Torta della Vendemmia

 
Little known fact about food blogging: it can be fulfilling, fun, and creative, but also a bit lonely. Oh, I don't mean that it's eating-lunch by-yourself-in-the-high school-cafeteria-lonely, I just mean it can be sort of a solitary activity. Often, you find yourself dedicating a whole lot of time and energy to something that you're not 100% sure people are reading or enjoying (you hope they are, but who knows!) You're struggling to understand what makes some posts more popular than others, and if your recipes are doable for the typical busy home cook, all the while wondering if you're posting recipes people will get excited about and want to make. You're researching recipes, reading up on how to take better photos, trying to run all your social media, and hunting for ingredients like sour cream and marshmallows in Rome (just me?) among many other things. Indeed, having a food blog can mean doing a whole lot of work by yourself, which means it's extra nice when you connect with other bloggers who are probably doing the very same. 

I became friendly with Rosemarie Scavo (behind the excellent blog Turin Mamma and creator of this superb Sicilian Caponata) sometime last year. I felt a kinship with her instantly; like me, Rosemarie was relatively new to blogging, plus she has Italian roots (Calabrian and Sicilian), was raised in an English speaking country (Australia) and now lives in Italy (Turin). Not long ago, Rosemarie approached me with the idea of creating a group along with other bloggers who cook Italian food and have a connection to Italy. Super excited about the idea, I jumped on board along with 6 other ladies, and thus Cucina Conversations -- a sort of blogging round table where the 7 of us will come together each month to share an Italian recipe linked to a set theme -- was born. This monthly theme will always be connected to Italy and will reflect its seasonal, religious or secular calendars -- so expect Italian recipes for Christmas and Carnevale, meatless recipes for La Quaresima (Lent) and recipes and posts on the Italian aperitivo, to name just a few. The theme for our first round is la vendemmia, or rather the grape harvest in Italy, which usually occurs in late September. This isn't just any grape harvest, though -- these are the grapes that are used to make wine (VIP grapes, basically).

I am joined by the following bloggers (just click on their names to get to their blogs):

Rosemarie
 - a Sicilian and Calabrian descendant, author of the blog Turin Mamma, and writer for Italy Magazine, Rosemarie is sharing Sicilian grape must pudding for our first round of Cucina Conversations;

Marialuisa
 - the author of the blog Marmellata di Cipolle and residing in Calabria,  Marialuisa has made marmellata di zibbibo, a grape jam made with grapes from the Muscat family; 

Daniela
 - a blogger who shares her culinary experiences and recipes via La Dani Gourmet, born and raised in Milan and now residing in Tuscany, Daniela has shared a recipe for schiacciata con l'uva, a sweet focaccia like bread made with grapes;

Flavia
 - born in Washington, DC and now living in Texas, shares her passion for Italian recipes on her blog Flavia's Flavors, and will be sharing a recipe for ciambelline al vino (cookies made with wine);

Lisa
 - a New Zealander married to an Italian and living in France, Lisa writes about Italian cuisine and travel on her blog Italian Kiwi. Lisa
 will be sharing a recipe for sorbetto all'uva (grape sorbet); 

Carmen
 - an Italo/Australian (born in Piedmont, moved to Melbourne, Australia at the age of five) Carmen shares simple recipes, travels and anecdotes from her Italian family heritage, mainly from the regions of Basilicata & Sicily, via her blog The Heirloom Chronicles. Carmen has made salsa agresto (a sauce made with the juice of unripe grapes) for the first round of Cucina Conversations.

So, not only am I part of this cool little Italian food projectI also have six new bloggers to collaborate and dialogue with, bounce ideas off of, and learn from, plus six new guaranteed delicious recipes every month. AND they're all really nice. Not bad, right?!


