Lemon Cake with Creamy Wine Frosting and Grapes

There was a time in my life when I used to swear I’d never drink. I couldn’t imagine why would anyone want to slowly ruin their liver and willingly accept premature wrinkles and dark circles under their eyes when they didn’t need to. Then I got older, got married and had kids and many of those I’ll never/I’d never resolutions flew right out of the window. Life has a way of teaching you, that’s all I say.

So this post will be my little tribute to wine, my “how do I love thee” poem, My Ode to Joy that wine brings to my life. These days I think wine is just plain awesome and there is not much it can’t do. Let’s see: It makes us feel beautiful. Happy. Loving. Fearless. (And stupid, but that’s only when you don’t know when to stop.)

But mostly, at least in my case, it just helps us relax and let go. They say wine improves with age, well, I improve with wine. Pretty much every day I run around like a crazy woman all day, trying to be everything for everybody, and no matter how hard I try, I never seem to juggle it all. Either I’m loving and my house is a mess, or the house is spotless, I checked all the boxes in my to-do list for the day, and I even made a delicious three course dinner, but no one actually wants to sit down at the table with me and eat it, because I reached my limit, yelled at everybody around, and now they’re all hiding in the trenches.

But wine makes everything miraculously better. Half a glass is all it takes, and suddenly I don’t care all that much. I haven’t mopped in two weeks? So what. Nobody’s coming over, nobody will know. Whatever. My boys love it when their mother is in the state of whatever. It means nobody is harping at them for leaving socks all over the house or wanting them to get rid of the empty toilet paper roll that’s been living its sad and lonely life on the floor of their bathroom for the past ten days. (Parents, please, explain this one to me if you can. I.just.don’t.get it. Some time ago I even conducted a little experiment entitled “How long can a toilet paper roll stay on the bathroom floor”? After a month a reached the conclusion that somehow they just must not see it. I sighed heavily, picked it up, threw it away,and poured myself a glass. This too shall pass.)

I love cooking with wine and pour it in everything from hearty vegetable soups, risotto, to meat gravy and pasta sauces, but I’ve never tried to use it in a dessert. Until now. When I was stirring  the wine crème that was supposed to be a base for the frosting, I wasn’t sure how it’d turn out, but luckily it all worked out pretty well in the end. The yellow cake has a hint of  lemon in it, and together with creamy wine frosting and sweet fresh grapes it created a lovely cake: Light, fruity, and summery. Make it, and then pour yourself some wine, go sit in the sun, and have a slice. Cheers! Life is good, and wine and cakes make it even better.

Wine-grape cake

Lemon Cake with Creamy Wine Frosting and Grapes

For each of the two layers:
  •  4 medium eggs
  • 3 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
  • 135 g (5 oz.) all-purpose flour
  • 70 g (2.5 oz.) cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • pinch salt
  • 6 tablespoons Limoncello liqueur
Filling:
  •  500 ml (2 cups) white wine
  • 1 ½ cups white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 40 g (3 tablespoons) cornstarch
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 400 ml (13 oz.) heavy whipping cream
  • 10 g (1 ½ packets) Knox unflavored gelatin

+ 2 lb. mixed seedless grapes, preferably small, or cut in half; powdered sugar

Wine-grape cake 2

Method:
  1. To make each of the cake layers: Preheat the oven to 350 °F (175 °C). Line an 9×13” baking pan with parchment paper. (I used a cake pan with removable bottom, slightly bigger than 9×13).
  2. With the mixer on high speed, cream eggs with sugar for about 5 minutes until light yellow and thick. Gradually add hot water and continue whipping. Add lemon juice, lemon zest, and vanilla.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients, and carefully combine them with the egg-sugar mixture. Use a spatula and be sure not to deflate the eggs. Pour the batter into a prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes, until the top springs back when touched.Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack and let cool completely.
  4. Make the second layer in the same way.
  5. To prepare the creamy wine filling: Mix gelatin powder with ¼ cup water and set aside to “bloom”.
  6. Combine 400 ml (13 oz.) white wine, sugar, and vanilla. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
  7. Meanwhile whisk cornstarch, egg yolks, and remaining wine together. Add couple of tablespoons of hot wine/sugar mixture to temper the yolk mixture, and then pour it into the sweetened wine in the pan. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for about 5 minutes.
  8. Dissolve the bloomed gelatin in a hot pudding, stirring vigorously. Cool the pudding – gelatin mixture, stirring occasionally. While the pudding is cooling, wash and cut the grapes, and set aside.
  9. Line your pan with clean sheet of parchment paper, and place first cake layer in. Sprinkle the cake with 3 tablespoons of lemon liqueur.
  10. When the mixture is cool and starting to set, whip heavy cream with 3 tablespoons powdered sugar until soft peaks form, and mixing lightly with a spatula, carefully combine it with the pudding. Mix in the grapes.
  11. Spoon the filling onto a cake, smooth it out, and place the second layer on top, pressing lightly. Sprinkle the top cake layer with remaining lemon liqueur. Chill the cake until the creamy wine filling is set, at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  12. When ready to serve, sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar and decorate it with grapes.
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