18 December 2010

Lemon Polenta Cake

Cooking without wheat is presenting me some challenges, some of which are difficult, and some of which are very enjoyable. One of the benefits of this way of eating (I don't like to use the word 'diet', because that makes me want to break it!) is that I get to explore other grains. I find foods that I wouldn't have found otherwise.

When wheat or bread is not the focus of a meal, vegetables and beans rice and quinoa and corn have a chance to come to the front. We've been exploring winter vegetables, roasting and pureeing them with some good results, but nothing post-able yet. But it's a lot of fun for us! And we're eating veryvery well.

One problem, though, for me is that there are a few baked goods that I reallyreally love. One of them is almond shortbread cookies. Or Nigel's lemon cake. What I'm doing about these is trying to find substitutes for the wheat flour and re-creating what I love. Re-creating the almond cookies resulted in these lovelies, which I think I like more than the original.

The lemon cake presented a little more of a challenge. Its intense lemon flavor and wonderful, open texture are the things I love. I've fiddled around trying to figure it out. Then I stumbled on this recipe, which didn't need any fiddling AT ALL! It's already got what I want. Well, of course I changed it a little bit. I always do, don't you?

The result was a cake with the open texture I love, intense lemon flavor, and a color like sunshine. It's perfect with a cup of tea. Or coffee. Or cafe au lait. Actually, it's perfect just with a fork. Or fingers.

Lemon Polenta Cake
adapted from the River Cafe Cookbook

1 ¼ c / 100 g polenta
2 cups / 200 g ground almonds
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 ¾ sticks / 200 g softened butter
1 cup / 200 g sugar
3 eggs
zest of 2 lemons

For the syrup:
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup / 125 g powdered sugar

  • Preheat oven to 180 C / 350 F
  • Prepare a round cake pan with parchment paper in the bottom and butter on the sides.
  • Mix the polenta, almonds and baking powder well.
  • In another bowl, cream the sugar and the butter till light and fluffy.
  • Add about ¼ of the dry ingredients to the butter and sugar mixture. Mix well. Add an egg. Mix well.  Add another ¼ of the dry ingredients, then another egg, mixing well after each addition. Then another ¼ of the dry stuff, then the last egg, then the rest of the dry stuff. Don't forget to mix well!
  • Add the lemon zest and (guess what?) mix well.
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a broom straw inserted in the center comes out clean. You can use a toothpick if you've forgotten where you parked your broom.
  • While the cake is baking, mix the lemon juice and powdered sugar to make a syrup.
  • When the cake comes out of the oven, use the same straw you used to test for done-ness to poke lots of holes in the cake. Pour the syrup into the holes and let it soak in.

Enough for 8

  • It's important to use real polenta for this, not the instant kind. The instant kind will absorb all the liquid and start to become mush before its' baked. Ew.
  • The sugar should be a scant cup. You might take a couple of tablespoons of sugar out of a full cup. It's better to weigh it. You really should get a kitchen scale, you know. Christmas is coming...
  • A springform pan works well for this. It's too heavy for a loaf pan, I think.
  • This cake is great with raspberry syrup. Or vanilla ice cream. Or both.
  • I sprinkled powdered sugar over the cake when it was cool to hide the holes from the straw. 



Kate said...

It is difficult to change cooking of the children in the family had a very severe nut allergy...goodness, cooking was an interesting challenge.

You are making some wonderful dishes!

La Table De Nana said...

I can totally understand changing eating habits..I applaud your resourcefulness! It looks delicious..


Susan said...

This is a lovely cake, Kate! As for learning a new cooking style, life IS for learning! And you are in a sphere that has unlimited sources of information to help you find the best of wheat-free options! You have given us some great recipes as you venture into the wheat-free food arena. Keep at it!

Merry Christmas across the sea to you and yours!

RetiredWithNoRegrets said...

I love Polenta cakes too!. I have made two so far. The first one was a so so, but the fig polenta cake was a hit.
I have to try yours, it looks simply delicious!

Gluten free baking can be a hit or miss sometines. I have been gluten free since 2006, so I have had a bit of practice - some flops, some hits.

Kitchen Butterfly said...

This looks like a wonderful cake Kate, and I 'm glad you're finding recipes which you can enjoy whilst eating gluten-free.

Have a wonderful holiday season, love to Dan and hope to catch up properly int he New Year. LOL

chistery said...

so when you say polenta, do you mean cooked cornmeal? I've been noticing a trend in cooking blogs to just refer to cornmeal as 'polenta'. Polenta is already cooked - which makes for some confusion. Thanks for any clarification.

Kate at Serendipity said...

Thank you all for the wonderful comments. I love learning new things, but sometimes gluten-free baking can have some pretty awful failures! When it works, though, it's wonderful.

Chistery, when I say polenta, I mean ground unprocessed yellow corn. In the US this might be called cornmeal, though cornmeal can sometimes have other stuff in it. Or it can be bleached. In Europe, where I live, it's called polenta. When I talk about cooked polenta, I normally specify that it's cooked (or grilled). If I just say 'polenta', it means plain yellow cornmeal. Hope this helps!

Stella said...

Yum! I love cakes made with ground almond. They are so tea worthy (smile). Plus, this is really beautiful cake-that yellow color is wonderful. I'm going to try it as soon as I can get almonds or almond meal on sale. I refuse to pay those pumped up prices at Whole Foods. Dagnabbit! Yeah...

chistery said...

Thanks Kate! Can't wait to make this. I love finding new recipes for cornmeal - or polenta! ;)

Hungry Dog said...

Sounds great and looks even better--can't beat the gorgeous yellow color! I'll take mine with raspberry sauce AND ice cream thank you very much. :) Happy holidays, Kate!

Robin said...

Oh wow, Kate. This looks delicious. My grandfather has a Meyer lemon tree in his greenhouse that just started producing and I think I might have found a destination for one or two of them.

Crazy Sweet Life (Brianna) said...

LOVE lemon desserts! This sounds sooo tasty!

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I should be experimenting more with different grains too, just to try new things. This looks like a keeper of a recipe.

grace said...

i tend to prefer my polenta super creamy and loaded with cheese, but this is a refreshing alternative. happy holidays, kate!

heather jacobsen said...

mmm! I've never had polenta as a cake before! it sounds great. here in the states you can get cornmeal AND polenta. Or at least at Whole Foods they distinguish between the two. They call polenta the same as corn grits, whereas cornmeal is much finer and more like a flour.

Noé y familia said...


Thank you very much for this lovely recipe.

I live in Canary Islands and here it is difficult to find polenta at all -we use corn flour a lot though. So I had to make this recipe using already cooked polenta and far from becoming a mush, the polenta ended up hard. I was wondering if this is supposed to happen or if the cake's texture should be smooth and chrunchy-free. The flavour though was lovely.

Thank you very much in advance,

Paola said...
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