Tag Archives: boozy dessert


Marsala: Discover the Wine Behind the Color

When Pantone announced that the plummy-brown shade of Marsala would be their 2015 Color of the Year, everyone pounced. It’s made its mark on runways and the red carpet, from Beyoncé to Tilda Swinton, and we here at Heirloom Finds fell under its spell, too.

Marsala is way more than just a color. This robust and storied Sicilian wine has a history centuries old, and is making a comeback in restaurants and forward-thinking wine shops across America and beyond. Bloomberg Business reported early this year that “higher-grade vintages are displacing cooking-quality wine in stores and on shelves. Cocktail maestros such as Death & Co’s David Kaplan are experimenting with it as a new ingredient to add to their menus, and it’s slowly surfacing on high-end wine lists.”

Such fortified, often sweet sipping wines have fallen out of favor in recent decades, and they’ve never truly taken hold in America (they’re all but an institution in the U.K.), but they’re slowly making a comeback, and for good reason. They’re a wonderful final act for a multi-course dinner, either at home or at a restaurant. A small, chilled glass of the dryer styles also makes a wonderful aperitif and awakens the palate when served with nibbles like nuts or hard cheeses.


This fabulous wine inspired 2015′s color of the year!

Marsalas are classified according to their color and sweetness; unlike its Pantone namesake, marsala the wine varies in palate from gold to amber to ruby. Just stay away from the stuff sold with the cooking wines at the grocery store. And even if you don’t have access to a wide selection of marsalas, you can get a fairly decent bottle for all of seven to ten dollars.

Since marsala is a fortified wine, it keeps fairly well at room temperature once it’s opened. You can store it in your liquor cabinet (or, as I do, refrigerator, just so I remember it’s there) for three to four months with only a little flavor deterioration. That’s quite a few aperitifs and batches of zabaglione and chicken marsala.

But there are other ways to polish off a bottle. This splendid pound cake, made with olive oil and an entire cup of marsala, offers a complexity of flavor that easily trumps its buttery cousin, and only gets better as it ages a day or two.


Celebrate Marsala by baking an especially delicious pound cake.

Olive Oil and Marsala Pound Cake
Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert

Makes one standard tube pan or Bundt, or two 8 x 4-inch loaves.

I used marsala instead of medium-sweet sherry in baking doyenne Alice Medrich’s ingenious recipe (rush out and buy any one of her many excellent cookbooks – you can’t go wrong). Don’t balk at the olive oil, which adds a fruity element to this dense, fine-grained pound cake. You’ll need an electric mixer to make it. It freezes well, and keeps at room temperature for about four days. I like it with a dab of creme fraiche and a little fresh fruit.

3 cups (13.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon table salt
1-¾ cups granulated sugar
1 cup fruity, good-quality extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
5 large eggs, cold
1 cup marsala (we used Taylor, which is medium-sweet)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the center. Grease and flour one tube or Bundt pan, or two 8 x 4-inch loaf (4 cup) pans.

2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar, olive oil, and orange zest until blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl with a rubber spatula and continue to beat at high speed for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture is thick and pale. Stop the mixer and add a third of the flour mixture; mix on low speed until incorporated. Scrape down the bowl, add half of the marsala, and mix just until blended. Repeat with another third of the flour, followed by the remaining marsala, and then the remaining flour, stopping to scrape the bowl down each time.

4. Scrape the batter into the pan(s). Bake until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Set the cake(s) in their pans on wire racks to cool for 15 minutes, then unmold and set upright to cool completely. Well wrapped, the cake will keep for four days, or frozen for up to three months.


Delicious pound cake and tasty wine: what more could you ask for?


by Sara Bir


Ring in the New Year with Fizzy St-Germain Gelées

Gelees side view

This New Year’s Eve, try a fabulous alternative to the traditional Champagne toast.

Many of us welcome the new year with a Champagne toast, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. If you’d like your New Year’s Eve to get even bubblier, why not serve some gelées (that’s fancy for gelatin) made with sparkling wine? It’s a Jell-O shot gone upscale, yes, and it’s nifty to see how the fizzy sparkling wine lends a frozen-in-time effervescence to the gelatin.

