This Grape Harvest Celebration Cake showcases a harvest of red grapes, hints of citrus, enriched with olive oil and glazed with honey and Grappa.
The Celebration Of Food
As you may have guessed by now, inspiration, for me, comes from so many different sources; seasons and holiday settings, farmers markets and my own garden.
Having grown up in a Mediterranean influenced home, and I say that because my mom was Syrian and many of her friends were Italian Greek and other Middle Eastern origins, food was a big deal!
I always said, throughout my life, that one day I would have fig trees, an herb de Provence herb garden, grape vines and a goat or two.
Well, to date, I have magnificent fig trees, a fabulous herb garden with a greenhouse to start seeds and dry herbs, three grape vines planted just this year… guess it’s time for the goats!
A Grape Harvest To Celebrate
Having visited a local vineyard, and seeing the abundance of grapes hanging heavily on the vine, like a mama about to go into labor, I knew laboring the harvest was about to begin.
When I asked if all 17 acres would be harvested by hand, I was told, yes, we harvest responsibly, and we are open to volunteers!
Mentioning this to hubby, he raised his hand and said ‘count me in’!
He also said, ‘we planted just three vines this year and I would like to learn more about the proper tending of the vines.’
And so, with the harvest of grapes in sight, that surely means that good local wines are on their way too!
Mediterranean Ingredients To Celebrate
While various regions around the world contribute to many remarkable cooking ingredients, the ancient world of Mediterranean regions simply are a gold mine of ingredients.
What would we do without our beloved olive oil, aromatic spices, intensely flavored citrus fruits as well as the flavors from their blossoms, and Grapes!
For this very festive grape harvest cake, we will rely on numerous ingredients from the Mediterranean areas.
Consequently, to make for a moist cake, rather than using melted butter for the fat, we will be using olive oil.
This use of good quality olive oil in sweet baked goods is a great way to add both a pale yellow color, and depth of flavor to this grape cake.
As opposed to masking the flavor of the grapes with lots of sugar and butter, as many cake recipes do, we are going to allow the essence of these grapes to be the star.
A Changing Of The Seasons
As summer nears its end, kids go back to school and the days become shorter, this changing of the season means different things to different people.
Often an Apple Picking Day is planned, should we live near an orchard, which is a great way to expose children to where luscious apples come from.
For others, a hayride and a trip to a local farm to select the pumpkins we will either cook with or decorate our home with.
Autumn Season Is For Grapes
But how many of us plan an outing to a local vineyard, even if you have no interest in wine?
This was my first year to visit a vineyard near my home, and it thrilled me with more enthusiasm than all the apple orchards or pumpkin patches I’ve visited in my lifetime!
Probably because I’ve been making Stuffed Grape Leaves all my life, and looking out onto endless rows of grape vines, the possibilities seemed endless.
I just wanted every leaf for myself!
Of course, a vineyard always indicates the ancient art of wine making.
However, it was the grapes themselves that tugged at my heart.
I will never pick up a bundle of grapes at the supermarket the same again, once I became aware of the intense labor that goes into their magnificent clusters.
A Vineyard To Harvest
While I only just visited my first vineyard this year, I remember several years ago, flying over a stunning vineyard in Sonoma County, California, that looked like a patchwork quilt from the plane, while landing in Santa Rosa to be featured on Guy’s Grocery Games.
I think in that moment, I fell in love with the majestic beauty of a vineyard.
It clearly marked the changing of the season, as the leaves became variegated in color as autumn had clearly arrived.
And yet, the grapes hung heavily in magnificent deep colors waiting to be picked.
A Simple Cake for A Harvest Festival
Maybe you have never been to a harvest festival that celebrates the hard work of growing grapes, but surely those involved in every aspect, welcome a festival celebration.
Planting grape vines, whether acres or simply a few vines in your backyard, require a dedication and knowledge, different from growing many other plants.
I know, because I put my first vines in the ground, back in early spring, not really knowing what I was doing.
But since, we are learning, and this visit to a local vineyard for tips on what we should be doing, offered inspiration.
When I took one look at their massive operation and was informed that almost nothing is done by machinery in caring for, and harvesting the vines, I knew exactly why harvest time needed a celebration cake, specifically made with the grapes!
What Goes Into This Grape Harvest Celebration Cake Recipe?
Often, a beautiful cake will rely on a fancy icing, for its appearance.
For this festive cake, we want to remember that it is served as a reminder to all who had some aspect of the hard work that went into the harvest of the grapes.
And so, for this reason, there is no icing.
This cake is specifically created to look rustic.
If you’ve ever visited a vineyard, not the winery, but the fields of vines, you are often in boots, arms covered and a hat to protect you from the sun; rustic!
There are grapes, baked across the top of the cake, and a glaze simmered with more grapes to be drizzled on, after the cake has baked.
Grappa – The Final Celebration Ingredient
What makes the final sprinkle of the grapes extra special, is that those grapes have been tossed briefly in a warm pan of olive oil, honey and Grappa.
Grappa is a unique liqueur distilled from the final remaining grape seeds, stalks and stems.
Basically the ‘trash’ that might otherwise have been discarded.
The flavor of Grappa is strong, however only a little is whisked with honey along with some of the sliced grapes to create a lovely glaze, as a final pour across the cake.
For me, this is symbolic of using every aspect of the grapes and honoring all the hard work that went into their ultimate production.
- 9-inch springform pan – this pan is my favorite springform pan and is non-stick.
- Parchment paper
- Small saute pan
- 2 mixing bowls (large and medium)
- Measuring cup and spoons
- Whisk or hand mixer
- All purpose flour
- Almond flour
- Baking powder
- Baking soda
- Ricotta or sour cream
- Orange – juice and zest
- Orange blossom water
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Unsalted butter
- Red seedless grapes
Grape Harvest Celebration Cake
- 9-inch Springform pan
- Small saute pan
- 1 1/2 cups All purpose flour
- 1/2 cup Almond flour
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 2 tsp Baking powder
- 1/2 tsp Baking soda
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 2 Large eggs room temperature
- 2/3 cup Ricotta or sour cream
- 1 tbsp Orange juice
- 1 tsp Orange zest
- 1/2 tsp Orange blossom water optional
- 1/4 cup Extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
- 1 tbsp Unsalted butter
- 2 cups Red seedless grapes
- 1/4 cup Honey
- 2 tbsp Grappa
- Preheat the oven to 350.
- Generously butter a 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle a little of the flour into the pan to dust bottom and sides of the pan. Shake out any excess flour. For extra assurance the cake will come out easily, or try this easy no-stick method using a parchment paper strip. (tutorial above)
- In a medium mixing bowl, whisk both flour, baking soda and powder, salt. Set aside.
- In a separate large bowl of an electric mixer or bowl with a whisk, whisk the eggs with 1/2 cup of sugar until light in color and slightly thick.
- Continue whisking while adding the ricotta, olive oil, zest and juice from the orange, along with the orange blossom water to the egg mixture.
- Whisk in the dry ingredients until well blended. The batter will be thick and dense, but remember more juice from the grapes will seep into the batter while baking.
- Transfer the batter into the prepared pan by spreading the batter with a wooden spoon.
- In a small saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil with 1 cup of halved grapes. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, remove and stud them on the top of the cake batter, skin side up.
- Bake until tester comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes.
- In the same sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil with remaining grapes that have been halved, honey and Grappa. Sauté for a minute or two. Remove and drizzle the liquid across the baked cake, along with the sautéed grapes. Cool and serve.