The Sangria Cake, a DIY Desserts event, learning from your mistakes and a note about my Saveur’s Best Food Blog Nomination

by Irvin on May 2, 2011 · 31 comments

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The Sangria Cake by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love.

Last month, at 18 Reasons (a non-profit organization dedicated to the building community through food) I co-hosted the DIY Desserts event with my friend Melanie. DIY Desserts is an evening where bakers from all walks of life (from fancy schmancy pros to down home beginners) bring a dessert that they made centering around themes. April’s theme was boozy desserts, like happy hour in baked good form. And boy were they awesome. My contribution: The Sangria Cake!

The Sangria Cake

The evening wasn’t super crowded, but the people that showed up were all Quality (with a capital Q). My cohost Melanie showed up with mouthwater Mucho Margarita Cupcakes, that were vegan no less! Sweet, soft and ever so slightly tart, the cupcakes were a perfect way to start off the evening and get the juices flowing.

Margarita Cupcakes

Heather of Souffle Days presented her gorgeous Bourbon Carmelized Pecan Tart. Every bite was sweet chewy nuttiness. I’m bummed that she’s moving to Prague in a month, because I’ve only just gotten to know her as she’s come to the past couple of DIY Desserts but I’m super excited for her and can’t wait to read about her new adventure on her blog.

Bourbon Pecan Tart

Jo showed up with an awesome Bread Pudding with Brandy Sauce. I adore Jo and I adore bread pudding. So, clearly, I was going to adore her dessert. I took a big helping and then took an even bigger helping home, to enjoy afterwards.

Bread Pudding with Brandy Sauce

But the most impressive dessert was brought by Joyce, who brought a Guiness Chocolate Cake with Jameson Ganache and Bailey’s Italian Meringue Buttercream. Rich, dense and beautifully decorated with gold luster dust and gold leaf, it was Joyce’s first time at the DIY Desserts and I can only hope she’ll come back.

guiness cake

As for my dessert, I’ll be honest with you. The cake I brought wasn’t my top form. An obviously first attempt at a new recipe I was developing, sadly the fruit that I lovingly layered in the batter, soaking in homemade sangria, all sunk to the bottom of the pan. It looked rather like a total hot mess when I unmolded my cake.

Hot Mess

Whoa. Hello sinking fruit and cake stuck to my pan!

sangria Cake version 1.0

Luckily a lot of fruit and glaze help to rescue the way it looks

But I rescued it (somewhat), and made it presentable. And in the end the people at DIY Desserts and 18 Reasons were nothing but gracious about it. There were many things wrong with it, but Melanie ate a bite of it and then turned to me and proclaimed “It’s like rich people having brunch!

Which, of course, made me love her all the more.

The Sangria Cake Beta

Note the awesome way I filled some of the "holes" of the cake with fruit, like that raspberry.

So here’s the thing. Not every dessert I make is perfect, gorgeous and stunning. Not every dessert is show stopping delicious. But, like most all food bloggers, I tend to self edit, putting on my blog my best desserts – it’s just human nature to do that. I so rarely show you the mistakes or the blunders. But they happen. Oh do they happen. And this cake wasn’t even close to the worst things that I have come out of my kitchen. But we all learn from our mistakes. We learn how to patch up a cake, cover it with fruit, glaze or powdered sugar or worse case scenario, we learn to love the fact that here in San Francisco we can compost – and send our mistakes back to the earth.

My friend Nina once looked at me in amazement when I told her that I make horrible things in the kitchen all the time. She didn’t believe me. But it happens. And all you can do it pick yourself up, shake the flour off your shirt and start again.

The Sangria Cake

So I did. I knew I could do better.  I was going to a picnic this past weekend, so I radically revamped the recipe (and made it simpler in the meanwhile) hoping to nail it for this blog post. I brought it along with a few other desserts. And you know what? EVERYONE there proclaiming the cake a winner. Some people going so far to say it was the favorite of the three desserts I brought with me (don’t worry, the other two desserts, which had their fans, are going to be popping up on this blog too).

The Sangria Cake

So I present to you my new and improved, blog worthy Sangria Cake. Just in time for Cinco de Mayo. Enjoy. My friends did. They demolished the cake by the end of the day.

