Chocolate Sangria Cake

I love spiced wines: Sangria during the summer and gluhwein during the winter. During my time in Shanghai, I was fortunate to visit the Christmas markets and nosh on Bavarian bread and mugs of hot wine, and to call some Spaniards friends who had a preternatural gift of making sangria.

I recently acquired a bottle of red wine, and I’m not much of a drinker so I decided to cook with it. I gave it my best, but I guess I’m losing my youthful tolerance. Although, I have made Smitten Kitchen’s red wine chocolate cake many times before — it once beat out a flourless chocolate cake –, this time I had some lovely cara cara oranges and added the zest of half an orange. Cara cara oranges, if you’re wondering, are a type of red-fleshed naval orange, and look a little like tiny grapefruit. I tried a slice at the local farmer’s market and ended up bringing home two. They were not cheap, so I felt like I had to put them to good use.

Wowza! Maybe it was the quality of the wine, or maybe it was the orange, but it was so much more aromatic than my previous attempts.

It felt very much like a grown up chocolate cake, not overly sweet, and with a hint of bitterness. Although the batter was purple from the wine, it baked into a pretty run-of-the-mill dark brown color and didn’t have much of a rise. But the cake isn’t overly dense. If you like chocolate oranges and red wine, you’ll love this cake.

Chocolate Sangria Cake

ADAPTED from Smitten Kitchen
NOTES: As mentioned before, do not be alarmed at the low rise or the boozy batter. The final produce is only an inch tall and not excessively alcoholic.


  • 6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (145 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, any kind you like*
  • 1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
  • 1 cup + 1 tablespoon (133 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest (1/2 of an orange)


Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment, and either butter and lightly flour the parchment and exposed sides of the pan, or spray the interior with a nonstick spray. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth.

Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, zest, and salt together, right over your wet ingredients. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula.

Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate.

Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes, then flip out of pan and cool the rest of the way on a cooling rack. Once cool, dust with powdered sugar.


2 thoughts on “Chocolate Sangria Cake

  1. This does sound good. Wine in a cake seems so strange but you won me over with all that talk of chocolate and orange. I also prefer cakes that aren’t overly sweet, and I trust Deb Perelman implicitly, so all in all this sounds like my kind of recipe – thanks!

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