Lemon Polenta Cake

lemon & polenta cake

Last week I was asked about how many of my recipes I make up and I realised it’s been a while since I’ve done any of my own ‘recipe development’.

On Sunday I was going to make a lemon and olive oil cake. As Andy headed off to the shops he asked if I needed anything. Oh no, I had everything I needed. Half an hour later, I discovered that I barely had enough olive oil for the recipe and, if I did, I’d be leaving us with none.

However, I took this as an opportunity to create my own cake. Initially that opportunity was not grasped entirely gracefully – there was a lot of muttering about not being able to find a recipe that suited exactly what was in the cupboard. But the end product was lovely!

Begin by preheating the oven to 160°C fan and grease and baseline a 23 cm springform tin. Using a 23cm tin gives a thinner cake – if you want a deeper cake use a 20cm tin, but remember you’ll need to cook the cake for a little longer.

In the trusty MagiMix, cream 200g of unsalted butter with 200g of caster sugar. Add 100g of almonds and 100g of fine polenta. Make sure you use fine otherwise rather than “texture” you’ll end up with gritty cake! Beat in 3 eggs and 2 tsp of baking powder.

At this point the mixture will be really stiff.

Now grate in the zest of 2 small lemons and add the juice of one (about 1 tbsp) and mix well. The mixture will be quite loose now. Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 55 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. I also had to cover my cake with foil for the last 10 minutes or so, as it was starting to take on too much colour.

When you’ve got about 10 minutes of cooking left, start work on the syrup. In a small pan, place 100g of caster sugar along with the juice of 2 lemons and 1 tbsp of rum. Heat this up to create a syrup – you may need to add a splash or two of hot water along the way. When the sugar has fully dissolved, you are good to go. Ensure you don’t heat it so much that it boils and starts to turn into caramel!

Remove the cake from the oven and, while it’s hot, prick all over with a skewer or toothpick and then spoon over the syrup. You probably won’t need all of it (I had a tablespoon or two left). If you have a silicon brush, even better because you spread the syrup out over the cake a lot more evenly.

Leave the cake to cool, and absorb the syrup, in the tin. When cool, remove the tin and baking paper. Serve with cream.

It keeps well: the syrup and almonds keep it moist and the texture of the polenta does soften a little over time.

Note that as this cake is made with polenta and NO flour, it is gluten free (suitable for coeliacs).

Apple Cake

apple cake

We have an apple tree. Last year we didn’t see a single apple – not sure if it was the lack of rain or the local wildlife. In fact, we didn’t even KNOW it was an apple tree.

This year, the planets lined up and, about a week ago, I picked our small harvest. Some research (thanks google!) suggests that our tree might be a Grimes Golden – the apples are like Golden Delicious but tastier and the fruit is very late. Anyway, what to do with all these apples?

If you’re me, the obvious answer is to make cake. A bit of research saw me with a selection of apple cake recipes that didn’t quite fit what we had in the house and some which did, but seemed a bit unexciting. In the end, my cake was very similar to the Dorset apple cake which you can find on both the Delicious website and over at the Goddess’s Kitchen (Maria does loads of baking – if you like cake I suggest you check out her blog).

This is, essentially, a pound cake with apples added. It’s easy and quick to put together but does require a slightly longer cooking time than many cakes. Because I was adding chopped apple at the end, I used my KitchenAid rather than the Magimix for this one. Of course, there’s no harm in doing things by hand, either!

Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan). Grease and base line a 23 cm spring form tin.

Begin by softening 225g of unsalted butter. It’s freezing* in Adelaide at the moment and I’m never organised enough to leave butter out so it was the microwave to the rescue. Mix this with 225g of caster sugar and, when the butter/sugar mix is smooth, add 225 self raising flour and 2 tsp of baking powder.

This will be a stiff mixture so now add 3 large eggs, one at a time. Add 25g of ground almonds and 1 teaspoon of allspice.

Peel and cube apples so that you end up with about 300g of apple ready to go in the cake mix. As you work with the apples, toss them in a little lime juice mixed with lime zest which will stop them going brown and will add some crispness of flavour to the finished product.

Gently stir the apples through the cake batter and spoon into the cake tin. Smooth the top as best you can and make sure you push the mix out to the edges. It is quite thick and difficult to manage but you don’t want a lopsided cake.

In my oven, at 160°C fan the cake took an hour to cook. A skewer wants to come out cleanly and the top needs to be set.

The cake kept quite well – thanks to ground almonds. It had lovely caramelised crunchy bits around the sides and if you were after more of this, you could sprinkle the top with a tablespoon of demerara sugar before baking. Everyone liked this cake: it had a good apple flavour and the allspice added a warm lift. And served with cream – what’s not to like?

* I may be exaggerating … but it is pretty cold!

Coffee Poppy Seed Cake

Coffee & Poppyseed Cake

You know how sometimes a coffee cake doesn’t have any coffee in it? It’s actually a cake to eat with coffee and the whole thing turns in to a disappointing experience?

Well, this is not that cake. A few weeks ago Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall published some coffee recipes in the Guardian and one of them was this cake, complete with coffee, poppy seeds and a very syrupy glaze/icing.

I can’t remember the last time I made a cake with poppy seeds in, even though I like them (both the poppy seeds and the cakes!) and I’m always thinking I should be a little more diverse in my cake making. Poppy seeds, like sesame seeds, are one of those things that can go off. They need to be stored in cool, dark places and used relatively quickly, otherwise they can go a bit rancid – and that’s not what you want in cake.

This is a simple recipe and is almost a one bowl wonder.

Begin by soaking, for at least 2 hours, 100g of poppy seeds in 80g of mascarpone (the recipe specifies sour cream, but I had mascarpone in the fridge). The poppy seeds soaked up all the mascarpone and it became quite a stiff mixture.

Preheat oven to 170°C and grease and baseline a 22cm spring form tin.

If you’re so inclined you can sift the dry ingredients first: 150g plain flour, 1 tsp bicarb, 1 tsp baking powder, ½ tsp of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. If you’re making this by hand (that is, without the kitchen trickery that is a food processor or a stand mixer) make the effort. Even with gadgets to hand, I’m starting to do more and more sifting …

Now cream 150g of unsalted butter with 250g of caster sugar, before mixing in three eggs, one at a time. Ensure each egg is well beaten in before adding the next. Mix in a 1 tsp vanilla essence and 40mL of espresso coffee. If you don’t have a coffee maker to hand, make up some really really strong coffee and use that.

Add in the flour a bit at a time, alternating this with the poppy seed/mascarpone mix. Mix until just combined and then spoon in to the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes (until the toothpick comes out clean).

Allow to cool for a little in the tin and then cool completely on a cake rack.

Now, for the icing HFW suggests using 125g of icing sugar (definitely sift this – it makes your life so much easier and your icing a lot less lumpy) and 50 mL of espresso. I did this but we found this icing too runny and, by the time it had soaked through the cake, it made the whole thing far too sweet. So I suggest making your favourite icing and adding a bit of coffee to it. Or dust it with icing sugar before serving – the poppy seeds make it quite an attractive cake even without icing so there’s no need to go mad.

I personally thought that the cake had a good coffee flavour which was accentuated by the cinnamon. The universal opinion was that it was too sweet and I really regretted making the icing.

So while I’ll definitely be making the cake again I’ll be passing on the icing.