A few weeks ago I saw a Food & Wine article titled the Ultimate Cake Baking Bucket List. The goal is to bake a cake every month for a year and the idea is that each new cake will teach you new skills and give you an opportunity to practice your technique. Plus you also get to eat a cake every month, and what could be wrong with that? I’m not sure if I’ll actually try to keep up with this bucket list, but I liked the idea.
Why is it that we have to have a reason to make a cake? Especially a tiered multi-layer cake? The only reason you need to bake a cake is that you want to! So I decided to make a cake that I’d been thinking about for years. I don’t even remember where I originally saw a Red Wine Chocolate Cake, but it combines my two most favorite things. So I knew it had to be good.
I had already bought some cheap red wine (save the good stuff for yourself to drink!) when I saw Lindsay’s recipe for a Blackberry Red Wine Chocolate Cake. That’s when I remembered I had a bottle of Blackberry Merlot from a local vineyard that is way too sweet for my liking and I knew it would be perfect in this cake! Any sweet red wine will work though and it can be paired with any kind of fruit. Raspberry and dark chocolate is one of my favorite flavor combos, I practically lived on raspberry mochas when I was in college, so that’s what direction I headed in.
I know a layered cake seems daunting, but I promise it’s not. The first step is to simply make the cake batter and bake the cakes. Easy peasy. I took a cake decorating class last year and our instructor gave us some hints to get the cakes out of the pans easily. First, you want to trace the bottom of the cake pan on some parchment paper. Cut that circle out of 3 layers of parchment paper, so you end up with 3 separate circles. Next, take some Crisco shortening on a paper towel and wipe the insides and bottom of each cake pan. Now place your parchment paper circles in the bottom of the cake pan (they should fit perfectly since you traced the pan) and spread a little more Crisco on top of the circles. Then sprinkle flour throughout the cake pan, shake it around, turn upside down and tap out any excess. You want an even layer of flour throughout the pan. When your cakes are done they should pop right out of the pan and you’ll easily be able to pull the parchment paper off, leaving a perfectly smooth top.
The next trick is to wrap the layers in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. If you’re short on time, you can place in the freezer for at least an hour or two. The more firm the cake is, the easier it is going to be to frost without it cracking or getting crumbs everywhere. This is also very handy if you’re wanting to prepare your cake ahead of time. Layers can be left in the freezer tightly wrapped for up to 3 months. When the big event comes, just let them thaw and you can begin right away with the decorating saving you some time.
I like to frost my cake on a small piece of cardboard covered with parchment paper. I think they sell these cardboard pieces, but I just cut one out myself. You could also buy a turntable to frost your cake on if you’re getting serious about this. You’re going to place the first layer directly in the center of the parchment/cardboard. Spread a layer of buttercream frosting over the surface of the cake, then spread a layer of raspberry jam over the frosting. Place your next layer of cake on gently and evenly, more frosting, more buttercream, followed by your last layer of cake.
Next you’ll want to frost what is called a crumb coat. This is just a thin layer of frosting over the top and sides of the cake. It does just what it sounds like, it coats the crumbs. It doesn’t matter what this layer looks like. You’re going to let it dry then frost your finishing layer over the top and it will be crumb free.
The most fun of the whole cake though is the chocolate ganache. I got a little carried away with it, but can you ever have too much chocolate? I think not. The ganache also helped hide the majority of the frosting so if you’re worried about imperfections, odds are it will get hidden with a thick layer of chocolate.
I know there are a lot of steps, but layer cakes are really nothing to be afraid of. This would be the perfect cake to make for the special someone in your life for Valentine’s Day. Not only is it adorably festive and filled with red wine goodness, they will be so impressed with your baking skills! Maybe you’re celebrating Galentine’s Day with your girls or even spending the day alone, everyone deserves a chocolate cake.
- 2 c sugar
- 1 3/4 c flour
- 3/4 c cocoa powder
- 2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 c buttermilk
- 1 c sweet red wine
- 1/2 c vegetable oil
- 2 tsp vanilla
For Buttercream Frosting:
- 1 c butter, softened
- ~4 c powdered sugar
- 2 tsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 c raspberry jam (more for filling, about 1 1/2 c total)
For Chocolate Ganache:
- 3/4 c dark chocolate chips
- 1/4 c heavy cream
- 1/4 c sweet red wine
For more detailed instructions, read through post above
- Grease 3 8-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease tops of parchment paper. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour inside each cake pan, shake around to cover interior, then turn upside down and knock out excess.
- For Cake: Combine sugar, flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl.
- Next beat in eggs, buttermilk, red wine, vegetable oil and vanilla and stir until completely combined.
- Divide batter evenly among the three pans.
- Bake cakes at 350 for 28-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Let sit until cool enough to handle, then carefully invert cakes onto wire racks. If they are not coming out easily, slide a sharp knife around the edges of the cake. Remove parchment paper from tops and let cool completely.
- Once completely cool, wrap each layer carefully in plastic wrap and place in freezer for at least 1-2 hours, ideally overnight.
- For Raspberry Buttercream: With an electric mixer, beat butter, powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until smooth. If too runny, add powdered sugar by tablespoons to get proper consistency. If too thick, add a splash of milk. You want the frosting thin enough it can be easily spread but thick enough it won’t slide off the cake. Stir in the raspberry jam by hand.
- Assemble layers: Unwrap layers from plastic wrap. Center first layer on a small piece of cardboard or other base covered in parchment paper. Spread a layer of buttercream frosting evenly over the top of the cake. Next spread about 1/2 cup of raspberry jam over the frosting. Gently place the next cake layer on top. Repeat the buttercream followed by the jam. Place the last cake layer on top.
- Crumb Coat: frost a thin layer of frosting over the entire cake, sides and top. This doesn’t need to be pretty, just make sure it is covered. Let sit for 30 minutes to dry.
- Frost: Frost entire cake with a thicker layer of buttercream using an offset spatula to make smooth.
- Chocolate Ganache: place dark chocolate chips, heavy cream and red wine in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in 30 second increments, stirring after each time. Do not over heat. Once chocolate is fully melted, let sit until room temperature (you don’t want it so warm it slides right off the cake).
- Pour chocolate into an icing bag fitted with large tip or into a ziplock bag. Snip corner of ziplock bag. Starting in the center, pipe chocolate out in a circular motion towards the edges. Use a spatula to smooth chocolate over the top and help push it over the edge.
- Decorate with fresh raspberries as desired.