Sunday, 9 February 2014

A Lemon Polenta Birthday Cake

In previous years, the Dutchman has requested carrot cake and chocolate-coconut cake for his birthday cakes. This year he broke the run of 'c' related choices with a request for lemon polenta cake, inspired by a cake we shared recently at Borough Market. It was also, I think, another attempt at edible sunshine - a moist burst of citrus and sweetness.

I turned, of course, to Nigel Slater. Lo and behold, there's a recipe in the Guardian! Good job, Nigel! I made mine purely lemon-scented, rather than orange and lemon, as the original recipe calls for. He also includes chopped almonds as well as ground, but as I was trying to recreate something else, I left these out. (And I put in a fair bit more limoncello in the syrup as well...) The result was a rich yellow cake spiked with a nice amount of syrup without being too moist. It went excellently with crème fraiche, on a lazy afternoon. It was more of a pudding type of bake than what I would call a birthday cake, but it went down well with the birthday boy and that's what matters. Next time, I might try using other citrus, following the Slater recipe properly, or I might go for the delicious-sounding Spiced Sumac Polenta Cake, posted, in a wonderful coincidence, on the Dutchman's birthday itself!

Lemon Polenta Cake

Adapted from Nigel Slater. Serves 8.

- 210g butter
- 210g caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 150g ground almonds
- 150g fine polenta
- 1tsp baking powder
- zest and juice of a large lemon
- syrup: zest and juice of a large lemon; 100g sugar, 4tbsp limoncello

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin. (Nigel says springform, but I didn't have one and the cake released perfectly.)
2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, and then add the eggs, ground almonds, baking powder, and lemon (zest and juice) mixing until smooth.
3.  Now add the polenta, and mix briefly until combined.
4. Spoon the mix into the tin, and bake for 20 minutes at 180°C, then for a further 30 minutes at 160°C. The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean. Nigel Slater gives the very helpful hint that one can cover the cake with tin foil if the top is browning too much.
5. Leave the cake in the tin to cool whilst making the syrup. Squeeze the lemon into a measuring jug, add the limoncello, and then top up this liquid to 250ml. Heat the liquid in a saucepan and add the sugar. Boil this mixture until the sugar is dissolved and reduced to about half. Spike the cake all over and pour the hot syrup over it. Leave in the tin until cool, and then EAT!

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