Sherry wine cake is a traditional tea cake, usually prepared from a box of yellow cake mix and a box of instant vanilla pudding mix. This scratch-made cake will remind you of days gone by of tea and cake with grandma…but without all the additives and processed ingredients. Soft and light with hints of sherry wine and nutmeg.
Tea and Cake with Downton Abbey
I am hopelessly devoted to British movies and television shows. Maybe it’s the accent or maybe it’s the beautiful countryside. Possibly, it is the fact that most British dramas that I love take place in a simpler more euphoric time. Actually, it might be the tea. My children have been raised on Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes, and of course, Downton Abbey. I love how problems are solved by taking walks and sitting down to a cup of tea.
What better way to enJOY a cup of tea than with cake? In the fall, my girls and I watch reruns of Downton Abbey, and of course, we set the stage with our tea and a special treat. In my family of origin, we have this recipe that has been passed down from my grandmother called Quick & Easy Wine Cake. We have been eating it for years and yes, I made it for my children. It was not to say that there wasn’t some mommy guilt thrown in there considering this recipe was the only recipe I prepared that involved a box mix. Two box mixes to be totally transparent.
History of Boxed Cake Mixes
Boxed cake mixes have been around since the 1930s when John D. Duff of P. Duff and Sons, a Pittsburgh molasses company was looking for a way to profit from his molasses surplus (gotta love the way the big companies think. You can’t blame them for wanting to make a profit, but you can’t trust them either to be looking out for the consumer’s best interest or their health.) Just say’n. Anyway, by dehydrating the molasses, adding flour, sugar, and dried egg, consumers were able to make their cakes inexpensively.
By WWII, big flour companies had concentrated on preparing dry mixes for the troops. When the war ended, they shifted their focus to busy home bakers. Betty Crocker, in response to questions from homemakers, began selling boxed cake mixes in 1947. Interestingly, by the mid-’50s, cake sales dropped. Through a survey, it was discovered that homemakers felt guilty that they couldn’t take credit for baking their cakes because the original recipe required only one additional ingredient to add to the mix…water. It was too simple. People couldn’t believe that a cake could be made with only the addition of water. So, the big companies added the additional steps of adding oil and an egg to the box mix and suggested homemakers focus on decorating their cakes with frosting to make them their own, and the rest is history.
Not My Mama’s Quick and Easy Wine Cake
Our grandparents were sold a bill of goods by the big companies trying to make a buck. Their push for packaged and processed foods led to the downfall of not only our health but the way we produced food. Sure, it may have simplified things, but our trusting relatives took their bait hook, line, and sinker. Man-made, chemical-laden products (I can’t even call them food) like Margarine, Jell-O, and Swanson’s T.V. dinners in the 50s, were a few of the factory-produced “conveniences” that may have liberated on one hand, but unfortunately brought bondage on the other.
All this to say, I inherited a delicious recipe from my mother that was passed down from her mother. Quick and Easy Wine Cake has been a family favorite my entire life. Truthfully, it is the only recipe I have brought into my family that requires a boxed cake and instant pudding mix. Naïvely, I figured buying an organic yellow cake mix and organic pudding mix would make me feel better and help me justify my breach in health. Unfortunately, like my 50s fellow homemakers, my conscience pricked me with the reality that I was dependent on a box mix to prepare my cake; a box mix loaded with sugar and fillers…even if they are organic.
I want to get my family back to the basics. Back to scratch-made goodness. Convenience is good for some things like dishwashers and washing machines, but not for food. You will eventually pay. We either save a buck or a few minutes in time now or pay with our health in the future. As with any investment, the harvest of the original seed is multiplied, so I will stick to planting seeds of health now and save my convenience for laundry.
Replacing Box Cake Mix and Box Instant Pudding
There are just some recipes you want to pass down, not because they are “healthy” but because they are associated with so many special memories. As a result, I chose to keep the recipe, but find a way to prepare it from scratch. At least I will get to determine how much sugar goes in and the quality of my ingredients. Scratch is always better for you…even if it is not “healthy”. Jokingly, but not, when my kids ask me if this is healthy (because most things I make are) I simply direct them to the facts of what they are not eating, rather than what they are.
I did a Google search on how to make a box cake mix and pudding mix from scratch and realized that the cake part was no different from a normal cake. Technically, the pudding mix was mostly corn starch and sugar. Ultimately, I landed on a recipe from the blog The Pancake Princess and tweaked it a bit to make it mine. It seems we both have a history of this cake in our families and feel the same way about the original ingredients. Thank you Pancake Princess.
Recipes Side By Side…You Decide
The Original Quick & Easy Wine Cake Ingredients List:
- 1 box yellow cake mix
- 1 box instant vanilla pudding mix
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cup vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup Sherry cooking wine
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- powdered sugar for dusting
My Updated, Scratch Sherry Wine Cake Recipe
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 3 T non-gmo corn starch
- 1 T plus 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
- 4 T softened butter
- 4 large organic eggs
- 3/4 cup avocado oil
- 3/4 cup Sherry wine
- powdered sugar for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 350° F, position the oven rack to the middle, and oil your bundt pan.
- In a large bowl or Kitchenaid mixer, add flour, sugar, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Mix until incorporated.
- Add the room temperature butter and mix until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
- In a separate container (I use a 4 cup glass measuring cup) mix together the oil, Sherry cooking wine, and eggs. Add to dry ingredients and mix on medium-high for 5 minutes.
- Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
- Remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes and then flip it over carefully onto a plate or cake server. Hint: It is easier to place the plate onto the cake and then turn it over so that the cake doesn't fall out in sections.)
- When totally cooled, dust with powdered sugar and serve.