White Wine Cake (Chardonnay)

It bugs me when I spend good money on a bottle of wine and find that I don’t like it as much as something less expensive. And while I love the quote “Life is too short to drink bad wine”, I’m too cheap to live by it and usually end up serving the second half of the bottle the next night. Sometimes Todd and I fool ourselves and say “It tastes better on day two, no?” But usually, we just drink it regretfully.

This cake is going to end all that. Rather than finish up a bottle of wine we don’t love, I will now put the remainder in this cake.  It was absolutely delicious and smelled so good baking that even Fuzz, who is pretty use to cakey smells around here, begged for a piece after dinner.

The recipe appears in many different forms, so I used the version with the highest reviews on allrecipes and followed tips from reviewers, one of whom said she “despises” cake mix cakes but thought this one is “different”.

I know what everyone is wondering. Do you taste the Chardonnay? Is the cake oaky and buttery with hints of pineapple, apple and toast? Well, no. I think maybe the wine just cancels out some of the box taste and maybe, I’m not sure, helps this cake have an outstanding texture and light crumb. Then again, that might just be from all the stabilizers and emulsifiers in the cake mix. I don’t know, but I’ll definitely make this again.

Now I’m actually excited about running into some bad red wine so I can use the rest in a chocolate version.

White Wine Cake
Garnished with whipped cream and sweetened strawberry puree

White Wine Cake

1 1/2 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 box Duncan Hines yellow cake mix **
1 5-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
3/4 cup cooking oil
4 eggs
3/4 cup white wine (Chardonnay)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. If using a black Bundt pan, preheat to 325.

Spray a 10 inch Bundt cake pan with Pam for Baking.

In a small bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over bottom and up sides of pan. Hold over a sink and tilt pan so that cinnamon sugar coats sides as much as possible. Dump out any remaining.

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir just until mixed. Using an electric mixer, beat for two minutes. Pour into the cinnamon-sugar coated pan. Bake cake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick or some kind of wooden skewer inserted comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Flip from pan.  Cool and serve.

Makes 12 servings

**I used Duncan Hines because it is does not have pudding added.

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  1. Sue says

    What a great idea! I wonder if it would work with leftover champagne? I love champagne, but can’t drink an entire bottle by myself, and my husband doesn’t get as excited about it as I do. I’m having company on Wednesday. Can I feed “experimental” cake to them made with champagne instead of chardonnay? Hmmmm?

  2. Tara says

    I know this is off topic, but I came across the strangest recipe and wondered if you’d ever tried anything like it. They are cookies called “Juliet’s Kisses” on cooking.com. There are hard boiled eggs in these cookies that have been pushed through a strainer! Have you ever tried anything like it? It’s so weird, I think I’m going to have to make them.

  3. Suzy says

    Great idea, I have the same problem especially since I’m fonder of reds. I have a great recipe for “Wine Jelly” that uses up extra wine. Super easy and comes out tasting like grape jelly with a *zing*. I’d be happy to share the recipe if your interested. Any wine works including champagne. The cake looks delish!

  4. Abi says

    What I wouldn’t give for a piece of that cake. Or anything topped with fresh whipped cream and strawberry sauce.

    My George does not like white wine, so I buy it by the cube at Target and serve it in extraordinarily expensive stemware (Okay, a $13 wine glass). I like the cube because it lasts for weeks (sealed!) and I can keep it in the fridge.

  5. says

    I don’t care for any brand of Chardonnay, so it might not be the brand or the price. Try Pinot Grigio next time and see if you like it better. I have a bottle of Chardonnay half used in the fridge that was given to us. I was going to use it for clams and spaghetti, but maybe this cake would put it to better use.

  6. Judy says

    Mmmmm, I have some left over Merlot. Maybe I’ll try this with a chocolate fudge cake. Thanks for posting this recipe Anna.

  7. Cindy in Tempe says

    You sound like us! We seem to like less expensive wines. We prefer blush or pink zinfandel.

  8. says

    Sue, I think you can add just about ANYTHING to cake mix, so you might was well give the champagne a try. If you don’t use your champagne in cake mix, you could always use it in risotto.

    Tara, I’ve never heard of those cookies, but one of my Cook’s Illustrated books has a linzer tart recipe and the crust calls for a chopped up hard boiled egg.

    Suzy, if it’s not too much trouble, could you post the recipe in the comment section for those interested? Thanks so much!

    Abi, thanks for reminding me about wine cubes. I keep meaning to try one of those, but just never get around to buying it. I’ve heard they are pretty good as far as cheap wine goes. I have to watch out, though. Some of the less expensive wines give me headaches.

  9. says

    Judy C — I actually love Chardonnay. In fact, for Valentine’s Day, I’ve requested a bottle of
    Rombauer. It’s my absolute favorite and I’d never put IT in a cake. It’s a little out of my every day price range,though.


    The one I used in the cake just had more acid than I care for. I’m sure the one you have leftover in the fridge will work.

    Also, I think sherry would add an interesting flavor.

    Judy W. Let me know how the Merlot version goes.

    Cindy, I don’t prefer less expensive wines. I’d just go broke if I drank the kind of wine I really like.

    Alex, I enjoyed your blog entry. The description “dirtly little chocolate cake” made me laugh out loud.

