Come September, I prepare this cake often, taking advantage of whatever clusters of grapes I can find on our vines after harvesting. The original recipe was given to me by Rolando Beramendi at Italy’s fine Tuscan estate Capezzna, where this intriguing not-too-sweet cake appears frequently at the table during the fall harvest. Note that the cake is prepared with half butter and half olive oil, producing an unusually light and moist cake.
Equipment: One 9-inch (23-cm) springform pan
Butter and flour for preparing the cake pan 2 large eggs, at room temperature 2/3 cup (135 g) sugar 4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 g) unsalted butter, melted 1/4 cup (6 cl) extra-virgin olive oil 1/3 cup (8 cl) whole milk 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 1/2 cups (200 g) unbleached all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon baking powder A pinch of sea salt Grated zest (yellow peel) of 1 lemon Grated zest (orange peel) of 1 orange 10 ounces (300 g) small, fresh purple grapes (see above for varieties) Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C; gas mark 4/5).
2. Generously butter and flour the springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk, and vanilla extract, and mix until blended.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with flour. Spoon the mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.
5. Stir about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.
6. Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with remaining grapes. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes. Remove to rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve at room temperature, cut into thin wedges.
Grape cake is an ideal match for vin santo,the rich, smooth, aromatic sweet wine prepared in small quantities on many Italian estates.
In a purple haze
Over time, I have identified the mystery that discourages many shoppers from buying grapes: the inevitable hazy white film. Though one might understandably assume it’s due to a spray of pesticide, the film is in fact a natural substance produced by the grape. It acts as a protective covering to prevent moisture from penetrating the fruit. It also keeps the skin from cracking when the grape loses moisture. Even better, the film contains nothing toxic! You will find the same harmless film on plums.