It is Birthday Week on The Kitchn. This set me thinking about how easy (or difficult) it is pairing wine and birthday cake. It is probably not something you automatically consider, but believe me, it can be fun. Chocolate, coffee, vanilla, strawberry, or coconut cream — birthday cakes come in all sorts of flavors and textures — so there is a lot of scope to have fun playing around with different wines. What are some of your favorites?
There is really only one 'golden rule' for me when choosing wines to match cake. The wine should be sweeter than the cake; and you should try to match flavor intensity. For example, a rich port would kill a delicate Pavlova. With that in mind here are some of my favorite birthday cake pairings:
Wines to Pair With Birthday Cake Flavors
- Vanilla layer cake – A white VDN (Vin Doux Naturel) from France works really well. Beaumes de Venise or Rivesaltes — the pure, bright stone fruit flavors and floral notes are a perfect balance for the simple vanilla flavors.
- Chocolate Ganache – 5-year-old Malmsey Madeira — the sweetest style of Madeira. With its high acidity it is a perfect foil for the richness of chocolate.
- Red Velvet Cake — A red VDN (Vin Doux Naturel) such as Maury or Banyuls — again from France. Extremely sweet, these wines have rich, heady aromas and flavors of macerating red fruit which, both contrast and compliment the red velvet flavors.
- Strawberry Shortcake – Here, lightness calls for something less powerful such as a Demi-sec Champagne, or maybe an extra-dry Prosecco. The bubbles offer refreshment and a palate-cleansing sensation that marries well with the strawberries in this cake.
- Rich Fruit Cake – Baking spices, dried fruits call for something like a Vin Santo, whose flavors of dried figs, nuts and sweet spices truly compliment any fruit cake.
- Coconut Cream Cake – Such a rich cake calls for a wine with high acidity such as a Tokaji or late harvest Riesling. The citrus marmalade, stone fruit and honey flavors brighten and lift the rich creamy coconut.
- Pavlova – Light and creamy Pavlova calls for something on the more delicate side. Moscato d'Asti with its slight sparkle comes straight to mind, the peachy, floral notes a lovely compliment to the soft marshmallow center of the meringue.
- Ice Cream Cake – Any of you who have read my previous posts on dessert wines know that my favorite pairing with ice cream is Pedro Ximenex (PX) – the decadently sweet sherry wine. Poured over the ice-cream cake – absolutely divine.
I would love to hear about some of your favorite wines with birthday cake — or whether you prefer just water.
Until next week, enjoy!
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She hold the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
(Images: Mary Gorman)