Dicembre Dolce: Torta Ubriaca

chocolate cake

I love this cake for two reasons. First, it combines chocolate and red wine, two of my favorite ingredients. Second, the recipe was given to me by my friend Marta Carrozza.

Marta and her husband, Alessandro Maceroni, own Il Marchese del Grillo, a bed-and-breakfast in the heart of Sulmona. The small B & B has an open-air courtyard, four beautifully appointed rooms, and a terrace that boasts one of the best views of the city.

Sulmona roofs horizontal

Il Marchese is one of the places our Abruzzo Presto-Domenica Cooks culinary tour guests stayed in September. Everyone loved it, and much of that had to do with Marta. Every morning she greeted us on the terrace with cappuccino and her beautiful smile. The breakfast table was always set with a selection of homemade cakes and pastries, plus fresh fruit, cheeses and salumi.


One morning, Marta put out a simple but really good chocolate cake. It was made by her mother-in-law, who, together with Marta’s mother, bakes most of the breakfast pastries for the B & B. The cake was lightly glazed and had a light, tender crumb. The secret to that tender crumb? Red wine. I don’t normally eat cake for breakfast but it was impossible to resist this one (you can see it in the top left corner in the photo below).

il marchese breakfast

Marta sent me the recipe so that I could share it here on the blog. What better time than the holidays to post a recipe for a dessert called “Drunken Cake?” Also, it’s a wonderful recipe ~ easy to make and clever, too. It calls for melting together butter, sugar, chocolate and wine. Some of this chocolate sauce is mixed into the batter; the rest is poured over the cooled cake to glaze it.

As for the wine, I used Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, a dry red that I figured would nicely counter the sweetness of the cake and also complement the bittersweet chocolate. Plus it’s from Abruzzo.

I know many people are madly baking cookies right now. But if you are short on time and still want to put out something for company, think about this cake from the heart of Sulmona.

Makes 12 or more servings

Torta Ubriaca | Chocolate Cake with Red Wine

This cake combines red wine and chocolate, with excellent results. It has a rich chocolate flavor and a light, tender crumb. In a brilliant but also practical touch, the recipe calls for melting together butter, sugar, chocolate and red wine. Some of the sauce is mixed into the batter; the rest is set aside and then poured over the cooled cake to glaze it. This recipe is slightly adapted from Il Marchese del Grillo B&B in Sulmona, Abruzzo.


  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (300 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 packet lievito pane degli angeli or 2 teaspoons baking powder (see NOTES)
  • Pinch of fine salt
  • 1 1/3 cups (300 g) sugar
  • 1 cup (2 sticks/200 g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) dry red wine (I use Montepulciano d'Abruzzo)
  • 3 ounces (80 g) bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 packet powdered vanilla or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (see NOTES)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sunflower or vegetable oil
  • 4 large eggs


Heat the oven to 325 degrees F (160 degrees C). Butter and lightly flour a 10-inch Bundt pan (see NOTES).

Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt and set aside. Combine the sugar, butter, wine, chocolate and vanilla in the top of a double boiler or heavy-bottomed saucepan. Set over medium heat and cook, stirring often with a whisk until everything is melted together.

Set aside about 3/4 cup of the melted chocolate mixture and pour the rest into a large mixing bowl. Whisk in the oil and then the eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined. Pour in the flour mixture and whisk until well combined and no lumps remain.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Set the cake, in the pan, on a rack to cool for 30 minutes. Loosen the cake from the pan and invert it onto a rack to cool completely.

Transfer the cooled cake to a platter and drizzle the reserved chocolate sauce on top. At this point the sauce should be somewhat thick but still pourable. If you would like a thicker glaze, put it in the fridge for a bit before pouring it over the cake.

Lievito pane degli angeli is a vanilla-scented powdered leavening agent used in Italian baking. You may substitute 2 teaspoons baking powder.

Italian baking often calls for vanilla in powder form. It comes in small packets and can be found at many Italian groceries. You may substitute pure vanilla extract.

Although this recipe does not call for cocoa powder, you can use it to coat the inside of your Bundt pan in place of flour. This will prevent any light-colored streaks of flour on the surface of the baked cake once you take it out of the pan.

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32 Responses to Dicembre Dolce: Torta Ubriaca

  1. Rosa Jeanne Mayland December 8, 2014 at 11:16 am #

    A beautiful cake! Very tempting and luscious.



  2. Lana December 8, 2014 at 3:27 pm #

    Is it 2 sticks or 1/2 cup of butter?

    • Domenica Marchetti December 8, 2014 at 3:49 pm #

      Good catch, Lana. It is 2 sticks/1 cup/8 ounces of butter. I’ve fixed the recipe to reflect that.

  3. ameliaschaffner December 8, 2014 at 3:50 pm #

    Fantastica: sia la storia sia la torta. What wonderful combinations of flavors.

