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Sugar might not be a very trustful friend, but it adds flavor to my life. Different types, usages and recipes make it an indispensable ingredient to most of my desserts. In this article, I complied all the desserts I prepared in the last couple of months. Some are the recipes that I frequently make, my “old recipes”, the ones that I trust from heart. But I always search for ways to improve or twist them. To take a step further, I also tried some new-to-me dessert recipes from different countries.

Here is the eleven delicious desserts, their well-enjoyed wine and drink pairings:

Whole Orange Cake

After an unsuccessful trial of orange cake baking which thought me a lot, I absolutely found joy with this perfectly working Sicilian whole orange cake recipe. As you can understand from the name, I used the whole orange in this cake, with the skins. I was very skeptical in the beginning, and I really didn’t want a second failure in my orange cake history, but I took the risk, and it totally worth it. The skin of the orange added its beautiful fragrance, but also some moisture so the cake came out from the oven nice and moist.

Wine pairing: I paired with Vidal ice wine from Ontario. The intensive orange flavor of the cake made an enjoyable pairing with the complex aromas of this unique wine. In my second round, I went with a full orange theme and paired it with some Grand Marnier on ice, it’s heaven for orange lovers as myself.

San Sebastian Cheesecake

San Sebastian cheesecake, coming from a restaurant called La Viña, located in San Sebastian, takes attention with its burnt top, and creamy texture inside. The recipe for whole 26 cm cake pan calls for 1 kg of cheese cream, which I thought to be too much, but the result proved me wrong. It was worth every single gram. The burnt outside gives a different smoked flavor which is not possible to get from a regular cheesecake.

Wine pairing: Creamy and burnt would be 2 words to describe this cake, so my mind went directly to Jerez! My Sherry selection for this rich dessert was Medium, produced mainly with Palomino and some Pedro Ximenez grapes. With its 17% percent alcohol and almost 60 grams per litre residual sugar, it complemented the richness of this cheesecake. Moreover, burnt flavors of the cake just blended in the complexity of the aromas of this Sherry, hazelnuts, roasted almonds, a touch of coconut, butterscotch, fig jam and even some candied oranges. This pairing is something that I’m looking forward to repeating!

Rhubarb Crisp

My first time meeting rhubarb at the kitchen. I tasted before in the pies, and I even tasted a rhubarb wine, but never have cooked or baked with it. Also, I have never baked a crisp, so why not combining them and trying a rhubarb crisp? Great, and taking another step further, I wanted to make a little bit healthier. No white flour, I used almond flour instead. No white sugar neither, I went for coconut sugar. And the result was amazing. I just loved the rhubarb, such a great tartness, lovely texture and color. Why I haven’t cooked with you before? I’ll repeat this for sure.

Wine pairing: Some rhubarb wine to pair this? I have to admit it sounds intriguing. But I paired it with Asti Spumante, the fruitiness coming from the grapes used in this wine, Muscat Blanc a Petit Grains, really complemented this dessert.

Torta Tres Leches 

Tres leches cake has a very long history and it spread to different parts of the world, from South America until Europe. The curious part of this cake, for me, was its arrival to Turkey couple of years ago and becoming very famous as an “Albanian dessert”. Some people claim that Albanian chefs who were watching Brazilian soap operas saw this dessert, and revisited it with a twist, and brought it to Turkey. Leaving this deep discussion on the side, the Albanian version of tres leches cake is made with 3 different types of milks cow’s, goat’s and water buffalo, while the South American version uses three states of cow’s milk, being milk, evaporated milk and condensed milk, and some even dulce de leche. In my case, I used a recipe from Venezuela. It turned out nicely, although it was way too sweet to my taste. Sugar into the cake, sugar in the condensed milk, and sugar into the meringue all added up and ended up being a sugar bomb. For my next trial, I will decrease the added sugar and add some lemon zest to the cake for some freshness.

Wine pairing: So much milk and sugar in here that they need some liquid for dilution: A cup of coffee without any milk or sugar was just great with this cake. A shot of coffee liqueur would probably help too. If I’d feel like a glass of wine with this cake, I’d probably go for a Cava with some residual sugar, such as extra-seco or seco. Its bubbles, creaminess and freshness would probably balance the sweetness of the cake.

Mote con Huesillo

I tried this traditional Chilean delicacy in Chile, and enjoyed a lot in the heat of the summer, it’s refreshing and nutritious. It’s more like a drink; made with dried peaches cooked with sugar and cinnamon and served with husked wheat in the juice.

Wine pairing: I have to admit that it’s very fun to consume this dessert: drink the juice and eat the wheat and the peach simultaneously. So, I didn’t necessarily pair it with a wine. However, after consuming it the first day as it is, the next day I went for something crazier, and made a cocktail with the juice of this drink and Pisco from Chile. This aromatic distilled spirit really elevated the peach juice and made an enjoyable cocktail. 

Very Lemon Cake

It goes six or seven lemons into this cake, I just peeled them and used all what is inside for this cake. (No worries, zests will not be wasted, just wait a couple of seconds!) I also grated one lemon zest and add it to the mixture. Using all the flesh, juice and zesty elevated the lemon flavour, it was very delicious.

