Valentines: A Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Essence of Orange & Cinnamon

For the last several years my in-laws have gifted us a subscription to the magazine, La Cucina Italiana.  I love receiving, browsing and drooling over the pictures and recipes each month.  However, I’ve never cooked or baked anything from it.  That is until right before Christmas and our January/February issue came to the door with the title “Italy’s best desserts” and a picture of a red wine chocolate cake on the front.  

For some reason I had to bake that cake and I did.  

It didn’t take too much effort and the result was really great.  I added a few extras to give it a little somethin’ somethin’: cinnamon and orange zest.  And by simply adding the two extra ingredients the flavor dynamic crossed borders into Spain.  

This recipe is taken from the magazine and adapted from Francine Degan.

It was a total hit over our Christmas holiday.  That said I think it’s the perfect Valentine chocolate treat!


1Tbls of unsalted butter
1 1/2C of all-purpose flour
1Tbls of baking powder
1tsp of ground cinnamon
1/2tsp of kosher salt
1C (or 2 sticks) of butter, unsalted
1 1/4C of granulated sugar
3 large eggs, separated into 2 containers: yolks - small & whites - a large mixing bowl 
5 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate, finely grated or shaved (see tips for cacao % & type)
1Tbls orange zest
1C dry red wine
1-2Tbls of cocoa powder, optional
*Heat oven to 350F


Prepare a 9x3” springform pan buttering both the bottom and all the way up the sides with 3/4 of the tablespoon of butter.  Then line the bottom of it with a round of parchment paper. Use the remaining 1/4 Tbls to finish buttering the parchment round.  

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a large bowl then set aside.  With either a Kitchen Aid or bowl and beater, beat 1C of butter and 1/2C of sugar until incorporated; light and fluffy.  Add each egg yolk separately; beating gently to incorporate in to butter/sugar mixture.  Stop and scrape down bowl as necessary.  

Add chocolate and orange zest,  beat until just combined.  To this add both wine and flour mixture in 3 different increments. Set aside.

Take your egg whites and begin to beat (either clean or an additional set of beaters needed) them on medium until soft peaks form.  While beating gradually add the remaining 3/4C sugar until the soft peaks become firm and glossing = hard peak.

With a large spatula begin folding the whites into the chocolate batter.  Continue folding the whites into the batter until no white remains.  

Immediately pour into prepared springform pan.  Smooth the top with an off-set spatula, place into preheated oven.

Bake up to 45 minutes checking at 15 minute intervals.  Cake is done when a small skewer is inserted into the center and comes out clean.

Take out of oven and place on a baking rack to cool.  When cool release from pan, remove parchment paper and place on decorative plate. 

Garnish with cocoa by gently shaking it over the cake through a small mesh sieve.  

Serve at your leisure. Serves up to 8 people generously. 

Tips and Techniques

Use a semisweet chocolate with up to 82% cacao. I used 62% and it worked out just fine.
Use a good quality chocolate like Scharffen Berger which is what I used.  If that isn’t in your price range then Ghiradelli works great too.  
This cake is great for a light dessert or for an afternoon pick-me-up with coffee and/or tea.
This cake has a good shelf life. I had it on the counter for 1 week wrapped gently with plastic wrap and it lasted exceptionally well.
You have your choice of any number of garnishes; sky’s the limit - you choose! But here’s a few to get you started: chocolate sauce, caramel, whipped cream, fresh berries etc…