Friday, March 23, 2007

Faves on Friday #3: Orange Polenta Cake

I never speak about my job on this blog, and don’t really plan to (especially not on Fridays!), but forgive a brief reference. One thing I do is help identify, document and share “lessons learned” from my organization’s work, so that we can keep using approaches that are successful and remember not to repeat past mistakes. I thought of this aspect of my job earlier this week, while considering the fact that it has been a couple of months since my last Fave on Friday.

“Why such a lapse?” I asked myself. And therein lay a lesson learned: I should not tie myself down to doing anything in particular on Fridays. What was I thinking? On Fridays, I am a get home from work and have a glass of wine kind of person, or a de-stress by playing a set of tennis kind of person (and, I must admit, sometimes I am BOTH kinds of people). On Fridays, I am not, however, a cook something tasty and write about it kind of person.

Which is why I decided that I need to become a prepare something tasty on Wednesday, write about it on Thursday and simply press “publish” on Friday kind of person.

This orange polenta cake is moist, moist, moist – almost to the point of disintegrating before your very eyes. The orange and lemon make it light and bright, and the polenta adds a distinct heartiness to the texture. It is a welcome dessert after a heavy meal, or a fantastic accompaniment to your afternoon tea. And, as befits a Fave on Friday (even one prepared on Wednesday!), I’ve baked this cake again and again and again….

Now, those of you in Zimbabwe will read this recipe and say: where do you buy polenta? You don’t use mealie meal as substitute do you? Ground almonds – wherever do you find ground almonds? And sour cream? You find sour cream in the shops? Are you sure you live in Harare?

Full disclosure: I brought back quite a bit of polenta from my trip to Rome – mealie meal is just too fine to use as a substitute. For ground almonds, check Green Park and hope you catch them just before they raise prices – otherwise their ground almonds can be quite pricy. Sour cream is nowhere to be found. I substitute crème fraîche.

Orange Polenta Cake with Whole Orange Syrup
From Food and Home Entertaining, July 2005
Serves 8

125 grams / 1 stick plus 1 scant tablespoon butter, softened
225 grams / 1¼ cup castor (granulated) sugar
3 large eggs
75 grams / ½ cup plus
scant tablespoon self-raising flour
75 grams / ½ cup plus
scant tablespoon cake flour
125 grams / generous ¾ cup fine polenta
60 grams / generous ½ cup ground almonds
80 grams / 1/3 cup sour cream
Rind of 1 lemon, grated
Rind of 1 orange, grated
60 milliliters / 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

Whole orange syrup
2 whole oranges with skin, thinly sliced
180 grams / ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons castor sugar
300 milliliters / 1 1/5 cups water

Crème fraîche, to serve

Grease and line a 20-centimeter / 8-inch cake tin and preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F).

In a medium bowl, whisk the butter and castor sugar together until pale. Continue whisking as you add the eggs one at a time. If your mixture looks a bit curdled, don’t worry – everything will come together once you add the dry ingredients.

In a separate bowl, sift the flours together. Then, add the flours to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the polenta, ground almonds, sour cream, zest and lemon juice. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin. Bake for 75 minutes, covering the cake with tin foil during the last 15 minutes if it is getting too brown.

Meanwhile, place the oranges, castor sugar and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture is thick and syrupy – about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Once the cake is baked, let it rest for 15 minutes before turning it out onto a plate. Cool for another 15 minutes. Then, use a wooden skewer or piece of dry spaghetti to make holes in the top of the cake. Pour the orange syrup over the cake. Decorate the cake with the orange slices, and serve slices with a dollap of crème fraîche.

Read my past Faves on Fridays:
#1: Curried Tomato Soup
#2: Spaghetti with Beetroot Pesto


Kalyn said...

Some things are the same all over the world! Friday nights seem to be a complete bust for me as far as accomplishing anything.

Ruth said...

Can I just use fine mealie meal? Some day I'll get you the guidelines (hardly a recipe!) for "sadza cake" -- an interesting layering of sadza/polenta with sharp cheese, mushrooms, stewed tomatoes, and if you're into it ham/bacon. All done in a springform pan. Actually, that's all I know. You're on your own if you want to try it!

Anna Haight said...

This looks wonderful -- didn't know anyone was still surviving in Zimbabwe! All I've heard is the bad news...

Carolyn said...

Kalyn - I am glad I am not alone in my Friday night laziness!

Ruth - As long as it’s not super-fine mealie meal, I think the substitution will work just fine. Although, to be honest, I've only seen non-super-fine mealie meal once, so I am not sure where to find it! I have to try out the sadza cake - sounds great. Thanks for the tip. Sharp cheese is hard to find around here - let me know if you have a suggestion.

Anne - Yes, it is hard to read the news reports and not get depressed! But, amidst the turmoil, you find that people are living their lives the best they can. Zimbabweans deserve much better circumstances than what they are currently facing, and I hope things change soon.

Jeanne said...

How funny - it turns out that you and I (to some extent) do the same job! That is a large part of what I do here in London, i.e. trying to stop colleagues from reinventing the wheel when they don't have to, LOL! And we also have in common the fact that Friday deadlines do not work. I have committed to writing a piece for a South African site (SA Rocks) every Friday and every week I swear I won't be so slack... and every week it is a crazy panic!

Cake looks fabulous btw - citrus flavour in cakes should be mandatory ;-)

gare aux goûts said...

This recipe is very good and easy. My boyfriend made it once without having enough of some of the ingredients and it turned out OK! I made it last weekend and brought the leftover cake in to work, as I have a big appetite and I'm no good at portion control!

flickabelle said...

just made the cake then - looooooove it! sooo moist and yummy with EXACTLY the right balance between sweet and citrusy. the cake rose a liiittle too much for my liking, so i'll probably cut out the self-raising flour next time and substitute for regular flour to make it a little denser so that the syrup goes all the way through. otherwise an absolute stunner of a cake that tastes even better than the ones i usually chomp on in my favourite downtown cafes! YUM!!