Polenta cake, to be precise. Polenta is basically cornmeal and you can find it in most food stores or Italian grocers – it comes in fine or course grind. It’s a very versatile grain and so can be used in a number of ways. When I cook a savoury polenta it I often add more liquid (milk and/or stock) to make it soft and creamy and the perfect base for cheese and fresh herbs. You could also cook it with less liquid, place it into a pan to cool and simply cut out shapes to grill. As a sweet it can be used to make a porridge (somewhat like semolina) or you can use it in desserts like cake – as I have done. All methods are equally delicious!
This recipe calls for lemon – a perfect touch of citrus freshness needed to enliven a mildly flavoured cake. I used olive oil for this cake. It may seem strange to use olive oil in sweet foods but the Italians have been doing this for years! It’s delicious, healthy and adds a special flavour to baked items. I’ve made a few other sweets like brownies with olive oil and they turned out great.
polenta cake with olive oil
recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller (they served the cake with vermouth pears but I opted for more sugar, strawberries and a little balsamic glaze!)
3 eggs, at room temperature
160g (3/4 cup) raw sugar*
80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 tsp vanilla extract
190g course polenta
75g (1/2 cup) plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Icing sugar for dusting
1 pint fresh strawberries
Preheat oven to 150C. Using an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar until pale and creamy (about 5 minutes). Slowly add olive oil in a thin stream, continuing to whisk, then add lemon rind and vanilla. Combine polenta, flour, baking powder and ½ tsp salt, sift dry ingredients in 3 batches over egg mixture, alternating with lemon juice and folding to combine well. Pour batter into a lightly oiled 20cm ring mould, bake until a skewer withdraws clean (40-45 minutes). Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Dust with icing sugar, berries and glaze. For the balsamic glaze simply take 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tbsp agave or thick sugar syrup and mix (or buy it!). Add just a little for a serving and top with fresh berries.
*Note: I changed the amount and type of sugar