Family Classic: Wine Cake (from scratch!)

Wine Cake // The Pancake PrincessAt  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 // The Pancake Princess

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.

Wine Cake // The Pancake Princess

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!

5.0 from 1 reviews
Wine Cake
Recipe type: Cake
Cuisine: American
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 bundt cake (~24 slices)
The wine cake I grew up with was a delicious concoction of boxed yellow cake mix, instant vanilla pudding, buttery popcorn-flavored oil and sweet port. This from-scratch version captures the same heady port flavoring with an even crisper crust and a plush crumb with simple pantry ingredients.
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened to room temperature
  • 4 eggs
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ¾ cup dessert wine (port or sherry--we use port)
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Work in the room temperature butter with your fingers until no large clumps remain and the mixture resembles slightly damp sand.
  2. In a smaller bowl, whisk together eggs, oil and wine. Gently stir wet mixture into dry ingredients until just combined with no floury streaks.
  3. Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan and bake for 45-55 minutes at 350 degrees, or until inserted tester comes out clean.

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16 thoughts on “Family Classic: Wine Cake (from scratch!)


    Like others I was so disappointed to see my old signature dessert with cake mix and pudding mix so I was delighted to see your recipe. Questions: I have a 9″ bundt pan – is 9″ okay? I seem to see a lot of recipes calling for a 10″ bundt pan. Also, if my pan is non-stick, do I still need to grease and flour the pan? Thank you!

    1. erika Post author

      Hi Charlene–so glad to hear it, hope it turns out similar to your old signature dessert!! I’ll have to check my bundt pan when I get home, but I think a 9″ should be okay. And yes, I would definitely still grease and flour the pan just in case!

  2. Anne

    Thank you! I’ve been wanting a from-scratch version of this for so long! One question before I try it: what kind of olive oil do you use, and if it’s extra-virgin (which I love for savory cooking), do you not find the taste a little strong?

    1. erika Post author

      Ahh so glad you feel the same way! And great question–I generally use whatever extra-virgin olive oil I have on hand (often Costco brand, currently HEB brand). I use it in cakes, banana bread, etc and honestly, I’ve never found the taste to be too overwhelming (though I will say it’s possible my tastebuds have become desensitized to the flavor). You can always use canola or grapeseed or a more neutral oil if you wish! Please let me know how it turns out if you give this a try! :)

      1. Koushik

        Great recipe indeed.As olive oil is too costly in India,I tried it with saffola oil. The end product was too good. I also used white wine instead. Thanks for the great recipe.

    1. erika Post author

      I’ve never tried, but that would be an interesting substitute. Unfortunately I can’t provide any guidance on whether it would work or not, but please report back if you try it!

      1. Sarah Probst

        You absolutely can. My mom always had Chablis in the fridge so it was her go to wine for her wine cake. My standard is Pinot Grigio or an unoaked chardonay and it is delicious. (I have been trying to figure out how to make this from scratch myself. Thank you.)

        1. erika Post author

          Oh this is great to know since I actually have a huge half-opened bottle of Pinot Grigio sitting on my counter right now!! May give this a go for my Friendsgiving on Friday. Thanks Sarah!

  3. Erin

    ‘m so glad you found me, ’cause I am so glad to have found you! Did not know wine cake was a thing, this looks gorg. Your pics are amaze! x

    1. erika Post author

      Erin!!! That means so much coming from you, Miss Dessert Queen, because your photos/treats are GORGEOUS. Thanks so much for stopping by, I’m just thrilled!!

  4. Julia

    Ok. So my all time favorite family cake is called funeral cake, and it, too, calls for yellow cake mix and pudding!! What the heck is this weird tradition!? I’ve been making it for years the same way, but you have me all inspired to try making it from scratch! I also need to try this wine cake because I’m thinking I will love it.

    1. erika Post author

      Ah yesss I remember reading that post on it long ago!! It sounds SO delish, probably needs zero from-scratch changes tbh. I need to try making it! And yes, these sound like sister cakes so I’m thinking/hoping you’ll love it too!!!

  5. Katie

    That’s hilarious. Yellow cake from a box is one of my favourite things, and try as I might, I have yet to replicate the delicious yellow taste in any from-scratch version. But I’m with you on the buttery flavoured oil being somewhat horrifying. I’ve never tried putting wine in cake before, so I’m keen to try this out. Also super curious to see where you’ll go with the blog in 2017!

    1. erika Post author

      Ugh KATIE. It’s one of mine too!! Boxed yellow cake with that gross but delicious chocolate frosting from a can is like crack. Smitten Kitchen has a red wine chocolate cake that you should also put on your list if you’re venturing into wine cakes!!

      And thanks so much, love you so much for still reading my blog after what feels like years and years!!! <333


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