Kitchn Love Letters

The Secret Ingredient That Makes This Chocolate Cake Extra Fudgy and Delicious

published Feb 22, 2023
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
red wine chocolate cake slice with powdered sugar and whipped cream on white plate
Credit: Kristina Razon

I grew up in a household where sweets were store-bought, not home-baked. Our kitchen counter was typically strewn with half-eaten boxes of Entenmann’s chocolate chip cookies and open bags of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies (the orange chocolates ones were my jam). That’s because my mom thought baking was too complicated and avoided using measuring cups and spoons as much as possible. 

As a result, I didn’t bake a single sweet until I was in my mid-20s. Even though I was a confident cook, there were no homemade pies, no homemade cookies, and definitely no made-from-scratch cake. For me, it wasn’t because I didn’t want to bake; it was because I didn’t know how. This all changed when I started my first kitchen job at a small café in Washington, D.C. Because I wanted to be a well-rounded cook, it was finally time to try baking. I decided to start with Smitten Kitchen’s red wine chocolate cake, a simple stunner of a cake that I had been drooling over. 

Later, as I dug into a slice, I couldn’t believe how incredibly easy it was to make such a delicious chocolate cake that was both fudgy and decadent. I even ended up tweaking the recipe and adding it to the café’s dinner menu (it received rave reviews). Now over a decade later, I still make it and it never ceases to impress. 

Credit: Kristina Razon

Why I Love Red Wine Chocolate Cake 

There are many, many recipes for chocolate cake out there, but one of the main reasons I love this particular recipe is that it puts a fun spin on your everyday chocolate cake. It calls for three-quarters of a cup of red wine, which, depending on the wine you use, adds complex fruity and spiced notes that go well with the rich chocolate. This is a great way to use up the last dregs of that open bottle of red wine you have kicking around. I typically like pouring in fruity red wines like Nero d’Avola and Cabernet Sauvignon, but it’ll be just as delicious with a spiced Zinfandel. Just make sure to use a wine that you like drinking, as you will taste it in the cake. 

Another reason to love this recipe: The cake comes together in one bowl. You don’t have to fuss with separate bowls for mixing your wet and dry ingredients — you can mix it all in one and call it a day. 

Last but not least, this chocolate cake is extremely versatile. Dusted with powdered sugar, it’s right at home on any weeknight table. But dressing it up with the creamy mascarpone topping (an optional add-on) will take it to the next level, making it perfect for that last-minute dinner party. 

Credit: Kristina Razon

How to Make Red Wine Chocolate Cake 

Like many cakes, this one starts with creaming butter and sugar together in a bowl until smooth and fluffy. Then you mix in an egg, egg yolk, red wine, and vanilla extract until combined. The batter will look a little uneven at this point, but don’t worry — it’ll come together. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and ground cinnamon over the top, then stir.  

Pour the batter into a nine-inch round cake pan and bake at 350°F for 25 to 30 minutes until the surface looks matte and a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool to room temperature before dusting with powdered sugar or dolloping with the mascarpone topping.  

If You’re Making Red Wine Chocolate Cake, a Few Tips

  • Sift your dry ingredients. Don’t skip sifting your dry ingredients into the batter — especially because cocoa powder tends to be rather clumpy.
  • Use a red wine that you like to drink. The flavor of the wine will be prominent in the cake, so I recommend using one that you enjoy, be it a fruity Merlot or a spiced Zinfandel. 
  • Stick to Dutch-process cocoa powder. Using a Dutch-process cocoa powder will give your cake a deeper, more chocolatey flavor. 
  • Make a topping. If you can’t get your hands on mascarpone cheese for the topping, you can opt for whipped cream, chocolate frosting, or vanilla ice cream — your guests will thank you.

    Get the recipe: Red Wine Chocolate Cake