My contribution for this month is torta della vendemmia, a fairly simple cake made with grapes. This recipe was quite a revelation for me, proving that grapes -- usually eaten plain as they are, occasionally roasted and used in savory dishes -- are actually delicious in desserts, as good as any berry or plum or peach. Indeed the grapes are the stars here; they become extra sweet and juicy in the oven, baked into a light and fluffy cake with hints of vanilla and orange that manages to both complement the grapes and let still let them shine. The olive oil here gives the cake a more subtle flavor than your usual simple butter cake, the yogurt keeps the cake moist, and oh, don't underestimate the last step, that spoonful of sugar over the top -- it might not seem like much, but it adds a pleasant sugary crust to the top of the cake that contrasts nicely with the tender interior, and also makes it look almost sparkly. Magical!

A couple of notes: If you want you can substitute lemon zest for the orange zest, or leave the zest out all together and use a dash of cinnamon instead. This cake was finished baking in 30 minutes, but I suspect that in a normal oven -- i.e, not a tiny electric oven like mine -- it would take closer to 40 or 45 minutes, so keep an eye on this torta as it cooks and use my cooking time as a mere suggestion. The grapes, stirred into the batter as are, become soft and juicy but also hold their shape a bit -- if you want to make them grapes extra sweet and give them a softer consistency, feel free to roast them (with about 1 teaspoon olive oil) for an hour in a 325 degree oven. Let them cool and then stir them into the cake batter. Finally, this is one of those simple, versatile "every day" cakes, which can be thrown together quickly and served for breakfast, snack, or dessert -- which I guess means you have an excuse to eat this cake 3 times in one day, right?

TORTA DELLA VENDEMMIA

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (about 195 grams) flour 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (75 grams) plus 1 tablespoon sugar, divided
1/3 cup (about 100 grams) plain whole milk yogurt
1/4 cup (56 grams) olive oil
4 tablespoons (56 grams) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing the pan
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (about 260 grams) seedless red grapes

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F and butter a 9-inch springform pan. In a large bowl, use electric beaters (or a standing mixer, if you have one) to beat the eggs with 2/3 cup of the sugar until pale and fluffy, about one minute. If you don't have beaters or a standing mixer, you can use a whisk, but you'll need to use some elbow grease. Add the milk, olive oil, melted butter, lemon zest, orange zest and vanilla to the butter-sugar mixture and beat (or whisk) until well combined. 
 
 
 
  
 
 
Mix the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a small bowl, then add to the sugar and egg mixture and mix on low speed with your beaters (or whisk in) until just combined (be careful not to overmix). Stir in 1-1/2 cups of the grapes. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Scatter the remaining grapes evenly over the top of the batter and sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top. 
 
 
 

Bake the cake for about 30-35 minutes (or more -- see my note above) until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for about 15 minutes and then unmold from the springform pan. Serve the cake warm or room temperature. Serves about 10. 
 

Recipe adapted www.onceuponachef.com with additional inspiration from Serious Eats and Giallo Zafferano


11 comments :

  1. Love, Love, Love this. Cant' wait to try.

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  2. Francesca, this cake is so inviting! And you're so right about the loneliness of blogging. xx

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  3. Happiness is indeed a piece of cake! Luca (my husband) wants me to make this ASAP! He loves fruit in cakes.

    Blogging can certainly be solitary at times but I'm grateful for the conections nad friendships I've made through it definitely. :)

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    1. Yes do make it and let me know how it goes over! Very grateful for the connections and friendships Ive made blogging too xo

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  4. What a lovely post Francesca and cake to celebrate not only la vendemmia, but also the start of our Cucina Conversations! Friendships and conversation, even if far and wide, make blogging worthwhile. Xx

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    1. Agreed!!! Ahaha and yes the beginning of Cucina Conversations definitely needed a little cake to celebrate!! :)

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  5. My mouth started watering when I read the description of the cake. I love the sparkly magic bit! :) I will have to try to make this. The idea of cooking the grapes whole is really interesting!

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  6. My mouth started watering when I read the description of the cake. I love the sparkly magic bit! :) I will have to try to make this. The idea of cooking the grapes whole is really interesting!

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    1. Yes I was a bit uncertain about grapes in a dessert, but they're actually delicious!!! I don't know why they're not used more often! I love the orange too, compliments the grapes perfectly :)

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