Wine friendship cake

By: ToC creative cooking team

In May 2012 the Taste of Croatia team held a workshop at Dalmatia Wine Expo in Makarska, the most charming wine event in Croatia. We gave ourselves quite a culinary challenge by pairing strong, full bodied Plavac Mali wines with a dessert we designed especially for these feral beasts in the glass.

We served 2009 Saints Hills Dingač, 2009 Duboković Medvjedica, 2009 Mrgudić Bura and 2009 Mrgudić Mare Postup, all with alcohol exceeding 15%. But the wildest beast of the bunch was the 2011 Dingač 3A+ Tradition, whose alcohol content soars at 17.5%. This very enjoyable wine, which reminded us of a great ruby Porto, is made by our friend Alenko Radović, who was delighted to send us a sample bottle.

Massive Plavac Mali wines are not exception in Pelješac
Massive Plavac Mali wines are not exception in Pelješac

It is true, wines with alcohol above 13,5% are lately not very popular on the global wine market. If one would try, heaven forbid, to artificially decrease the alcohol level of these authentic Dalmatians, it wouldn’t be the same wine; it wouldn’t tell the story of the sun-bathed isle of Hvar, the Kaštela hinterland or the southern slopes of Pelješac. The “heat” in the bottle is a natural consequence of locale, and this should be respected.

With this workshop we wanted to give to these authentic Dalmatian wines a completely new role in gastronomy, to show that they can be successfully paired with carefully designed desserts even if they are bone dry.

Taste of Croatia workshop on Dalmatia Wine Expo 2012
Taste of Croatia workshop on Dalmatia Wine Expo 2012

Many experienced sommeliers will tell you that dry wines and desserts are not a perfect couple. Physiology of our taste buds is such that if you drink a dry wine AFTER something sweet, the wine will be perceived as unpleasantly tart. In that case the dish penalizes the wine and that should be avoided. If the same wine was tasted BEFORE the dessert, this tartness wouldn’t appear.

Without going too much into the theory of food and wine pairing, we will explain the trick. It is possible to smooth out that sugar-induced-tartness if the wine has a persistent aftertaste AND is abundant in polyalcohols (like glycerol), which give a rounder, softer, mellower mouth-feel. All the above mentioned wines satisfied these two conditions and paired very well (at least this is what we heard from 24 participants of our workshop) with a cake Taste of Croatia team designed especially  for them.

Here is detailed step by step recipe.

After few iterations, Manjada, Darko from Vinske Priče and Eno-gastro-mama finally agreed upon this recipe. Just for the record, we used two secret weapons in the cake: an aromatic sauce and olive oil to fight back high alcohols and rough tannins, very common in all Plavac Mali wines.

wine friendship cake soaked with infusion and olive oil
To smooth out the tannins cake is soaked in aromatic herbs infusion and sprinkled with extravirgin olive oil


1 L            Plavac Mali (use an entry level bottle)
175 g        dried plums
175 g        dried figs
1 branch  rosemary (7 cm length)
6 leaves   wild sage
4 tsp        dry comestible lavender (Provence variety, if possible)
80 g         flour
100 g       carob flour
30 g         cocoa powder
½ tsp      salt
3             eggs
90 g        sugar
200 g      butter
150 g      60% dark chocolate
1 dcl        extra virgin olive oil

Take a large pan and put it on high heat. When the pan is well heated, pour the wine inside. In that way alcohol will immediately start to evaporate and time needed for reduction will be shorter. Reduce the wine to 1/3 of the initial volume.

aromatic herbs infusion

When the wine has been reduced, turn off the heat and add all aromatic herbs. Leave it for 15 minutes until the liquid cools down. You’ll get a very aromatic infusion. In the meantime, cut dried figs and plums in 5-10 mm chunks.

cutting dried figs and dried plums

Pass the infusion through a sieve. Then add the figs and ½ of the plums. Leave for two hours to marinate.

soaking figs and plums

When the figs and plums are soft and have absorbed the liquid, again pass everything through a sieve. Leave it to strain. Do not squeeze the fruits, gravity will do the job! In that way you’ll get around 2 dcl of thick sauce aromatized with everything that was in the infusion. Save it, this is the aromatic sauce you’ll need for soaking the cake at the end.

straining the fruits

Sift wheat flour, then carob flour and cocoa powder. Add ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix and reserve.

wheat flour, carob flour, cacao

Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave. Prepare beurre blanc: add 1 teaspoon of water to butter cubes, heat everything and mix until it melts but be careful. It should not boil, beurre blanc should remain white. In a blender mix 1/3 of beurre blanc with ½ of dried plums.

blending beurre blanc and dried plums

Add sugar to eggs and mix with electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture becomes light yellow (about 3 minutes).

beating the eggs

Add ½ of solid ingredients (flour, cocoa, carob…) in the egg mixture, add beurre blanc and beurre blanc with plums. Mix constantly at low speed.

the dough is almost ready

Add the remaining solid ingredients (don’t forget the drunken fruits!) and melted chocolate at the end. The dough is ready!

mix in the fruits

Put the dough in a baking mold coated with baking paper. The mixture will be quite stiff; flatten it out with a spatula. Bake for 45 min at 170 C (without the ventilator). At the end of the baking time pierce the cake with a toothpick. You’ll know that the cake is ready when the dough doesn’t stick to it.

flat out the dough surface with spatula

While the cake is still warm, spread the aromatic sauce on it with a kitchen brush. Repeat. Leave the cake to cool down.

wine friendship cake after the oven

Serve one 5×5 cm cube on each plate. This is more than enough, the cake is very filling! Add two spoons of the aromatic sauce and a few drops of olive oil. Garnish with a few rosemary and sage green leaves and flowers.

Enjoy, and let us know how you like the cake. As ingredients (herbs, carob, plums...) of the cake were chosen to match the aromatic profile of Plavac Mali wines, it will work best with this emblematic Pelješac red wine. By changing a bit the aromatic part, this cake could be modified to pair with any thick, tannic and alcoholic red wine from southern latitudes.