Monday, 20 June 2011

Lemon Polenta Cake

Lemon Polenta Cake 2

In case you haven't noticed, I love to bake. If I could justify it I would bake a cake or a slice or biscuits everyday, but unfortunately those pesky fat and sugar do-gooders in my head keep reminding me that as a mum I really need to be serving mostly healthy-ish food to my family and so my poor KitchenAid stands quiet for most of the week. But I am always looking for an excuse to bake. A dinner invite, wonderful, can I bring dessert? Congratulations on the new job, have some biscuits! Thanks for knocking on my door - here's a cake! (Okay, I'm not quite that bad but I think you get the idea). So when we received an impromptu invite to dinner at my parents' house I instantly offered to make dessert.

I wanted something that was pretty easy to put together but was still dessertish, and I also had a couple of lemons to use. Flicking through Nigella Lawson's Kitchen (which, by the way, is an awesome, AWESOME cook book) I came across this cake. It looked pretty straightforward, and all of the ingredients were things that I normally have in my cupboard.

Lemon Polenta Cake 3
Let's take a closer look...
When it came to making the cake it was pretty straightforward although, as always seems to be the case when I cook, things didn't go completely to plan. First of all, the recipe calls for fine polenta and I had no idea what level of coarseness my polenta was, or whether instant was actually okay to use. This was when I shrugged my shoulders and decided to go ahead anyway, because I wasn't going to make a trip to the shops just for polenta.

The second hurdle was when  I mentioned to my dad that I needed to put the cake in a 180 degree oven and he said no worries, just stick it in with the roast. It wasn't until twenty minutes later when the top was starting to brown and Dad announced I needed to 'check on my cake' that I realised it was on fan-forced and so was up too high. My dad, being the helpful man he is, decided to turn the oven down to 150 degrees (without telling me). Thankfully, Mum intervened and the cake exited the oven largely unscathed (although pretty well browned on it's sides and base). This led to Dad blaming Mum's turning the oven back up for the over-browning while Mum and I tried to explain that, no, the damage was actually done when he had it up too high originally. Meanwhile I was struggling to remove the cake from the pan because I had forgotten to line the base (problem number three). Finally, Nigella's sunk slightly, mine did not, but the inside still looked the same so I don't think it really mattered. Phew! It's times like these that I start wonder why I enjoy baking so much.

Lemon Polenta Cake 1
Mmmm.... this particular piece of cake somehow disappeared straight after I took this photo.
I have NOOOOO idea where it went, honest
Well, what I can tell you is that this is one resilient little cake. We ate it warm after dinner and it was delicious, as it was the next day when I ate the leftovers cold. It survived being cut out of the pan and turned over multiple times during the struggle. It is dense and moist and crumbly and tastes wonderfully lemony. It is also pretty sweet (which suits me just fine) but you could decrease the amount of sugar in the syrup to suit your tastes. I also think it would work really well with limes instead of the lemon. Basically it was yum, yum, yummmy.

The one (small) downfall with mine was that it had a tiny bit of grittiness which I am sure is from using a polenta that was too coarse. But, even with that it was a really, really good dessert, and easy to boot. I will definitely be making it again.

What is your favourite dessert to make on the spur of the moment?

Lemon Polenta Cake
Recipe by the divine Nigella Lawson from Kitchen
Serves 12

200g soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds (almond meal)
100g fine polenta/cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
zest 2 lemons (reserve juice)

for the syrup:
juice of 2 lemons
125g icing sugar

Grease a springform pan and line base with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180C

Cream butter and sugar. Mix together almonds, polenta and baking powder, and beat one third of the mixture into the butter mixture, followed by 1 egg. Continue to add ingredients alternatively, beating after each addition. Finally, beat in lemon zest.

Pour/scrape into your prepared pan and bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, until an inserted cake tester comes out mostly clean and the edges of the cake are starting to come away from the sides of the tin (it may still look a little wobbly). Remove from the oven and place it on a wire rack, still in its tin.

To make the syrup, heat the lemon juice and sugar together in a small saucepan, until the sugar is dissolved.

Prick the cake all over with a cake tester or toothpick. If serving warm (which I did and it was FABULOUS) remove from the tin once cool enough to handle. Pour the syrup over the cake in batches, allowing it to mostly soak in before adding more. Make sure you go right to the edge and allow some syrup to run over the edges of the cake.

If serving cold, pour the syrup over the cake while it is still in the tin. Remove once completely cooled.

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