I love receiving packages through the post, even if I have ordered them myself. Who doesn't? It's one of those small pleasures that perk up your day a bit. This week a particularly exciting (judge me as you will) gift came through the letterbox. Squished neatly inside an A4 envelope was the bright pink silicone ring mould we'd ordered last week. As you can imagine, I could hardly contain myself. So, come this lazy Sunday, I jumped on the chance to make a cake I'd been planning for some time.
Now, I really can't claim to know the exact origins of this recipe. It has recently come into my family through some family friends who didn't disclose their source. These friends have Italian routes, and it is possible that it was passed down from relatives, but that's just speculation. Anyway, I first tasted this enigmatic cake a month or two ago, and it has since been my plan to recreate it for PPP.
Not only is it beautiful, but it is absolutely delicious. Dashed with pink fruit, gorgeously golden on top, filled with bright, yellow sponge, it's a real treat. What really appealed to me about this cake, however, is the use of polenta. In fact, it's not just polenta, it's polenta AND ground almonds. I'm on a constant search for exciting cake recipes using different ingredients, resulting in new textures. Polenta and ground almonds have always signalled success to me, I just love the dense, moist consistency you can pretty much guarantee with those two!
This is an incredibly pleasing mixture of flavours and textures. There are a few variations on the fruit selections used, but this time I tried out raspberries, blueberries, and then added some strawberries too. In addition to these three berries, a syrup is made using the juice of one lemon, which is then drizzled onto the hot cake to be thoroughly absorbed. All in all, you're left with one immensely moist and tangy cake, balanced perfectly somewhere between sweet and zesty.
It's not imperative to own a magical silicone ring mould to make this cake, but having tried variations of this recipe baked both in a round cake tin and in the ring, I can say I thought the result from the latter was slightly superior. The bake was a lot more even, perfectly golden on the outside and cooked through fully whilst still being incredibly moist. If I try making it again in a round springform, I will try adjusting the baking time and temperature, but it's just not necessary with the ring mould.
This cake is a great tea-time treat any day, but it's especially appropriate for the summer, with all the delicious seasonal fruit. It would be great with a fruit coulis, fresh fruit or a huge spoonful of vanilla ice cream. I also think an alternative to the lemon syrup could be a slightly thicker lemon glaze, using icing sugar instead of granulated. This could give a lovely decorative touch, running down the sides in pretty white trails. Whichever way, it's fantastically tasty and triumphantly morish.
Berry Medley Polenta Cake
For the cake:
210g Butter at room temperature
210g Granulated Sugar
3 Large Eggs
125g Ground Almonds
1 Level Teaspoon Baking Powder
Finely Grated Zest of 1/2 Lemon
For the Syrup:
50g Granulated Sugar
Juice of 1 Lemon
1 x 24cm Ring mould
1 x 20cm Round Springform Tin
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line tin if required. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Next, beat in the eggs one by one, mixing thoroughly between each.
2. Weigh out the almonds and add them to the mixture. Next, stir in the polenta and baking powder and distribute evenly through the mixture, before adding the zest of half a lemon.
3. Wash the fruit then slice the strawberries into quarters. Mix all the fruit thoroughly through the cake batter. It doesn't matter if it becomes slightly squashed as this won't ruin the finish of the cake. Spoon the mixture into your tin/mould and shake once or twice to fill any gaps.
4. Bake in a preheated at 180C oven for 25 minutes before reducing the temperature to 160C and baking for an additional 30 minutes. The cake should be golden brown and cooked through but not dry.
5. When the cake is out of the oven, make the syrup (This needs to be put onto the cake while it is still warm, but cool enough to turn out of the tin). Combine lemon juice and sugar in a pan and boil together until the sugar has melted. Using a skewer, prick the top of the cake and pour the hot syrup in before leaving to cool and serving.