The Sangria Cake

DIY Desserts is moving to the first Thursday of the month at 18 Reasons. Please join us on Thursday, May 5th for our next event. Everyone is welcome. Bring a dessert around the theme of Mom’s Best, a nostalgic dessert that conjures up your mom (or dad, or grandpa or grandma) that sends you back to childhood with every bite. If you aren’t a baker, but love to eat, drop by and just partake of the goodies. We need eaters too!

[NOTE: For everyone who has come here via Saveur’s Best Food Blog Awards Nomination, thank you for stopping by. Feel free to poke around, I hope you like what you see. I am thrilled to be nominated and to be in the same company as such wonderful food bloggers like Desserts for Breakfast, Evan’s Kitchen Ramblings, Joy the Baker, She Who Eats and Sprinkle Bakes. If you haven’t voted yet, I encourage you to check out all the wonderful blogs and vote for the one you think deserve it most. I applaud Saveur Magazine for digging deep and finding some hidden gems along with the usual suspects.]

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Jim T May 2, 2011 at 6:33 am

Believe me, I can understand having baking flops. I’ve been working on perfecting some scone recipes the last couple of weeks and while they always have the most amazing flavor (the ginger peach ones from this morning should seriously be renamed Sex with Peaches), I’ve yet to get a good fluffy rise out of them. I get spread, I get buttery crust and soft insides, but no tall and flaky.

It may just be me, but I’m always inspired when amazing bakers (like yourself) share their flubbed desserts, the fine tuning process and the final perfected masterpiece.

Keep up the amazing work, Irvin, and congratulations on being nominated again by Saveur!


Irvin May 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm

Thanks Jim! I definitely have had my share of flops and I think I’m going to try to show more of them on this blog just to let people know that it happens all the time.

And keep an eye out for some scone tips and recipes coming soon on this blog…


Brian @ A Thought For Food May 2, 2011 at 7:44 am

This, my friend, is why you were nominated… because you can improvise just as well as the best of them… and you come out with these miraculous creations. Sangria cake? Yes please! Do you ship to Boston or do I have to visit San Fran?


Irvin May 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Thank you friend! I’m afraid you’ll have to visit San Francisco. But next time you do, I’ll bake up a storm for you.


Sonja May 2, 2011 at 10:30 am

Irvin, it was a pleasure to meet you at the picnic yesterday, and thank you so much for sharing your delectable creations! Our group LOVED the who-you-callin’-brownies cake squares 😉


Irvin May 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Oh it was wonderful meeting you too! I’ll be posting about that creation sometime soon. I think. So behind on posts right now…


Sharon Beck May 2, 2011 at 11:46 am

Hi Irvin,

I’m new to your site. I was sent here by Anita Chu who I met when she was a guest speaker/author at our Bake! Napa Valley baking club meeting. I am mad about baking but new to it. So new in fact, that when I saw “Zest of 4 large lemons” in a recipe, I thought it meant to use the grater and scrape the lemon peel right down to the flesh of the fruit. As you can imagine, that lemon pound cake had to be thrown away. There’s no saving something that taste like that did, no matter how talented you are at covering something up.

I hope I get to see you at the bake sale event on the 14th. I will look you up. You are delightful!



Irvin May 2, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Oh no! Yes, sometimes there is no rescuing a baked good. How sad. I remember a cake I made right out of college at one of my first dinner parties. I had misread the recipe and used 3 tablespoons of cinnamon instead of 3 teaspoons. I served it and nearly choked when I took a bite, but my dinner guests were very polite about it.

I can’t wait to meet you at the bake sale! I will be at the 18 Reasons location most of the day so yes, do make sure to say hello.


Celeste May 2, 2011 at 1:37 pm

This Sangria Cake looks amazing, it feels like I could pretty much smell it if I close my eyes 🙂 And guess what, I was planning a Spanish lunch for next Saturday and I can’t wait to see my mother in-law incredulous expression when she sees THIS CAKE. Also, I am moving to SF from Switzerland in almost one month and I guess 18 desserts could be a perfect way to meet new (baking)people 🙂


Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:31 am

Please do drop by. Our new night is the first Thursday of the month, and everyone there is super friendly. Hope to see you there!


Jennifer (Delicieux) May 2, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Hi Irvin,

I loved how you shared your baking flop! It is so brave of you to share this, I know when I have a baking flop I get discouraged and think of all the wonderful bakers, yourself included, who I imagine never have this problem, so it’s wonderful to see it even happens to the best.

