Cleopatra (Vineyard) Cake

Does your mom like wine?  Of course she does.  That is why you should probably make her this cleopatra/vineyard cake for Mother’s Day.

I’ve made my devotion to Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh no secret around here, exhibits: damn cake, tahini cookies and chocolate Krantz cakes.  I recently spent a very enjoyable afternoon going through their book Sweet cover to cover earmarking recipes to try.

Intruiged by a cake with grapes, their cleopatra cake was first on the list.

According to the authors, the recipe came from Mr. Ottonlenghi’s friend who found the original in Gourmet magazine.  Got and Ottonlenghi then adapted it for Valentine’s Day, coronated it Cleopatra cake (on account of the grapes that serve as jewels on this crown of a cake).

The grapes are a lovely addition, but this really is a wine-forward cake.  Like, WINE forward.  The recipe calls for a specific dessert wine called Carte Or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise.  I did a little research before I went hunting for it locally and while it seems well known in Europe (and a favorite of Nigella Lawson), it’s not as common in the U.S.

So, I substituted a nice muscat-based dessert wine.  One word of warning: if you decide to make this cake, be prepared to use the whole bottle.  I did not play close attention to the amount the recipe calls for when I bought the wine and was surprised when called to drain every last drop of the bottle into my measuring cup.

But, come on, your mom is worth it.  As I mentioned, this is a wine forward cake…kind of like your grandmother’s holiday rum cake.  It is rich, fragrant and very indulgent.  As such, a little goes a long way so this would be fantastic to bring to a Mother’s Day brunch.  As a bonus, because this cake is so fortified, it will stay fresh (nay, dare I say even get better) for a few days.

And happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there.  I raise a toast (wine, cake or both) to you all!

Cleopatra (Vineyard) Cake

Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh in Sweet

Ingredients

for cake

  • 4 C (500g) all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 2/3 C (300g) granulated sugar
  • 3/4 C (170g) unsalted butter, at room temp plus extra for greasing
  • 1/2 C (80ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • finely grated zest of 2 lemons (2 tsp)
  • finely grated zest of 1 orang (2 tsp)
  • scraped seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 C (450ml) Carte Or Muscat de Beaumes de Venise wine (or other dessert wine made from white grapes)
  • 3 1/2 ounces (100g) red grapes washed and halved lengthwise

for sugar crust topping

  • 5 TBS (70g) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1/3 C (70g) granulated sugar
  • 3 /12 ounces (100g) seedless red grapes, washed and halved lengthwise

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease and lightly flour a 10-inch round 4-inch deep angel food cake or chiffon pan, tapping away excess flour.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together into bowl and set aside.
  3. Place the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Add the butter, olive oil, lemon and orange zests and vanilla seeds and beat for two minutes on medium high until smooth and fluffy.  Add the eggs one-at-a-time beating well after each addition.
  4. Turn the speed to low and add a third of the flour mixture followed by half of the wine.  Repeat with the remaining flour and wine, finishing with the final third of flour and continuing to beat on low speed.  Once combined, pour into prepared cake pan and scatter the grapes evenly on the top.
  5. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes.
  6. To make the sugar topping (while cake is in the oven), place the butter and sugar in a small bowl and beat with a wooden spoon to form a thick paste.  When the cake has been in the oven for 20 minutes, quickly but gently remove it and dot the sugar crust evenly over the top, breaking it into small pieces as you go.  Scatter the grapes evenly over the top and return to oven.
  7. Lower oven temp to 350 degrees F.
  8. Bake cake for another 35-40 or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 30 minutes before removing from the pan.  The cake can either be served strait away or stored in an airtight container.