With my aunt and uncle from Germany in town, I thought I'd bake some of these individual wine cakes with grapes for a family Kaffeetrinken one recent winter afternoon. It's a recipe that I've been meaning to try out ever since I read it in an issue of Gourmet two years ago--it sounded marvelous--but then I don't know what happened, and here I am two years later, finally getting around to it. Actually, I know what happened. My stacks and stacks of dog-eared and book-marked Gourmet magazines attest loudly that I was facing an onslaught of too many interesting recipes to try and not enough time. Isn't that how it often goes? With hard copies of Gourmet no longer being produced (sadness!), I now at least have some respite from a monthly subscription to catch up on the cooking. (I've also vowed not to buy any cookbooks--at least until I try every single one of those marked recipes!)
If anyone remembers the January 2009 issue, it was a stunningly beautiful spread of Italian dishes, from gorgeous spaghetti and meatballs to sauteed broccoli rabe and risottos. Included was a recipe for these cakelets, a perfect, not-too-sweet ending to an Italian meal. It sounded like it would be just the thing for a German Kaffeetrinken as well. And it was! Though it originally calls for vin santo (an Italian dessert wine), this recipe also works wonderfully with a nice sweet moscato, something that is more easily found in stores around here (and is more affordable, to boot).
It was so nice sitting around the table, reunited after not seeing each other for so long, catching up on how the various cousins and second cousins are doing, getting bits of news from the mother country. Chit-chatting in German about little daily matters and enjoying a restful late afternoon together over cake. Discussing the best way to cook schnitzel, the relative merits of German autos, my cousin's hunt for an apartment in Nürnberg. Times like these come rarely, but when they do, I am all the more grateful for them. They are a welcome break from the daily pattern of Southern California life, reminding me that life is not just about "me," but rather that I belong to a tapestry of family that extends around the world and back into centuries past. Reconnecting with family like this brings back to mind what is important in life. It doesn't hurt that there's cake on the table, either!
Wine Cakes with Grapes
Recipe from Gourmet, January 2009
Makes 6-12 individual cakes, depending on size
1 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
2/3 cup Moscato or other sweet wine
1 1/4 cups seedless red grapes (7 ounces)
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Generously butter muffin cups (a jumbo pan with 6-8 oz. cups or a regular pan with 12-4 oz. cups) and dust with flour, knocking out excess.
In one bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, beat butter with 2/3 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in orange zest.
Add flour mixture in 2 batches alternately with wine, beginning and ending with flour and mixing until just incorporated.
Toss grapes with remaining tablespoon flour, then fold into batter.
Divide batter among muffin cups. Sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Bake until golden and springy to the touch (18-20 minutes for jumbo cups and about 15 minutes for regular cups). Cool in pan 5 minutes, then loosen with a knife and remove. Serve warm or at room temperature.