Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook

Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook is a unique and delicious cake with sherry and toasted pine nuts scattered throughout.

Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook |

There really is a story that culminated in my making this Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook in my kitchen. A trip to downtown Denver and the eventful meeting with Francis Mayes, the author of ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and real life heroine of her own story.

A couple of months ago I was invited to attend a launch party for a new wine brand. It would mean going downtown for an evening affair and I can’t tell you how much I hate parts of those adventures. I have no reservations admitting I love the suburbs.

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Why such love? Parking. Lots and lots and lots of free parking. Searching for a parking spot, worrying about meter time, PAYING for the time; it’s all just one big ugh in downtown Denver, so I pick my occasions very carefully and this was one invitation that won me over.

Now if I’m honest I just sort of glanced at the invitation. Denver Art Museum. Preview Party. Wines. All sounded good but the truth is that I did not really get the jist of this event until right before I headed down and re-read the invitation. Tuscan Sun wines? I recalled so fondly both the book and the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ and thought how charming that there are now some wines from the region. What did not register? That the author of that book is ALSO the party being honored as one of the owners of Tuscan Sun wines!

These are wines from the same folks about who that movie and book are written…oh my! The launch party was nice; filled with art and nice food and pretty people but it was the next event I was invited to that was really fun.

At the party I was asked if I would like to attend a smaller, more personal event at a new Pizza Republica the next evening. Again downtown. This time I was more eager. Maybe it was imagining that by rubbing shoulders with the books author and heroine that I would somehow be transported myself to a crazy life living in a crazy house in the hills of Tuscany?

Frances and Ed Mayes

Sadly, that did not happen but happily meeting the heroine of many of our dreams did. If  you see Diane Lane in your head when you think of Francis Mayes, you might be surprised at the real deal.

Tiny in stature and with short hair, there was not the physical resemblance you might expect but no matter; Francis simply exudes such sweetness, warmth and kindness and is, in a word, adorable.

When you hear her speak you are easily transported to that time and place and can see her living that riotous period in her life.

She has embraced Tuscany with her heart and soul and the love of the region and people are present in her speaking of them and equally so in her gorgeous book co-written with her husband Edward Mayes.

Sharing with us the stories about the region, the people and the food they love; all of it so special and yet so simple, prepared in season and with local goods. This might be a story of an entire country of locavores; what we consider unique is simply the Italian (at least the Tuscan) way of life.

Tuscan Sun Cookbook

Not just a recipe book at all but a story of their love of Tuscany; the people and the landscape and the food. And don’t forget the wine…oh the wine!

Francis shared with us the love she has for the wines of the Tuscan region and I’m not talking about any ‘big’ Tuscan wines but those grown and bottled locally and what the residents of the area bring out for dinner guests and friends.

Simple and un-fussy, those are the characteristics they wanted to share with the world with their launching of Tuscan Sun wines. I enjoyed the entire line (why yes I did taste them all) but like many my favorite is Tondo Tondo.

This gorgeous bottle holds the perfect elixir. Not too dry, certainly not too sweet, light on the tannins but still bold with fruit. I often designate a certain wine as my house wine and this is now it…and that means it’s also VERY affordable; as in the $10 bottle range.

While I certainly have enjoyed some of the Tondo Tondo with meals, it actually worked nicely serving it with a slice of this magnificent cake. Filled with ricotta cheese and pine nuts, the subtle cheese element held it’s own and I really enjoyed mixing these two.

Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook |

About this cake? Shared with us by Francis but from Bar Tuscher in a palazzo in Cortona run by Massimo and Daniela, it is a simple and yet simply delicious dessert. Vin santo wine is not widely distributed so I did a quick search and found that a dry sherry could be substituted. 

So lightly scented but so perfect. Rich without being heavy and just so Italian with the hint of wine and scattered with toasted pine nuts. I know…pine nuts are SO pricey but this uses only a small amount and seems the perfect splurge if you have the mind to pick up a few. I would substitute almonds in a heartbeat though if pine nuts aren’t in the budget.

Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook |

My dog is such a beggar and I am so bad; she usually gets a bite of everything. Not this time; each and every crumb was mine, all mine! I’ve included the recipe for this cake but this is such a lovely book, I do urge you to find it; the wines too. I can almost promise they will transport you to Tuscany too. Would you take me with you, please?

PIN ‘Wine Cake from the Tuscan Sun Cookbook’

Wine Cake with Sherry served on a white plate. From the Tuscan Sun Cookbook.
Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook |

Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook

A most unusual and delicious cake with sherry and toasted pine nuts scattered throughout. Especially delicious with a dessert wine.
No ratings yet
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Cakes, Cupcakes & Cheesecake, Desserts, Wine
Cuisine Italian
Servings 10 Servings
Calories 486 kcal


  • 1 ⅓ cup butter softened (additional to butter pan)
  • 1 ⅓ cups sugar
  • 1 ⅓ cups Ricotta whole milk
  • 3 large eggs room temperature
  • cup vin santo or dry Sherry
  • 1 ⅓ cups all purpose flour plus additional for the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts toasted
  • 2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar


  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and lightly flour a nonstick 9 inch springform pan or 10 inch tube pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine and beat the butter, sugar and ricotta until fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and then incorporate the vin santo.
  • Sift the flour and baking powder into a small bowl, then slowly and thoroughly beat them into the batter.Pour into the prepared pan.
  • Sprinkle the pine nuts on top and bake for 30 minutes, or until the cake is firm but springy to the touch and a promising aroma fills the air.
  • Cool before removing the cake from the pan. Sift Confectioner’s sugar over the top.




