Sugar, spice and red wine are nice – especially in a decadent dessert.

Marianne Fisne’s Chocolate Red Wine Spice Cake is just one of the desserts she’s created that are as beautiful to look at as they are delicious.

After graduating from college, the Throop resident had been having a hard time finding a full-time job when she decided to take a cake decorating class at Michael’s. She had always loved baking, so it seemed like a fun, new skill. She kept at it, occasionally creating goodies for friends and family, who were so impressed with Fisne’s work that they encouraged her to create social media pages to show off her desserts.

Fisne created the Shortcakes by Marianne Instagram and Facebook pages, and today her side business has been going strong for almost six years.
She makes everything from cookies to cupcakes to cakes for birthdays and weddings, each with her signature fun yet chic style. Some are collaborations between Fisne and her clients, and some are her own creations, including

Chocolate Red Wine Spice Cake. Perfect for Valentine’s Day, the cake earned Fisne a $50 gift card to Riccardo’s Market, 1219 Wheeler Ave., Dunmore.

The cake base is Fisne’s go-to chocolate cake recipe. Then, she pours a red wine simple syrup over the cake layers to give it a spicy wine flavor. (Fisne recommended cola as a good substitute for kids or anyone who might not like red wine.) She also topped the cake with a Swiss meringue buttercream, a silky-smooth, less-sweet option than its American counterpart.

“People will always say, ‘I want something sweet, but not too sweet,'” she said. “You want a Swiss meringue buttercream. It’s that perfect amount of sweetness and is that (perfect) texture.”

For the best results for cake texture, set the baking time for a few minutes less than suggested. Take the cake out of the oven and touch it with your index finger. If it springs back, it’s ready. If not, return the cake to the oven and repeat the process at five-minute intervals until it springs back when touched.

Friends and family reap the benefits of Fisne’s sweet gig, including her mom, Rosanne; dad, Joe; brother, Brian, and wife, Beth; and twin brother, Sean, and wife, Katt; as well as her niece and nephew, Olivia and Josh. Fisne makes birthday cakes for her mom, niece and nephew and even made her older brother’s layered wedding cake.

While she’s grateful to use her talents to celebrate their milestones, she also relishes the creativity.

“You can do so much and have complete free reign to just combine flavors and textures and really make it your own,” she said. “It’s so much fun for me.”

Marianne Fisne’s Red Wine Chocolate Spice Cake

For chocolate cake:
Yield: Two 8- or 9-inch layers
1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter
4 eggs
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease cake pans with butter and lightly coat with flour.
Mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl.
Using a mixer, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes. Add eggs to butter mixture one at a time, making sure each is fully incorporated before adding the next. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed.
Beat in vanilla. Add in about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter and egg mixture and slowly mix until incorporated. Add about a third of the milk and slowly mix until incorporated. Continue alternating dry ingredients and milk until all are incorporated.
Divide batter equally into pans. Bake for approximately 18 to 25 minutes. Check halfway through the baking time and adjust baking time as needed.
For spiced red wine syrup:
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine (cola is a good substitution)
1/2 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1/3 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Mix all ingredients in a pot and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat until the sugar is dissolved. Let steep for 10 to 15 minutes, strain and let cool.
Trim tops off of cooled cake layers and slowly pour syrup over cake.
For the frosting:
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 pound butter, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch of salt
5 egg whites
Place sugar and egg whites in a mixing bowl. Bring pot of water to a boil over medium-high heat, and place the mixing bowl on top, creating a double boiler.
Whisk egg whites and sugar over a double boiler for approximately 7 minutes until sugar is dissolved. Remove mixing bowl from double boiler and whip the egg white and sugar mixture until stiff peaks have formed and the bowl is cool to touch. Beat in butter until smooth, then incorporate vanilla and a pinch of salt.
Let the syrup absorb into the layers before using the buttercream to frost the cake.