Price and I made this Polenta, Almond, and Lemon Cake for Valentine’s Day. We went through my new cookbook several times because everything sounds soooo good. Emily gave me The River Cafe Cookbook for my birthday. It’s a great book that I don’t want to put down. Price and I have gone through the book several times with “Oh this sounds good”, ” I want to try this!” or ” Oh, wait look at this one.” Basically I want an ice cream maker to make all the sorbets they have in there- like a Campari Sorbet!
“Mise en Place”
We chose this cake because it was different than anything we had before. Plus we did not want to go with chocolate, which just seemed a little too Valentines Day too us. This cake had me thrown for a bit because of its use of polenta flour. I went shopping a Trader Joes and Whole Foods and could not find Polenta Flour. I googled it and still did not get a definitive answer as to what it was or a manufacturer so I could find it easier. What I ended up using was Polenta. I think that it was fine with Polenta because it gave the cake a gritty texture but there were the occasional rougher grit that stuck out. It seems that Polenta is okay to use but I think corn meal (still gritty, but a bit finer) would be okay to use if you could not find Polenta or if you wanted a less gritty cake.
I always read a recipe and its ingredients prior to jumping into cooking or baking. So I was well prepared for this but all of the ingredients in place shocked me. It was not until I started baking that I realized that it really called for 1 pound of unsalted butter, 1 pound of sugar, and 1 pound of ground almonds. Think about it….. that’s A LOT OF BUTTER. What’s even more crazy is that the cookbook said this cake serves 10-12 people. After making the cake and cutting it into normal pieces/slivers it would feed 24-30 people. No we did not eat it our selves! I gave Emily and her boyfriend some and brought just about the rest to work.
Lastly, I did not use the 12in cake pan it called for. I had a 10in springform pan so I used that. By using a smaller pan the cake was higher than it would have been in a 12in pan, and took longer to bake. At 1 hour and 15 minutes I figured it was good enough and yanked it out of the oven. I think that 10in is the smallest you should try to substitute, if needed use two 8in but watch the cake carefully.
Polenta, Almond, and Lemon Cake
serves 10-12 (but it can serve at least 24 with “normal” slices)450 grams (1 pound) unsalted butter, softened at room temperature 450 grams (1 pound) caster/superfine sugar (granulated will work) 450 grams (1 pound) ground almonds* 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 6 eggs zest of 4 lemons juice of 1 lemon 225 grams (8 oz) Polenta flour (polenta/corn meal) 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat over to 325.
Butter and flour a 12in round cake pan
Combine the polenta, baking powder, and salt in a bowl, set aside.
Using an electric mixer/stand mixer, the butter and sugar together until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Stir in the ground almonds and vanilla extract.
Beat the eggs in, one at a time.
Fold in the lemon zest and juice and the dry ingredients.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until set. The cake will be a deep brown on the top.
*I bought almond meal at Trader Joes- worked perfectly!
**I suggest to weigh the ingredients when possible.