At the beginning of this year, I had the intention of sharing some of my classic family recipes on a monthly basis. One finished business degree, trip to Australia and Thailand, start of a semi-demanding new job and continued freelance work later…that goal had to be moved down the list of priorities.
To the readers who have stuck with me through my irregular posting schedule this year–you are the best! Part of my spotty posting has been due to the fact that I’m still trying to figure out where I want to go with The Pancake Princess in the future. I think the opportunity is ripe to expand beyond a recipe-only blog, so we’ll see if 2017 brings more time to flesh out some ideas.
About this recipe: throughout my childhood, my mom had three go-to baking recipes (apart from holiday baking)–this banana bread, the Neiman Marcus chocolate chip cookies and wine cake.
Wine cake was often made for bake sales, or occasionally for when people came over. After letting the steaming, craggy-bottomed cake cool in the pan, we would breathlessly (though the fear of ripping off the top of the cake due to sticking wasn’t really real thanks to the magic of cake mix) unearth the whole cake by plopping it upside down on a plate and dust the top with a gentle cloud of powdered sugar.
The ridges of our bundt cake dictated the size of each slice (alternating thick and thin) and the thick pieces were far superior, not only for the obvious size difference, but also because of the greater surface area of browned, gently crisp yet-still-tender crust that formed around the pale, plush, wine-scented interior (the alcohol bakes out leaving just a mild flavor, don’t worry). I always ate the middle part in short geometric fork strokes, leaving the caramelized crusts for last.
Hilariously, I had plan to recreate the exact cake, but when I found the recipe my mom always uses in the recipe card box, I almost had a heart attack. You guys, the original recipe uses Orville Redenbacher Butter Flavor Oil. As oil. In the cake. And a lot of it. Plus yellow cake mix. Plus packaged pudding mix.
I mentally wrestled with the recipe for approximately 10 hot seconds and then decided to scrap it and try a from-scratch version (for some reason, 95% of wine cake recipes with yellow cake seem to be made with cake mix! Is this some 80s conspiracy?!). Taking inspiration from this DIY instant pudding mix, I added a smidge more sugar and cornstarch to the recipe to act as the pudding replacer. Then, I used this recipe as a guide to replicate the boxed cake mix-type cake.
In the end, the cake turned out deliciously–maybe it was just my imagination, but I think the from-scratch version cake had a more natural, less synthetic-buttery taste to it. The crust was also crisper (major bonus!) and though I have to admit the crumb was slightly less fine (boxed cake mix, why u so darn magical), there’s still a really fresh and plush tenderness to it. This cake makes for great holiday baking and gifting in case you’re looking for inspiration!