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Happy Birthday Gennaro Contaldo!

Chocolate and red wine go well together, so what better way to combine them than in a cake? This cake is light, moist and simple to prepare. For a special occasion, coat with chocolate sauce and decorate with chocolate curls and a sprig of flowering rosemary. 

Chocolate and red wine cake

makes a 20cm/8in cake

200g/7oz butter, softened

250g/9oz caster sugar

4 eggs, beaten

25g/1oz cocoa powder

250g/9oz plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

100ml/3½fl oz red wine

½ tsp vanilla extract

150g/5oz dark chocolate drops


Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and lightly grease a loose-bottomed 20cm/8in cake tin.

Cream the butter and sugar together in a bowl, until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the eggs. Then sift in the cocoa, flour, baking powder and, cinnamon if using, and fold in. Mix in the red wine and vanilla, then fold in the chocolate.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 1 hour, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin, then carefully turn out. Coat with chocolate sauce (see below) and chocolate curls, if desired.

Chocolate topping

This lovely, rich chocolate sauce is ideal for covering cakes, as when cooled it sets, and goes quite hard. It can also be used to pour over ice cream or panna cotta. In both cases, use immediately after making, before it has a chance to set. If necessary, make a large batch and keep it for up to a week in the fridge; just place whatever quantity you need in a bowl set over a pan of hot water to melt before using.

makes enough to cover two cakes

120ml/4fl oz single cream

150g/5oz dark chocolate, broken up

1½ tsp cocoa powder

1½ tsp glucose syrup

25g/1oz butter

1 tbsp sugar

Place all the ingredients in a bowl set over a saucepan of hot water (make sure the bowl does not touch the water) and stir constantly until the chocolate has melted and the sauce has a smooth, silky consistency. Pour through a sieve, if necessary, to strain out any lumps of cocoa. Leave to cool slightly (only 1–2 minutes) before using to decorate the cake (above) or as you wish.

The featured recipe is from Passione: The Classic Italian Cookery Book by Gennaro Contaldo.