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Trader Joe’s Red Wine Chocolate Cake

Yesterday I wrote a review of my dear friends’ new album Last Forest in the City. Roman and Alaina are truly spectacular musicians and I can’t emphasize enough that you need to buy their album!
Even more reason to buy their album: Alaina’s birthday was last week!

Anyone who knows Alaina is aware that Alaina is Trader Joe’s obsessed. No, she doesn’t just like Trader Joe’s – she is obsessed. Last year for her birthday I bought her a Trader Joe’s cookbook, you would have thought it was a diamond ring! So when I asked Alaina what kind of cake she wanted, naturally she said “Can you make me a Trader Joe’s Cake?” Yes, Alaina, yes I can!

Accomplishing the Trader Joe’s island look was a lot of fun, and appropriate since Canadian-born Alaina has become a California girl through and through. Also, since she and her husband left LA and took off to Israel for a couple months, I wanted to remind her how much she loves the fun and sun of LA and to never leave again. šŸ™‚

A lot of the creativity for this cake I have to give to Alaina herself. I suggested a Red Wine Chocolate cake, and she immediately said “Can you use Two Buck Chuck red wine?” Then I started talking about fillings and she said “Can you fill it with Joe Joe’s?” Yes Alaina, yes I can!  Now, it’s important to note that Charles Shaw is not kosher wine. Though I do have a kosher kitchen, I’m lax when it comes to wine – anything goes pretty much. If you only drink kosher wine, of course you can substitute that in this recipe. For those who are concerned about the integrity of my kitchen after using non-kosher wine to cook, I did use disposable baking dishes for this particular cake.

(adapted from Love and Olive Oil)


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup dark or dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup light olive or vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350ĀŗF. Butter and line three 8-inch round baking pans.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, whisking until thoroughly combined. Add eggs, buttermilk, wine, oil, and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until all dry ingredients are incorporated. Divide evenly among prepared pans.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack until cool enough to handle. Allow to cool completely. At this point, the cakes can be frozen until ready to use, up to 1 month.



  • 5 Tablespoons flour1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks)
  • 1 cup granulated white sugar (not powdered sugar)

In a small saucepan, whisk flour into milk and heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Be careful not to burn it. Remove from heat and let it cool to room temperature. You can place the saucepan over ice in the sink for about 10 minutes or so until the mixture cools if you are in a hurry. Stir in vanilla. This mixture must be completely cooled in order for the frosting to work.

While the mixture is cooling, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then add the cooled milk/flour/vanilla mixture and beat until it all combines and resembles whipped cream. If it’s not looking like whipped cream, keep on whipping. Best served the same day.

As you can see I used my buttercream painting technique all over this cake!

The Trader Joe’s signature font I was definitely worried about, but I free-handed it and I think it turned out terrific! Actually, that was the first thing everybody commented on when they saw the cake – “THE FONT LOOKS SO GOOD!” Oh man, what kind of age have we entered into when people talk about fonts all the time? Kind of reminds me of Shop Girl.

The sand was sort of a mistake. I was planning on smoothing out the sand and making it rough with graham crackers, but the rough application worked so well, I couldn’t touch it! You will also notice I made an ocean line. Luster dust people, luster dust.

I wish I could have taken a picture of the sliced cake that was perfect and beautiful, but this cake was no tester. It had thawed just perfectly for eating, and when a cake thaws you get a bit of crumbles.

A lot of people use coffee in their chocolate cakes. This is ok, but I find using alcohol is much more effective.  In my usual chocolate cake recipe I use hard liquor. Obviously this recipe elicits a taste of the red wine, but it was so rich and moist – alcohol all the way!

So what does the birthday girl think? She looks a little hesitant before she takes her first bite.

Down the hatch!

Tasting, tasting, and yeah that’s the stuff. Money shot!

Now going in for another bite!
What Alaina said afterward? “I know I’m biased because it’s my birthday cake, but that’s the best cake you’ve ever made!” Thanks Alaina, I love you too!

Ok, so since the other pics of Alaina were the not-so-flattering eating pics, here’s a beautiful pic of the beautiful birthday girl doing her favorite thing – stealing other people’s children for hugs.  Happy birthday Alaina!

You can now reach me by a new URL! If you type in www.miriinthevillage.com, it will forward you directly to this blog.

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