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A Classic Recipe from Carolyn Wente to Celebrate National Chocolate Cake Day

Alisha Sommer


National Chocolate Cake Day is upon us, so we thought we’d share with you a classic recipe from “Sharing the Vineyard Table: A Celebration of Wine and Food from the Wente Vineyards Restaurant.” Originally published 20 years ago, the cookbook was a collaboration between 3rd-Generation Winegrower Carolyn Wente and the chef of the Wente Vineyards Restaurant.

This past summer, the Wente Vineyards Restaurant reopened as the Wente Vineyards Tasting Lounge. Just like the restaurant before it, the Tasting Lounge continues its commitment to featuring Livermore Valley Wine Country cuisine using ingredients at their peak that is sustainably and organically grown. Driven by the desire to create a unique and warm atmosphere for social connection, our elevated wine country cuisine menu will emphasize seasonality and shareable plates, large and small, that pair seamlessly with our award-winning selection of wines.

Port Square

As an homage to the past and the future, here’s a delicious recipe for Carolyn Wente’s Chocolate, Almond and Citrus Cake. Per Carolyn’s notes, this cake pairs well with a nutty tawny port, but we also think our Wente Vineyards Petite Sirah Port would be a delicious pairing too.

From the cookbook:

“Living in Northern California, I get a little citrus happy in the winter. This is one of my favorite cakes—it’s rich, yet the citrus really keeps it light. It is a variation of a recipe that I learned from Bo Friberg, my pastry instructor at the California Culinary Academy. You can substitute different nuts or play with other types of citrus and still have great results. The ground almonds replace flour in this recipe.”

Chocolate, Almond, and Citrus Cake

Wente Foil


2 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs

1½ cups whole almonds

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 pound semisweet chocolate, grated

2 teaspoons finely chopped lemon zest

2 teaspoons orange zest

2 teaspoons grapefruit zest

8 eggs, separated

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon almond extract

1 orange, separated into segments

1 grapefruit, separated into segments

Sweetened whipped cream, for garnish


  • Butter a 10-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the bottom again and sprinkle the bottom and sides with a thin coating of the fine bread crumbs. Shake out any excess.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • In a food processor or blender, grind the almonds very fine. In a bowl, combine the nuts, sugar, chocolate, citrus zests, egg yolks, vanilla, and almond extract.
  • Beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks. Fold one-fifth of the whites into the coholate-nut mixture. Add this mixture back into the egg whites and quickly fold it in. This technique helps to combine the heavy and light ingredients quickly without breaking down the eggs white. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until set. The cake is done when it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and there is no wiggle in the center.
  • Remove from the oven and cool a bit. While still warm, turn the cake out of the baking pan onto a plate and then back onto the cooling rack. Let it cool completely before serving. It’s best to let the cake cool all day or overnight so that the chocolate gets nice and hard.
  • Serve each slice with a couple of segments each of orange and grapefruit and a dollop of lightly sweetened whipped cream.