These are far less boozy than the average gelatin shot, but if you prefer drinks on the sweeter side, you may be better off using Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider instead of the sparkling wine. Unlike the run-of-the-mill Jell-O shot, these don’t contain as much gelatin, so you’re best off serving them directly from small dessert glasses or Champagne flutes.

Gelees close up I

These delectable treats deliciously capture the effervescence of sparkling wine.

Fizzy St-Germain Gelées

Serves 6-8
Feel free to use the liqueur of your choice. Crème de Cassis or Chambord work well.

½ cup St-Germain (elderflower liqueur)
2 envelopes (2 tablespoons) unflavored gelatin
3-1/2 cups decent sparkling wine, divided
½ to 1 cup granulated sugar
¼ cup pomegranate seeds or other fresh fruit for garnish, optional

Gelees overhead

Fresh fruit garnishes give these delectable gelées festive flair.

Freeze six to eight wine glasses or Champagne flutes for 15 minutes (this will help the gelées retain their bubbles).

Meanwhile, sprinkle the gelatin over 1/2 cup St-Germain and set aside to let the gelatin granules swell.

Heat 1 cup of the sparkling wine in a medium saucepan over medium heat; do not allow to boil. Add the sugar and stir gently until all of the sugar is dissolved (use the full cup sugar for less boozy-tasting gelées). Add the softened gelatin mixture and stir until the gelatin is dissolved.

Gelees close up II

Refrigerate, serve and enjoy. Cheers!

This next step works best in a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup or large pitcher, because the sparkling wine will fizz up, and you don’t want it to spill over. Pour the warm gelatin into the pitcher and slowly add the remaining 2-1/2 cups of sparkling wine. Divide the mixture between the chilled glasses. Refrigerate the glasses for about half an hour, and then drop fresh fruit, if using, onto the surface of the gelées (some fruit will float; some will sink a bit). Refrigerate the gelées until completely set, about five hours. Gelées can be made up to two days in advance.

by Sara Bir


Light & Cool Sweet Wine Syllabub Recipe

wine syllabub photo

Here are a few things that are easier than making syllabub: sneezing, taking a nap, making instant pudding. Syllabub is way better than instant pudding, and way more grown-up. But, just like instant pudding, it requires no standing over a hot burner or turning on the oven. It’s boozy yet light and citrusy all at once, and it can even be made a few hours in advance.

The wine flavor should be strong, yet not overpowering; syllabub is a dessert, not a dessert cocktail. This old-time treat has British origins, dating back to at least the sixteenth century. Those early syllabubs contained much higher proportions of wine and were intended to separate so the froth could be served in a different glass alongside the liquid.

Syllabub also has deep roots in America’s South. Heirloom Finds’ co-founder Jeanne, who grew up in Georgia, recalls her mom’s syllabub pump. But you don’t need a goofy gadget to make syllabub. All you need is a bowl and a whisk, though an electric mixer is helpful. And if you avoid alcohol, there are still options for simple, cooling desserts. Try a fool, which likewise stars fruit and heavy cream.

picture of syllabub ingredients

All the makings of a light, summery syllabub!

Light and Summery Syllabub

Serves 6-8

We like to use Quady Electra white wine, made with orange muscat grapes. Preferably you should use a drinking-quality wine, one you’d be happy to sip on later, but you don’t need to splurge.

  • ½ plus 2 tablespoons sweet white wine
  • 1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Mariner (or just add an extra tablespoon of the sweet white wine)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • Finely grated zest of one lemon
  • Fresh fruit, such as blueberries and sliced strawberries, for serving
  1.  In a small bowl, whisk together the wine, orange liqueur (if using), and granulated sugar until the sugar dissolves.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the cream until it’s doubled in volume and has soft, but not stiff, peaks.
  3. Using a large rubber spatula, fold in the wine mixture and the lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
  4. To serve, spoon the syllabub into small glasses and garnish with fruit. Offer simple but good-quality butter cookies on the side, if you like.

By Sara Bir