  4. cristina December 8, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    Like the chocolate and wine pairing in the cake. A couple of years ago, I tried making a choco/wine cake…had good flavor, but the texture wasn’t right so never went back to that recipe. I’m looking fwd to trying this one!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2014 at 6:27 pm #

      The texture of this one is so nice, Cristina. A light, tender crumb. Moist, too (I know a lot of people despise that word but I can’t think of a good sub).

  5. Adri Barr Crocetti December 8, 2014 at 3:58 pm #

    What a beautiful cake, and I bet the Montepulciano d’Abruzzo imparts a wonderful depth of flavor. I always love a good chocolate cake!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

      Yes, it’s hard to describe exactly the flavor that the wine imparts. My first thought when I tasted it was that it tasted “Italian.” It was a taste memory for me, i guess. Delicious at any rate!

  6. elisa December 8, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    This is the Italian “death by chocolate” cake! I have to make this one, it looks sooo good! I might also try it with dry Marsala wine.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2014 at 6:32 pm #

      Elisa, let me know how it turns out if you use Marsala. I imagine it would be good.

  7. ciaochowlinda December 8, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    What an interesting combo of ingredients. I’ve never seen a recipe for red wine with chocolate cake, but coming from you and Marta, it’s got to be delicious. Don’t you just love her b&b? I wish I were back there now, even in the cold weather.

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2014 at 6:33 pm #

      Linda, imagine the view from that rooftop terrace right now. Ringed by snow-capped mountains. It must be magical!

  8. bettyannquirino @Mango_Queen December 8, 2014 at 7:36 pm #

    Oh my goodness, this torta is unbelievable. It is gorgeous and I want to bake it right now. I just did your Torta di Mele and will share it with my readers. Can’t wait to try this recipe. Thanks, Domenica!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm #

      That’s lovely to hear, Betty Ann. I’d love for you to share the link in the comments section of that post, if you’d like, so folks can click over to your site. Cheers, D

  9. Barbara W December 8, 2014 at 8:47 pm #

    Wonderful memories of enjoying that cake–and all the breakfast offerings–on Marta’s terrace. Thanks for the great Aburzzo experience and bringing memories today of our time together!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2014 at 6:36 pm #

      I took a virtual/mental trip back myself as I was writing the post, Barb. Wonderful memories for sure!

  10. Laura (Tutti Dolci) December 8, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    What a beautiful cake and a special recipe. That B&B looks so charming!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2014 at 6:40 pm #

      Laura, it really is a lovely place, and Sulmona is a charming little city. I hope you get to explore Abruzzo one day. You would love the sweets.

  11. Frank Fariello December 9, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    This is the kind of thing I like to have for breakfast every so often, so I’ve clipped it to Evernote for future reference. Seems easy enough for a non-baker like myself. And I love the idea of combining red wine and chocolate. Can’t wait to try it!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2014 at 6:43 pm #

      Frank, do you find Evernote helpful/useful? I guess you do or you wouldn’t be using it. I sometimes (often) feel overwhelmed by all this new-fangled sharing/saving technology. I’d rather bake cake! Let me know if you try the recipe. It has a distinctly “Italian” flavor (see my comment above to Adri). Cheers, D

  12. Jamie December 9, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

    I have been looking for a good chocolate red wine cake for months so this is indeed the perfect Christmas gift! It is gorgeous! And any cake with a story and a special person behind is doubly delicious! Thank you and Marta both for sharing it with us!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 9, 2014 at 6:44 pm #

      Jamie, I know you and Marta would hit it off. Especially now since you, too, are (or about to be) in the hospitality business.

  13. Phyllis@Oracibo December 9, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

    There is always a bottle of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo open in our house…seems to have been waiting for this cake! Definitely a “must try”…thanks for the post!

  14. Karen December 10, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

    Ah, I could probably live on those two things – chocolate and wine must be elemental! What a beautiful and delicious looking cake. This looks like a keeper for our house, too. Thanks for the taste of Abruzzo.

  15. elisa December 14, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Domenica, I made the cake with dry Marsala wine. It was delicious! I say “it was” because is already gone. Buon Natale Domenica a te e alla tua famiglia!

  16. Chiara December 15, 2014 at 2:28 am #

    Il Montepulciano d’Abruzzo è uno dei miei vini preferiti ! Ho fatto anche io questo dolce ma ho usato un vino della mia zona il Terrano, la prossima volta seguo il tuo suggerimento ! Buona settimana Domenica !

  17. minchilli December 16, 2014 at 5:47 am #

    We had this cake in Bari a few weeks ago, and it was delicious. I would definitely substitute better vanilla for the powdered stuff they use in Italy. Don’t you find it tastes too fake?
    I’ve just linked to your recipe from my post on our meal in Bari, which will post next week. Thanks!!!

    • Domenica Marchetti December 16, 2014 at 8:22 am #

      You’re right about the vanilla. I guess it’s more about taste memory and nostalgia for me. I look forward to reading you post on Bari, Elizabeth. Thanks for linking. Buon Natale!

  18. italyonmymind December 23, 2014 at 4:24 am #

    I love this cake Domenica, and I love the breakfast spread in the photo. And I think cake is an ideal breakfast xx

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