2/3 cup sweet amber Marsala wine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons water
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 3/4 cups cake flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup high-quality extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Combine the Marsala, vanilla, and water in a small saucepan and quickly bring the liquid to a boil over high heat. Sift the cocoa powder into a small mixing bowl. Whisk the boiling liquid into the cocoa powder until the cocoa has dissolved completely.
Set the bowl aside until the cocoa mixture has cooled to room temperature.
Remove all but the lowest rack from the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Combine the cake flour, sugar and baking soda in a large mixing bowl and whisk them together.
Stir the egg yolks and olive oil into the cooled cocoa mixture and add it to the flour mixture. Beat the mixture together at medium speed until it forms a smooth, thick batter. Set it aside.
Place the egg whites in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer and beat them at low speed for 1 minute, or until they are frothy. Add the salt and the cream of tartar and beat the egg whites at low speed for another minute.
Gradually increase the beater speed to high and beat the whites until they form stiff, firm peaks, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add a large scoop of the egg whites to the cocoa batter and gently fold the egg whites through the batter to lighten it.
Pour the lightened chocolate batter over the rest of the egg whites and, using a spatula, gently fold the two together until the batter is no longer streaked with white.
Scoop the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan and use the spatula to level the batter in the pan. Run a table knife or icing spatula through the batter in the pan several times to settle the batter and eliminate any air pockets.
Bake the cake on the lowest rack of the oven for 65 minutes. Place a cake rack over the top of the cake pan and invert the cake over the rack to cool upside down for 5 minutes.
Turn the cake right side up and use an icing spatula to loosen the cake from the sides of the pan. Fit the center hole of the cake pan over a wine bottle and gently push the sides of the cake pan down and away from the cake.
Invert the cake on a round cardboard cake board and loosen and remove the tube and bottom portion of the pan. With the help of a long serrated knife, you can level the cake so that it sits flat on the cake board.
Using a gentle sawing motion with the knife, cut a thin slice fro the bottom of the cake just above the cake board. Invert the cake onto a work surface, remove the cake board, discard the thin slice you have made, and replace the cake board.
Turn the cake over again, so it’s resting on the board. Store the cake in an airtight container until you are ready to assemble and ship the gift.