Thursday, January 6, 2011

Lemon Almond Polenta Cake

It was almost a religious experience the day we realized that we could incorporate polenta into dessert. It's not something I've ever seen in any of my Zias' kitchens in Friuli. I understand it has long been a specialty of UK bakers but for us, lemon almond polenta cake is a fairly new discovery. And such a welcome one. It has quickly become a family favourite, and the kids call it "Nonno cake" because my dad adores it. 
I make this so often now, almost every Sunday, that I have begun to experiment with different cake pans and toppings. It is never the same shape twice and is always adorned a little differently. 
One of our favourites is to make this thin, in a tart pan with a removable bottom (one recipe makes about three of these) and to pile sliced almonds onto the top before it bakes. 
Another, as in the picture here, is to make it in those straight-sided cupcake papers and to top each one with powdered sugar and a homemade slice of candied lemon. I've also been known to top them with crumbled amaretti cookies before baking, creating a crunchy and delicious top.
Lemon, Almond Polenta Cake
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup ground almonds
3 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 lemons (
zest and juice)
1 orange (zest and juice)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup fine ground cornmeal (polenta)
For the syrup:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar 

Sliced almonds or candied lemon slices to decorate
Preheat the oven to 300F. Prepare an 8-inch round springform pan (line with parchment, grease).
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Fold in the ground almonds. Beat in eggs one at a time, add vanilla, zests and juices.
Gently fold in polenta, salt and baking powder. 
Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake in the centre of the oven for about an hour and 15 minutes. If the edges or top of the cake begin to get too brown, cover with foil. 

When a skewer inserted in the top of the cake comes out mostly clean, remove and cool. Unmold cake and drizzle with syrup, top with almond slices or candied lemon slices. 
To make the syrup: Mix sugar and lemon juice in a small pan on the stovetop and bring to a boil, simmer until all sugar is melted and syrup is slightly thickened. 

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