Nutrition Facts
Wine Cake from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook
Serving Size
1 Serving
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword Francis Mayes, italian, pine nuts, ricotta, wine cake
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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  1. I’m in love with that white plate with the raised design! Can you please tell me the maker and name of the design? Pretty please?

    1. I wish I could. I sold those sets years ago with an online business I ran but they are not marked and I just don’t recall the manufacturer. 🙁

  2. This cake sounds great! Trying wine in a cake is on my list for the week. 🙂 How are you enjoying the new home?

  3. Ah, Vin Santo is a favorite from when we lived in Italy. And I want to make this cake. Just as I started searching for cake recipes combining chocolate and red wine, this post popped into my in box and now I have to make this too. It looks moist and fabulous. And the cookbook is intriguing me…

    1. Love this cookbook Jamie; it’s just filled with Frances’ warm personality and some wonderful sounding dishes. Can’t wait to try more of them when I’m over being under the weather!

  4. I know exactly what you mean about going down town. I am living in Hong Kong now and traffic is absolutley a nightmare and the nearest parking spot is like a mile or so down the road. It is the first time in my life we do not own a car but have trains, buses and trams to haul us around so all is good. This cake is just stunning with wine and ricotta cheese and pine nuts it is like a little celebration of Italy in each bite.

    1. I could have taken light rail and a bus but then you double your traffic time so there is no good method. It has to be for something I will LOVE to make me make that trip. This was so worth it!

  5. Well now Barbara, if all this happened to me, I would have thought I’d died and gone to heaven! I have long admired the work of Frances Mayes and love her books! We follow each other on Twitter and she was kind enough to answer some questions for me in a virtual interview.

    Love your recipe here… I can imagine the wine and the cake go so well together. Beautiful post. Thanks.

    1. I felt just a bit guilty to have the pleasure of meeting Frances when she has SO many fans worldwide. Should I even tell you the book and a bottle of wine are signed? Too much? OK, never mind. :O

  6. What a fun post! I’m with you on parking — I hate it! We’ve often thought we should just ditch the car and use cabs — we’d probably save money because we drive very little (we literally walk more miles each year than we drive). But you really do need a car sometimes, and cabs can be so inconvenient (maybe Uber will eventually get to St. Louis). Anyway, sounds like a great wine, and this cake looks wonderful! Thanks so much.

  7. I Love this wine. I can’t wait to try making this cake. What an incredibly beautiful picture! Where is the teleport device when I need one.. to come eat the leftovers!

    1. Where did you find it? I couldn’t locate at two stores close to me and didn’t feel like traveling much but would LOVE to have some and make the ‘real deal.’ I know…I want you to teleport down. SOON!

  8. Wonderful post, Barb! Glad to hear you enjoyed an evening out– two in fact. It goes without saying that I’d enjoy the wine but this cake is a new idea for me using ricotta– looks beautiful and you’ve set the scene and table so nicely. I learn so much from your photos particularly how to get the background to strengthen the overall shot. I often just see my food on the plate and photograph it without thinking through setting the scene.

    1. It was a while ago but I did get downtown for an event last week. After paying the $18 tab for parking for two hours I did think I heard myself say, ‘WHY??’ This was special though. And much thanks for your kind comments. Like you I’m a work in progress but I will say this. Walking into the room next door to the kitchen to take photos versus packing everything and driving to my daughters and hauling it up to the 2nd floor? Beyond priceless! It gives me some time to think it through when for months I would just want to get a shot; any shot.

  9. I love recipes like this, especially when it’s Italian inspired with favorite ingredients like ricotta and pine nuts! Thx for sharing about this cookbook…pinning and making. 😉

  10. Maybe she looked like Diane Lane when her hair was longer and she was 15 years younger. I know I looked a bit different than I did in my 30’s. I’m hoping that when they do a story of my life Jennifer Lawrence will play me. Hey, a girl can hope. Anyway, back to reality, this cake looks moist and tender. Of course I love your gorgeous photo. You really can photography anything and make it look so inviting.

    1. They don’t look the same although that’s so typical of Hollywood isn’t it? I think Francis is cuter. 🙂 And thanks for the kind words about my photography although you know today it is making me chuckle a bit, right? 🙂

  11. Ah, Under the Tuscan Sun. I so loved that book, it was the first of its kind that I had read and it was responsible for changing my reading habits for years after, I fell in love with books of people moving to new places and their adventures. But Under the Tuscan Sun was the original and best for me (sadly I really didn’t like the movie). I love the sound of this cake and will make it for my friend who used to spend her summers in Italy. I must look out for both the book and the wine (guessing the wine isn’t available here).

    1. I LOVED this cake; more so than I expected. Lucky me; I can now actually eat a slice! Wish you could join me Jayne.

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