Spring Time in Napa

Spring is finally here and it is green every where with bits of yellow mustard between the vines. This is the time the valley starts to wake-up after a quiet winter. If you've not been here in the winter it is beautiful and serene. Although I'm still not quite used to having the landscape green in the winter and brown in the summer, except for the vines that is.

Hopefully you will be able to make your way back to enjoy Napa soon. To help you plan I've created a 4 day cooking class that covers what you may have missed on previous visits to Napa- a behind the scenes tour of restaurant gardens and a few of my favorite boutique wineries, plus dinners at some of the best restaurants in Napa. The details for the perfect trip are taken care of for you. There is more information about the class are in the next section. Hopefully you can make it. I have two other dates planned August 2-6 and September 24-29.

This is one of my favorite cake recipes- semolina. It is like a baba but much quicker to make because there's no yeast. There's quite a few ingredients so don't let this deter you as there's not much work. You'll find it has just the right amount of sweetness to end your meal.


Nothing says you're special like having your own dessert. I love individual desserts they are fun to make and eat! This cake is soaked in a kirsch syrup but you can use any other liquor you have like Grand Marnier, Cognac or rum.

This is also wonderful with Strawberries slice with sugar and a touch of what ever liquor you used in your syrup.

If you want to make it ahead make the compote and the syrup a day in advance the day you plan to serve bake the semolina cake.

Serves 8

1 cup cake flour
1 cup semolina flour
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 cup whole milk
Grated zest of 2 oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 ounces unsalted butter melted (8 tablespoons)
Whipped cream

Kirsch Syrup
2 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons kirsch
Grated zest of one orange and its juice

1/2 pound dried plums, figs, cherries, and apricots
2 cups red wine
1/2 cup orange juice
2 3-inch strips of orange zest
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 cloves
2 peppercorns
1 star anise

1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9 inch cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, semolina,sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, finely grated orange zest and vanilla. Add the egg mixture to the semolina mixture and mix gently with a whisk
until well combined. Mix in the melted butter.

2. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans and bake for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cakes cook in the pan for 10 minutes, then unmold onto a cake rack to cool.

3. Add water and sugar to saucepan stir until sugar is dissolved, add the orange juice and zest. Bring to a boil and cook for about 30 seconds. Remove from heat and allow to cool, then add the kirsch. Place syrup in a bowl large enough to hold syrup and the cake. Place the cake in the bowl for a minute to soak up the syrup. Then turn over and let soak another minute. Remove and set on a cake rack to drain.

4. In a medium saucepan, bring the dried fruits, wine, orange juice, orange zest vanilla bean and seeds, honey, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, and star anise to a boil.