Rotweinkuchen (German Red Wine Cake)

I have made this a few times now. I can’t recall how I found out about this curious German bake but I’m so glad I did. Like many regional specialities regardless of country, there is often, in foodie circles, this celestial hope for the One Great Authentic Recipe, but the truth is, there is as many recipes for this as there are Teutonic cooks. Nigella Lawson stated that cooking is alive, like language and this is very true. I cannot take credit for this recipe, which comes from the Cafe Seilbahn, in Rüdesheim am Rhein.  I have translated it and adapted it slightly (I’ve changed the flour and baking powder to self-raising, and replaced the butter in the original with margarine as I prefer it in cakes, but you can of course, use these instead!)

Red wine cake can take many forms – loaf, bundt or layer, but they all share some conventions – red vino in the batter along with cocoa powder. The addition of the wine helps to create a light yet  gloriously damp, moist cake. The pinkish-golden batter does bake to a rather dull brown but the flavour more than makes up for it. It’s hard to describe the taste – dark, spicy, aromatic and bewitching. This is definitely a grown-up cake. The kind of flavour it has I think makes it ideal for the winter months, especially Christmas.

My research found that these cakes tend to be garnished 3 ways – chocolate coated, simply dusted with icing sugar, or topped with a simple red wine icing. I have gone for the latter as I rather like contrast of the vivid lilac against the soft, tender chestnut-toned cake.

My only insistence is pick a wine you would enjoy drinking. Any red would do, no need to break the bank. Full-bodied are preferable, so for example a cabernet or rioja. I’m not a big red wine drinker so my wine knowledge is limited, sorry!

If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can easily make this cake using the all-in-one method. I have done it both ways now and had great results. The beauty of recipes like this are that they can be taken so many routes – this would make some fabulously mature cupcakes for those of that inclination, for example; you could use dark brown sugar instead of plain caster to really bring out the darker flavours (though I feel the bland sweetness of white sugar allows the fruity aromatic wine to really come to the fore, and the intense treacliness of dark brown would maybe mask the wine flavour a bit especially with the spicy warmth of the cocoa and cinnamon but light brown or golden could work); mix dark chocolate chips into the batter…or, in the festive season, use mulled wine… Laura Vitale says, the world’s your pickle, my friend!

Anyway, enough waffle, here’s the recipe.

Many thanks to Kevin at the Crafty Larder for the beautiful photo! I took him some of the last batch I made.



For the cake:

200g margarine
200g caster sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp cinnamon
1 TBSP cocoa
250g self-raising flour
150ml red wine

For the frosting:

Icing sugar
Few more drops red wine

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees celsius/160 fan/350 Fahrenheit.
  2. Add cocoa and cinnamon to flour and lightly whisk to combine and break up any lumps.
  3. Cream margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.
  4. Add eggs 1 by 1, with a tablespoon of the dry ingredients each time to prevent curdling.
  5. Beat in flour mix, and then slowly pour in the wine. It’s important to gradually add it as it may split the mixture! I make it in a stand mixer.
  6. Pour into either a greased and line 900g/2lb loaf tin or a traybake tin and bake for 55 minutes (will take less time in a tray) or until a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  7. Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then finish cooling on a wire rack. It’s a very damp cake so feel free to cool completely in the tin if you’re worried about breaking it!
  8. When cake is fully cooled, mix icing sugar with more red wine until you have a thick, pale purple frosting, just thick enough to spread. I haven’t given exact measurements as I tend to do this by eye. Of course, you could also merely dust with icing sugar, or as the Seilbahn café do,  melt 150g chocolate and thinly coat the cake, garnishing a-la Jackson Pollock with melted white chocolate (50g). Leave frosting to set.

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