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While the holidays may have come and gone, there’s a long, cold winter ahead, and no reason why we shouldn’t still enjoy ourselves. Yeah, we should definitely cut back on some of the overindulgences. But there are plenty of reasons to celebrate — birthdays, snow days, Fridays. Whatever the reason, this mulled wine cake is here to help.

Mulled wine is a wonderful beverage to warm up with on a winter’s evening. It’s made by simmering spices such as cinnamon, cloves and star anise with red wine and oranges. A sweetener, such as sugar or honey, may be added, and often a bit of brandy, before being served hot or warm in mugs. It’s essentially the same as hot spiced cider, but made with wine.

Mulled wine is commonly enjoyed during winter in many European countries and is a staple of their quaint Christmas markets. But anyone can make mulled wine at home with little effort. Just grab some wine — no need to use anything pricey — and heat it up in a saucepan with a few whole spices and some orange slices. Simmer as long as you like and sweeten each cup upon serving.

You don’t need a specific amount of spices. Use what you have and only as much as you like. If all you have are cinnamon sticks, I think that’s fine. Although, I will say that whole spices do a better job of infusing the wine. Ground spices don’t blend well here, and you don’t want to find yourself sipping up a clump of ground cloves. If you don’t have many whole spices hanging around, you can actually find mulling spice blends that often include dried orange peel.

Whether you let the wine simmer for hours on the stove or just a few minutes, you can make just a mug full, which I do quite often, or prepare a large pot for a party. A slow cooker is also perfect for preparing mulled wine, since you can set it and leave it be.

If you enjoy mulled wine or the idea of the beverage sounds appealing, you will appreciate this cake. It takes all the flavors of mulled wine and puts them in an edible form. You might think that this would result in a boozy, dense and overly spiced dessert, yet that’s not the case. Rather, the flavors are subtle and the cake has a light texture and crumb. I was pleasantly surprised.

If you like the idea of this cake but aren’t into alcohol, it’s worth noting that there is only about a tablespoon’s worth in each serving, and that’s before taking into account whatever may cook-off in the process.

This recipe will make four cups of batter, which is enough for either one eight-inch round cake, one dozen cupcakes, or if you have a similar pan to the one I used from King Arthur Flour, six mini cakes to share (or not).

Mulled wine cake

makes: 12 servings

2 cups flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons cinnamon

½ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon ground cloves

1 cup wine

1 tablespoon brandy

1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter

1 orange, zested

1 cup of sugar

¼ cup brown sugar

½ cup sour cream

2 eggs

for the optional orange cream cheese icing:

¼ cup cream cheese, room temperature

2 tablespoons orange juice

About 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cake tin with oil and a little flour, to coat.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, salt and spices to combine. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, heat the wine and brandy over low heat. When hot, add the butter and allow to melt. Stir in the orange zest and sugars until combined. Remove from the heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour cream and eggs. Stir this into the wine mixture until well blended. Pour the liquid-ingredient mixture into the dry and fold to combine. Don’t overmix. Pour the cake batter into the cake mold, filling about ¾ of the way full.

Bake for about 16 minutes if making cupcakes, 30 minutes if making six mini cakes or 45 minutes if making one eight-inch cake. Regardless, you’ll want to bake until a toothpick entered into the center of the cake comes out clean. Start checking the cakes a few minutes before the suggested times.

For the icing: whisk together the cream cheese and juice from that zested orange. Add in powdered sugar a little at a time, whisking until smooth before each addition. Use more or less sugar depending on how you like your icing. Drizzle over the cake, when cool.

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