Love the sangria cake by the way, what a wonderful idea and recipe. And congratulations again on your very well deserved nomination! Your honest and sharing and caring posts are the very reason you were nominated.


Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:33 am

Thank you so much Jennifer! I don’t really think of it as brave so much as honest. Not everything turns out great from my kitchen, and it’s all about learning from the mistakes made.


pickyin @ LifeIsGreat May 2, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I have my share of baking flops and considered sharing the stories. However all those times I would be either too sad or too pissed off to take photos and would instead be busy scheming of ways to get rid of the flop (eat it ASAP, pass it to someone, bin it??). This would have to change and I think putting the flops up front would help me pick myself up and go for the retry sooner.

Congratulations for the nomination, you deserve it!


Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:36 am

I actually rarely take pictures of my baking flops too. In fact, the reason there’s no picture of the cake WITHOUT fruit is that immediately went into “fix it” mode and started to pile fruit on it to see if I can cover up my mistake. But then I had the forethought to actually take a picture of the pan before I washed it.

I think I might start taking more pictures of the flops, because sometimes, no matter how sad or pissed I am, those mistakes are really how I learn in the kitchen. Thanks for the congrats!


Heather in SF May 3, 2011 at 1:42 am

Fun pictures Irvin, and congratulations on your nomination!


Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:37 am

Thanks Heather!


Jenni May 3, 2011 at 8:23 am

Yay, Ethan! Congrats on letting folks see behind the curtain to the less-than-successes that we all have. And Huge congrats for your well-deserved nomination for Best Baking and Dessert Blog!


Jenni May 4, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Would have been great had I actually called you Irvin. Good one, Jen. And again, huge congrats to you!


Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:38 am

Oh don’t worry about it! I’ve been called so many different names (Irving, Irwin, Aaron, Ethan, Kevin) I’m immune to it. I’ll take a congratulations regardless of the name you call me!


Patty May 3, 2011 at 10:22 am

LOVE the cake ¡que riquisima! Congrats too 🙂


Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:40 am

¡Mucho Gracias!


Phuoc'n Delicious May 3, 2011 at 10:34 pm

HAHA so you’re human after all!!! We all have our off days, but it’s good that you were able to bounce back on your feet and cover up the evidence 🙂 I had a similar incident with the bundt tin too when a chunk was stuck on the tin, so I covered it up with a chocolate ganache. The perfect crime… lol

Congrats once again! All the best 🙂


Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:42 am

Glaze, powdered sugar, ganache, frosting, icing. I’ve used them all. I’ve actually even resorted to slicing the cake and serving the slices on a serving platter! Ha. As long as it tastes good, no one will know the difference…

Thanks for the congrats!


Heather May 4, 2011 at 9:50 am

Congrats Irvin! Wish I lived closer so we could toast each other in person! You do a phenomenal job and I was so happy to find myself in the best of company!



Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:45 am

I am SO happy to be in the same company as you Heather. Everytime I visit Sprinkle Bakes you inspire me so, as does everyone else in out category. I don’t have to win to already feel like a winner! And perhaps one of these days we’ll meet and toast each other. Congrats to you!


erika May 4, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I love blood oranges! This looks fantastic-thanks for sharing


Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:52 am

thanks Erika. I love blood oranges too! I’m sad that the season is quickly ending. I’m eating them as fast as I can…


kellypea May 5, 2011 at 10:58 am

What a fun event, but what isn’t fun when it’s centered around food, right? I’m thinking the cake looks and sounds like a “hot mess” but as in hawt! I made an apple cake once that did the very same thing and I think that’s what made the dessert. Fabulous job!


Irvin May 6, 2011 at 1:53 am

thanks Kellypea. The event is actually super fun. I look forward to it each month. I will say that the second version of the cake turned out great, but everyone at the event totally enjoyed the first cake, so it couldn’t have been that bad. 😉

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La Diva Cucina May 1, 2014 at 2:08 pm

AWESOME idea, love the idea of a sangria cake. I often put my mistakes up, warts and all, especially when I’m doing a challenge as it humanizes me and the effort. People can become intimidated and I want them to relate, so it was humble of you to admit your mistake. I like the sangria glaze with the fruit in the middle instead of in the cake, nice save!


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