Wine pairing: So many lemons are used in this recipe, left me with so many lemon zest. Do you know what to do when life gives you lemon zest? Limoncello! Unfortunately like all the delicious recipes it takes time to make this: I waited more than 2 months after being able to taste it. It has lovely a lemon color and flavor. Since I made it with vodka, it has lower alcohol than a traditional limoncello, it makes it easy to drink and enjoy. Another good part is the sweetness level that I adjusted according to my palate so it’s just perfect to me. Finally, a well-deserved pride of not wasting any part of those lemons gave me some extra joy.

Pecan Pie

Baking a homemade pecan pie was on my to-do-list for a long time. I found it hard to get to work to bake these type of products that you can readily find in the store with high quality. But of course, once I made it myself and experienced the crumbliness of the pie crust coming together with the crunchiness of the pecan, it all worth it.

Wine pairing: This pie is quite sweet since a good amount of corn syrup goes into filling. To have it under the balance, I paired it with Late Harvest Zinfandel from Paso Robles. This was one of those pairings that I’d simply describe as a perfect match. The wine was so complex with red fruits, dark chocolate and spice aromas that it was able to handle this heavy dessert. On the palate both were very lush and just slid down harmoniously.

Open Face Apple Pie

I’ll be honest, when it comes to baking apple, the first thing comes to my mind is the tarte tatin. The sweetness caramel coming together with tartness of the fresh apples are very hard to beat with any other apple dessert. But again, I cannot just make the same dessert all the time and decided to bake an open face apple pie. To make it more appetizing and for it to look good, I cut the apples very thinly with a mandoline slicer and aligned them nicely on the crust. I actually needed more apple to fill better the space, took this as a note for the next baking. It tasted very delicious, especially when it was warm and met its old friend, a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Wine pairing: I paired this classic dessert with 10 Year Old Aged Tawny Port wine. The oxidative nutty and caramel notes in this wine gave another layer of flavour to this union. I’d also repeat this pairing with tarte tatin.

Homemade Baklava

Thin layers of filo dough, lots of butter, lots of nuts and a dense syrup… this is a nice summary of baklava. The homemade baklava in Turkey is generally made with walnuts, and that’s what I went for. Challenging steps of baklava is the distribution of butter in each layer and the amount of syrup to have a good balance and moist. I have been baking couple of batches lately to catch a good consistency, and I am getting better every time. My next challenge is making my filo dough at home as well, that’ll be one of my goals for 2021.

Wine pairing: In my previous dessert and wine pairing article, I mentioned how the baklava with Maraş ice cream paired well with Vidal ice wine from Nova Scotia. Since I am Turkish living in Canada, this pairing speaks to my heart. I definitely suggest you to give this geographically eccentric pairing a try. However this time, I tried a different path and I paired it with Amontillado from Jerez. It was just amazing how nuttiness of the wine competed with nuttiness of baklava: A sweet competition created a unique flavor ceremony on my palate.


Another typical Turkish dessert, this one is lighter compared to baklava. It’s a type of pudding made with milk, almond flour, rice flour, sugar and egg. Although contains almonds, it’s traditionally garnished with some crushed pistachios. It taste as good as it looks, and the best part is it doesn’t leave you with a heavy stomach.

Wine pairing: A luscious wine made with hanging the Riesling grapes out there in the vineyard, until they just have extra sweet and delicious berries. Late harvest Riesling from Ontario it is. Peaches, apples and pear aromas only coming from the wine, and met the nicely with creamy and nutty keşkül. Good job!

Pumpkin Pudding Tart

To begin from the bottom to the top: No-bake tart made with just some Graham crackers, hazelnuts and coconut oil, a dense pudding made with milk, sugar, corn starch and vanilla, pumpkin cooked slowly with its own water and sugar. Somewhat a challenge to get the consistency right, so it could be served like a tart. I know this from experience, since when I tried to bake this for my friends it hasn’t set properly so I had to semi-freeze it to cut it properly. (That version haven’t made it for the photo shooting.)

Wine pairing: When I saw my friends arriving with a bottle of Sauternes, I knew that we’ll have a great pairing. Sauternes as always amazed me with its incredible bouquet with acacia, orange blossoms, apricot compote, poached pear, cinnamon and vanilla…

Lemon Ricotta Almond Cake

This cake is the answer of “How I can bring my favorite ingredients all together?” As I was planning to share this with my gluten-free friends, I’ve used almond flour and gluten-free flour. Instead of my regular sun-flower oil, I’ve used butter. While lemon juice and lemon zest added lovely aromas and freshness, lots of ricotta made it super soft and moist. I sprinkled some almond slices before it goes to oven, and it literally came out as a dream cake!

Wine pairing: This rich cake definitely deserves a rich wine to pair with. So, I chosen a demi-sec style Chenin Blanc from Vouvray with intense aromas of honeysuckle, quince and pear. It had a good concentration on the palate that created an enjoyable harmony with the texture of the ricotta in the cake.

Every dessert is another experience and finding an enjoyable pairing for them is a sweet challenge to. I hope any of these pairings can give you some ideas next time you’re preparing a dessert and wine pairing.



All images © 2020 by Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.

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