I have a soft spot for Italian baked goods. When I made this cake I could not stop looking at it. So simple and rustic looking with purple grapes buried in the cake surface with a light crackly crust of sugar. I could imagine it sitting on a table in Italy ready to be sliced and eaten. Italian cakes (Torta) are so different from English and American cakes. They tend to be simple in composition, but with a few basic ingredients the Italians seem to have cake baking down to a fine art. This cake is also called Winemakers cake.
You can see how this cake would have evolved. Here’s my educated guess.
An Italian housewife - lets call her Lucia, is in her kitchen drinking a glass of wine… and half heartedly baking a cake. She’s got her feet up on the table and she’s just kicking back. She’s supposed to be working hard making the dinner here, to impress her handsome young husband, not lounging about drinking wine.
Raimondo strides in the door with his sleeves rolled up from working hard in the vineyard outside. He’s been pruning the vines. Glistening with sweat he’s been toiling in the hot Italian sun.
"Lucia!" he calls out in a deep baritone voice.
Lucia glances around quickly. She knows if Raimondo sees her drinking the wine she is going to be in serious trouble. She tips her wine into the cake batter to hide it from Raimondo. Raimondo doesn’t notice. She bakes the cake hoping like mad that it’s going to work and discovers she’s created a masterpiece. Raimondo and Lucia live happily ever after and have sixteen children.
This beautiful torta has a very unexpected flavour. You bite into it and your first thought is “WOW! That’s good cake!” There is something about this that just works. Deceptively plain looking, there is nothing plain about the flavour of this cake. Next time you open a bottle of nice white wine, make sure you set aside a little to make this cake. There is also a chocolate version with red wine. Seriously, you have to try this.
No amusing anecdotes today - just make the cake ok? Do it.
Torta al Vino with Grapes
recipe adapted from
Note: I adjusted the sugar upwards because I used a Sauvignon Blanc and the recipe calls for a sweet white wine.
- 1-1/2 cups flour
- 1-1/2 tspns baking powder
- 1/2 tspn baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- 100 grams unsalted butter (softened)
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 Tblspn olive oil
- 1 tspn vanilla extract
- 1 Tblspn lemon or orange zest
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 2 cups red seedless grapes
Added during baking time:
- 2 Tbspns butter, in small pieces
- 1 Tblspn sugar for sprinkling
Preheat your oven to 180C/350F. Grease the sides and line the base of a 22cm/9 inch spring-form pan with parchment.
Sift together your flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt - set aside.
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add in your eggs one at a time and beat until well incorporated.
Add in your olive oil, vanilla and zest and beat until light and smooth.
Now add in your dry ingredients in thirds alternately with the wine, mixing until they are well blended. The baking soda will fizz a teeny bit as it mixes with the wine. Pour into the prepared pan.
Toss 1 cup of your grapes in a tspn of flour. Sprinkle them over the top of your cake, don’t worry about pushing them into the batter, they will sink as the cake cooks.
Cook for 25 minutes until the top of the cake is just set. Open the oven and carefully place the remaining grapes on the top of the cake, sprinkle with the remaining 1 T of sugar and dot with the 2 T of butter that you have left.
Cook for a further 25-30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Cool in the pan for a few minutes before removing the springform sides.
Eat the cake - have another slice.
Think of Lucia and Raimondo - Ciao!