pull out of a kitchen, but also the ones most people make and share, so its good that you show us anyway :)
    My guilty pleasure is…musicals! I play the songs when no one is in, when the crickets on so the boys are being noisy or occasionally when I just don’t care. That’s not very often though.

    (also, I claim to hate marmite, but I eat it off the spoon when no one is watching.) Darnit!

  • 21. A Tablespoon of Liz  |  September 2, 2011 at 9:36 am

    This looks so good, amazing combination! And it was genius to replace the buttermilk with wine!

  • 22. Warm Vanilla Sugar  |  September 2, 2011 at 10:12 am

    This cake is gorgeous! I too love looking at wedding blogs. Must be a girl thing, haha.

  • 23. Sasha @ The Procrastobaker  |  September 2, 2011 at 10:37 am

    This looks beautiful, and i cant wait to try it some day! Baking with booze always feels like such a wonderful guilty pleasure :)

  • 24. Alisha  |  September 2, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Your writing is maturing nicely and yet you still have that wonderful youthful flair that makes me look forward to every post, thank you for sharing your experiences. I agree that there is more story to a wedding than the photographer is encouraged to capture. I think of the Swedish chef from The Muppets when I think of my own cooking style, ridiculously unintelligible mutterings included.

  • 25. The Healthy Engineer  |  September 2, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I love the comments your dad writes on your posts! That way you’ll never feel homesick either :)

    Two weeks of sophomore year has gone by already and they were actually really great. I thought I’d be homesick but I was so busy that I was fine. So excited for this year!!

  • 26. mushroom recipes  |  September 2, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    firstly your writing method very terrific about chocolate cake , Elissa your post extremely delicious creation .

  • 27. Geni - Sweet and Crumby  |  September 2, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    It looks so rich and satisfying. Love your observations of the craziness before a wedding. Every bride has her horror stories and in the end none of it matters.

  • 28. Katie  |  September 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm

    I love how you describe the loaf as “soft as a lamb’s ear.” I’ve never imagined a cake like that before!

  • 29. Stefanie  |  September 2, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    The cake sounds great and looks delicious! It looks so moist! I love your stories at the beginning of your posts, too :)

  • 30. Cousin Sharon  |  September 3, 2011 at 8:00 am

    I was ewarded this morning when I checked your blog to find this new posting. Havbe been eagerly awaiting whatever would come next. I love the way you compared the imperfection of a wedding to the imperfection in your kitchen. The idea of using wine in the cake as a great one that I wilh have to try. Love that dad is getting nervous that you’re reading wedding blogs. This post brought back memories of many occasions that did not go as planned but that is what usually makes them memorable! Have a great year abroad, enjoy every moment!

  • 31. Kim of Mo'Betta  |  September 4, 2011 at 8:38 am

    You are a talented writer! And chocolate and red wine? I am so in!

  • 32. Vishakha  |  September 4, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    I just made this for my son’s 13th birthday! Doubled the recipe, made a 9″ square + a loaf, substituted reg sugar for brown coz I didn’t have any, used up some not-so-good merlot that we boughtta costco – win-win-win all round. DD and DS finished half the loaf before the party began!

    Best to you for your work and cooking – I enjoy your recipes and the writing that accompanies it.

  • 33. Danae (The Busty Baker)  |  September 5, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    I haven’t made the jump to wedding blogs (because I know I wouldn’t be able to stop) but I’m obsessed with wedding magazines. I love looking at all the dresses and ideas, filing them away for the time when I can actually use them as my own. Just don’t tell my boyfriend.

  • 34. MaggieCooks  |  September 6, 2011 at 12:46 am

    I love your writing and I enjoy reading it.
    You are truly an inspiration to me!
    I have been a fan of your blog before I started mine.
    I really look up to your blog and I find it fascinating! :)

  • 35. Neil | Butterfield  |  September 6, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Sounds awesome, I love red wine and chocolate so this sounds absolutely divine. I must get my wife to make this thanks so much for sharing.

  • 36. Stephanie Bartolomé (@StephBartolome)  |  September 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I stumbled across your blog on Sunday and I’m absolutely dying to get into the kitchen now. Your writing is amazing! Red wine and chocolate go so well together. I can’t wait to make it this weekend.

  • 37. overtimecook  |  September 6, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    This looks delicious- and I love the idea of putting wine in a chocolate cake- especially if you’re baking non-dairy.

    I love pictures of wedding cakes…I once worked with a customer who was a well known wedding-cake photographer and I was totally star struck! I spent hours looking at his work…gorgeous!

  • 38. Patricia Scarpin  |  September 7, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I haven’t gone to that many weddings in my life but I had fun in pretty much all of them (including my own!). :D
    Your cake looks so tender! I love the deep brown color. Yum!

