I came up with this recipe after one of my trips to Italy during which I discovered the appeal of cooked grapes. In this cake, the grapes stay whole, but soften into juicy, ruby orbs.
And with the cake: A simple sauce. But don't let the simplicity fool you. This is seriously good sauce. People will think you have pulled out a double boiler (and all the stops) to make custard. Not true: The sauce consists only of mascarpone and lemon curd, whipped together.
However, when a recipe contains only two ingredients, those ingredients must count, so use the very best lemon curd you can make or purchase. Premium lemon curd is pale yellow, not the color of a school bus. It is often found on grocery shelves with other premium food rather than with peanut butter and jelly.
This dessert is particularly well-suited to brunch. I like to serve it with the rest of the bottle of Moscato.
Fresh Grape Cake with Luscious Lemon Sauce
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon Fiori di Sicilia or vanilla extract
1 cup sweet Moscato or other citrusy white dessert wine
1 1/2 cups red seedless grapes
Luscious Lemon Sauce, for serving (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Brush the inside of a 10-inch light-colored metal springform pan with olive oil. (A dark metal or nonstick pan makes the cake crust too dark and thick.) Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and then brush the parchment with olive oil.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl.
Combine 3/4 cup of the sugar, 6 tablespoons of the butter, and the oil in a large bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Quickly beat in the lemon zest, orange zest, and extract.
Add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with half of the wine, beating only until the batter is smooth after each addition.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the grapes over the top of the batter. (The grapes will sink as the cake bakes.)
Bake until the top is just set, about 20 minutes. Dot the top of the cake with the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar. Continue baking until the top of the cake is golden and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes more.
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes before removing the pan rim. Serve the cake slightly warm or at room temperature topped with a generous spoonful of Luscious Lemon Sauce.
Luscious Lemon Sauce
Makes about 2 cups
1 cup lemon curd
1 (8-ounce) container mascarpone
Whisk together the lemon curd and mascarpone in a small bowl until very smooth and creamy. Serve at room temperature.
Make-ahead note: Store covered and refrigerated for up to one week. Return to room temperature and stir well before serving.
Sheri Castle is an award-winning food writer, recipe developer, recipe tester, and culinary instructor. She is the author of The New Southern Garden Cookbook: Recipes for Enjoying the Best from Homegrown Gardens, Farmers' Markets, Roadside Stands and CSA Farm Boxes. Sheri is known for melding storytelling, humor, and culinary expertise, so she can tell a tale while making a memorable meal. She hails from the Blue Ridge Mountains but now lives in Chapel Hill, NC with her husband, daughter, and beloved dog. She is fueled by farmers' market fare and excellent bourbon. Check her out at www.shericastle.com.
(Images: Faith Durand)