A most unusual and delicious cake with sherry and toasted pine nuts scattered throughout. Especially delicious with a dessert wine.
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 that. I have no reservations admitting I love the suburbs. 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?
They 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.
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.
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 want 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.
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.
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 from The Tuscan Sun Cookbook
- 1 cup 2 sticks plus 5 Tbsp unsalted butter softened (additional to butter pan)
- 1 ⅓ cups sugar
- 1 ⅓ cups whole milk Ricotta
- 3 eggs
- ⅓ cup vin santo or dry Sherry
- 1 ⅓ cups all purpose flour plus additional for the pan
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 Tbsp pine nuts toasted
- 1 to 2 Tbsp 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.