  • 39. WWWW #5  |  September 7, 2011 at 9:05 am

    […] another way to cook with red wine that sounds oh-so-delectable: red wine chocolate cake.  Please invite me over if you make this cake…I’ll bring the wine to pair with it! […]

  • 40. ♥, Ange @ Everyday Desserts  |  September 7, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    Wow, this looks so good! And I love all your posts! You’re an amazing writer! :)

  • 41. nalysale  |  September 8, 2011 at 12:03 am

    There is no doubt that this cake looks good and delicious.And if it is Red wine cake then it is would definitely tasty.This kind of food had definitely made your wedding wonderful

  • 42. Stewart Smith  |  September 10, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    I made this last night to celebrate the planting of my new grape vines. The cake was delicious and the x-factor ingredient did a great job. I topped it with ganache to ‘kick it up a notch’. Thanks for the recipe.

  • 43. kyleen  |  September 11, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    I love your writing style and tone of voice! The wedding sounded like so much fun.

  • 44. Naomi  |  September 12, 2011 at 8:36 pm

    Looks delish! And I think Deb liked your idea! :)

  • 45. saltandserenity  |  September 13, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Just discovered your blog and have spent the past hour happily browsing! You have a wonderful voice. Keep blogging and baking! You made me laugh when you said that bloggers have the luxury of writing and photographing their own posts. So true! My husband is always encouraging me to write about the flops. Now that would be an interesting blog.

  • 46. rachaelfoodstylist  |  September 14, 2011 at 3:53 pm

    Well I have never tried red wine in a cake before but so intrigued that I will be making this over the weekend. Please keep postings interesting recipes for us to try.

  • 47. Stella Ann Rose  |  September 15, 2011 at 2:50 am

    Loved the Chocolate Cake. I used Stella Rosa Wine. Love the chocolate powder. Where are you now. Need more input. Don’t study too hard. Stella

  • 48. SeattleDee  |  September 15, 2011 at 9:04 am

    The cake sounds yummy, but it’s your writing that is truly delicious. I’ve missed the past 3 months of your posts and can’t wait to spend a rainy afternoon reading my way through the recent archives. You have truly found your voice.

  • 49. SY  |  September 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm


    I stumbled upon your blog today while Googling for cookie recipes, and I have spent the better part of an hour reading through your posts and salivating at your beautiful photos. I usually don’t comment on blogs, but your clear passion for baking and food has really inspired me. I’m not a very experienced baker, but your blog has definitely made me want to challenge myself more in the kitchen. I also love your writing; your posts are so intimate and honest, and they make me feel as if you are addressing me as a close friend. Your imagery is also quite stunning and clear.

    Reading about your experiences in Boston has also been wonderful; I also attended college in the Boston area, and I just graduated a few months ago. I miss Boston a lot, and some of your posts made me miss it even more.

    This chocolate cake looks absolutely divine, and I really want to try out the recipe sometime. You say that your photos for this post aren’t very good, but they still have me craving for some of that cake. Your descriptions certainly more than made up for any photographic deficiencies.

    You seem like a very sweet and special person, and it is a gift that you can touch so many people with your writing and love for baking. Thank you for being such an inspiration and bringing so much joy to food-lovers and bakers like me. I am so excited to read more from you, and I will be cheering on your future exploits. I wish you the best!

  • 50. Brett Bralley  |  September 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I have been wanting to try this! Thanks for the recipe/adaptation!

  • 51. In which I am lovin’ the oven. | An Improbable Fiction  |  September 18, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    […] an ‘angry birds’ birthday cake, to caramel-creamcheese frosted cupcakes, as well as this amazing red wine and chocolate cake (which I have made 4 times already)- I’m pretty obsessed. I think it’s because of the […]

  • 52. Anita  |  September 21, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    This is a wonderful cake–really light and moist. It has a delicate chocolate flavor that is satisfying yet not cloyingly sweet or rich.
    It made a nice afternoon treat!

  • 53. Y  |  September 25, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Actually, I rather like the pictures accompanying this post. They tell the story of the cake which by the way, looks amazing. I’m a big fan of red wine and chocolate too :)

  • 54. A Southern Belle In VT  |  September 25, 2011 at 11:40 pm

    I made this tonight and just tasted it a few seconds ago and it is awesome. I posted the link to the recipe on Facebook before I had even swallowed my first bite! LOL! I’ve also made your olive oil cake which was truly divine as well. I’m hooked, within the year I predict that I’ll have cooked everything on this blog and I’ll weigh 400 lbs. And you know what? It will all be worth it! ;D
    Good job girl, your writing is entertaining and your recipes are full bodied and delicious. Thanks!

  • 55. BROOKEandMCKENZIE  |  October 11, 2011 at 12:59 am

    Great recipes and great pictures. Love your blog and will definitely be making this!

  • 56. fifthfloorkitchen  |  November 8, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    Due to the lack of certain products in our house, I changed the recipe a bit- but it was still awesome! I loved the smell of wine as the cake was cooking. It was a wonderful way to celebrate. Thanks for a great recipe.


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Elissa Bernstein

I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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