I don’t often cook with polenta. Actually, I never use it. Well, I did once years ago, and I did not like the results. So when I saw that this week’s Food Matters Project recipe chosen by Jen of Prairie Summers was Apricot Polenta Cake, I was a little skeptical.
Surprise! This cake was actually really good. I think the original recipe, that features dried apricots and orange juice would also be a great combination, but I decided to switch it up and try dried cherries with lemon and . . . what always tastes great with cherries?? Almonds.
It was a gorgeous sunny afternoon here–my deck was calling to me, so I didn’t want to spend much time in the kitchen. I took a couple of shortcuts: first, by using prepared polenta found in the natural foods section of my local grocery store and second, by throwing everything into the food processor. As a result this cake was prepped in record time and I was back out in the sunshine.
After reading a bit about polenta, I discovered that it is a staple in Northern Italy, much as pasta is in other parts of the country. Made from cornmeal, it is a complex carbohydrate so it is low on the glycemic index, it contains a bit more protein than a large egg, and it is allowed in a gluten-free diet. Since it is thought of as a peasant food, I decided to keep my cake rustic, leaving the cherries and almonds coarsely chopped.
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup oil
- 2 eggs, separated
- 1 cup prepared polenta
- 3 Tbsp. lemon juice
- finely grated zest of one organic lemon
- 1/2 tsp. almond extract
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 1/2 cup almonds
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8-or 9 inch square or round baking pan.
Put sugar, and egg yolks in the bowl of a food processor and process until thick and creamy. Add polenta, lemon juice, zest and almond extract and mix until smooth. Combine the flour and baking powder and add to the polenta mixture in the food processor. Toss in the dried cherries and almonds and pulse until finely chopped.
Beat the egg whites with an electric mixer in a glass bowl until soft peaks form. Transfer polenta mixture to the bowl and gently incorporate the beaten egg whites into the batter.
Turn the batter into the greased pan. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan. Invert it out onto a plate and sprikle with powdered sugar just before serving. Top with fresh fruit, or drizzle with maple syrup, or serve with a dollop of yogurt or whipped cream.
Be sure to check out the other Food Matters Project participants’ versions of this recipe here. I’m always blown away by their creative variations.