    What’s nice about this cake is that while it may not be the finest cake in the land, it’s an inexpensive and tasty dessert. Cake mix costs less than a dollar here, so I’d rather pay a dollar (a little over when you include the eggs and oil) for a box of cake mix and have something to DO with the extra wine than throw it down the drain.

    If you didn’t live thousands of miles away, I’d bring you a piece to evaluate. It’s actually really good.

  10. Reneé says

    I actually went to the Rombauer vineyards when I was in Napa late last year – random that you mentioned that one… I have the wine glass from the tasting which was fun to bring home!

    Thanks for the recipe. I actually have 1/2 a bottle of white and 1/2 a bottle of red in my fridge right now. I need to make sure they haven’t turned to vinegar, but if they haven’t I’ll definitely give this recipe a try!

  11. says

    The cake looks delish. I’m all about alcohol.
    I think I want to try that Chardonnay. I never know what to pick at the store. I like red and white.
    Cool movie pics! I could make some remarks on the leading lady, but I will resist the temptation.

  12. says

    Reneé, did you meet Moose?

    Emiline, it’s a good one. Several restaurants have it on their wine list for $17 a glass. I think a bottle runs from $30-$37. It’s out of my usual price range, but not for Valentine’s Day!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the movie pictures. The first grade girls have this rumor going around that the school is being used for High School Musical Three. It’s actually a movie called “Will”


    Sounds pretty good.VH looked sweet in the pictures — nice enough to pose with and give autographs to a bunch of neighborhood rapscallions.

  13. Katy says

    Anna, I just wanted to tell you I LOVE your blog! I ran across it a few weeks ago and come here often. I love the idea of making 4 cookies, or a tiny cake and not having the whole batch in your house! Keep up the great work!

  14. Therese says

    Thank you Anna for cooking with booze. You know that is a trip in the kitchen I will always go for! I have bought a CHEAP bottle of Chardonnay just to try this cake out. If anyone has an ALDI store near them you can purchase wine for under $3.00!! It is the winking owl brand…kid you not! I bought it as a joke for my sister (who is a wine expert)…and the joke turned on me because it was actually not that bad!!

    On a side note…I got an email from hungry girl.com on a low-fat brownie recipe….love this name…SWIRLS GONE WILD CHEESECAKE BROWNIES. Have you made these Anna???? Right now I am craving a trip to Vegas and some brownies!

  15. says

    Hi Katy, thanks for the comment! It’s great that so many people enjoy the scaled down recipes.

    Patricia, if you see this, I am curious to know what type of cake mix is available in your country.

    Therese, funny you should mention Las Vegas. I just booked a trip for May to see Dorie Greenspan and Rush — not together, but consecutively. Though thinking of them together cracks me up. I’m obsessing over hotels at the moment. I think I’ll divide it between 2 hotels just for fun.

    I love Hungry Girl, but the last brownies I made from her site weren’t for me (pumpkin). Her non-sweet picks are always good. I’ll give the Swirls Gone Wild recipe a look.

  16. says

    That sounds really good! I have a recipe I pulled out of a magazine (maybe Real Simple) using white cake mix and champagne with a glaze that I think also had champagne in it. It sounds so good to me, but I’ve never gotten around to trying it. Maybe that’s because I always finish my champagne, and would have to intentionally buy some to make the cake!

  17. Suzy says

    Back with the recipe for Wine Jelly! It calls for 5 cups of wine, but the recipe can be adjust to accomodate smaller volumes..just be sure that you divide and measure carefully.

    California Wine Jelly

    7 cups sugar (pure cane is suggested)
    1 pkg Sure-Jell fruit pectin
    5 cups wine (any kind, champagne included)

    Sterilize (7) 8oz jelly jars/lids and have standing by. Place wine and fruit pectin in a pan that holds at least 6 quarts. Heat and stir until comes to a rolling boil (doesn’t stop boiling when you stir it). At this point add the sugar all at once. Keep stirring until the sugar is dissolved and allow mixture to again come to a rolling boil. Let it boil like this for 1 minute and it should start to thicken. Remove from heat. Quickly fill waiting jars to 1/8 inch from top rim. Wipe rims of jars clean and immediately place a flat lid on each jar, put the band on and screw firmly but don’t over tighten. Invert the jars for 5 minutes then turn upright and allow to cool. The heat should seal the jars. Enjoy!

  18. kitty62 says

    made this recipe as is. when it came to frosting it, i went with the cinnamon flavor and made a cream cheese frosting with cinnomon in it. turned out well and again nothing returned back home. cake was very moist.

  19. Tanda says

    I will have to try the cake. I make a Chardonnay cake but its a little different then this one. I am interested in the reply from Suzie I would love to try the Wine jelly. Would love to have the recipe.

  20. katherine says

    I brought this cake to a bbq and everone enjoyed it. I used Betty Crocker yellow cake mix. After dumping the mix into the bowl I noticed on the very bottom of the box “pudding in the mix.” I decided to go ahead and add the vanilla pudding in anyway since I bought it for the recipe. It turned out fine. The aroma while it is baking is incredible. My 3 year old kept saying something smells yummy.
    Next time I make it, I will check the cake after 45 mins. Luckily it did not burn, but the crust was very golden brown.
    And, for the rest of the $3.99 chardonnay – I threw in some cut up fruit, splash of orange juice, and topped with club soda…. great white sangria to go with the cake.

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