Red Wine Chocolate Cake

In the interest of full disclosure, let me tell you the full name of this dessert: red wine chocolate cake with sea salt flakes, mascarpone frosting, and shaved chocolate. Chances are, some time between Thanksgiving and New Years, you will end up with a bit of leftover red wine, and while you could say to hell with it, and do some day drinking, you could also use it to make this delectable chocolate cake. Heck, you’ll probably have enough wine left over to do both, and a little goes a long way–both for day drinking and cake making.

All You Need

While in past years I have gone all out, making anywhere from two to four different desserts for Christmas Eve dinner, I’ve always been disappointed by how much ends up left over. Inevitably, after pre-appetizers, soup with dumplings, appetizers, the cold fishes round, the hot fishes round, and the other hot foods round, guests aren’t in particular need of a big dessert. The coconut macaroons, gingerbread cookies, and chocolate covered nuts and raisins that come out during the pre-appetizer round can’t be helping either. But you try telling that to my multiple varieties of french macaroons, pumpkin whoopie pies, and chocolate caramel sea salt tarts.

Red Wine

This year I took the easier approach, both in terms of time and my feelings. And it was very successful! Guests were utterly satisfied with the small slices of this rich but not too moist or sweet cake, and I was happy not to have to pack too much up at the end of the night. Maybe you do learn some things with age.

Perfect Portions

Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Mascarpone Frosting

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook 

Makes one small cake

The Cake:

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 large egg and 1 egg yolk

3/4 cup red wine

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup flour

1/2 cup Dutch cocoa powder (Make sure it has been dutched.)

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (The fancier the better, but any old ground cinnamon will do.)

The Frosting:

1/2 cup mascarpone cheese

1/2 cup heavy cream, cold

2 tablespoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

The Toppings:

Sea salt flakes, for garnish

Shaved chocolate, for garnish (You can use whatever kind of chocolate you wish: milk, dark, or white.)

Mascarpone Frosting

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9 inch cake pan with parchment paper, and butter the parchment paper and sides of the pan.

Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon together.


In a mixer on medium speed, cream the butter. Add the sugars to the butter, and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. This should take about 4 minutes.

Creaming that Butter and Sugar

Add the eggs, and beat well. Add the red wine and vanilla and mix to combine. Don’t worry if the mixture looks kind of lumpy, mis-colored, and off-putting. It will taste delicious once it all comes together.

Lumpy and Off-Putting

Add the flour mixture to the wet mixture, and mix and fold just to combine.

Ready for Folding


Pour the batter into the pan and even out the top with a rubber spatula or spoon. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the cake appears shiny, does not wiggle in the middle, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, cool for at least 10 minutes, and flip out of cake pan.

To make the frosting, whip all ingredients together in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Do not over-whip.

Mascarpone Frosting in the Making

Mascarpone Frosting Made

Assemble the cake by dusting it with the shaved chocolate, and then the sea salt flakes. Dollop some mascarpone frosting on each slice. Enjoy with a nice glass of red wine!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

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