Home Cooking

Cakes Polenta

Another take on polenta cake--or, Marcella, tweaked


Live your best food life.

Sign up to discover your next favorite restaurant, recipe, or cookbook in the largest community of knowledgeable food enthusiasts.
Sign Up For Free
Home Cooking 2

Another take on polenta cake--or, Marcella, tweaked

heidipie | Mar 18, 2005 11:52 PM

Maybe a decade ago I had an excellent polenta cake at a party, which had interesting spices and pine nuts and was dense and creamy like a budino. I've been thinking about it again since reading of Nick's experiments. My sister-in-law is visiting, and she keeps kosher, so a non-dairy dessert was in order for dinner tonight. Marcella Hazan's "Essentials" has recipes for polenta cake and olive-oil cake on facing pages, so I decided to combine them. Here's what I made:

1 cup coarse polenta
2 cups water
1/4 t salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
zest of two Meyer lemons (zest them right into the sugar and stir with a fork)
1 T fennel seeds
1/2 cup pignoli
1/4 cup raisins
1 cup dried figs (I used the Turkish kind that are all squeezed together), chopped coarsely
Marsala wine
2 eggs
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 400. Grease a 9" springform and sprinkle it with dry breadcrumbs.

Soak the fruit in Marsala, not enough to cover, but enough for it all to be absorbed--maybe 1/3 cup--tossing with your hands.

Bring the water to boil with the salt in a small saucepan. Slowly add the polenta, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Add half the oil and stir about a minute, until it's thick and coming away from the pan. Take off the heat and pour into a heatproof bowl. Immediately add the rest of the oil, the zesty sugar, the fennel and the pignoli, then the fruit, stirring. Let the mixture cool a bit (so it won't cook the eggs), then thoroughly stir in the eggs, then the flour. Scrape it into the springform and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake 35 minutes.

The finished cake was about an inch high, with a dry chewy top just like soft polenta gets when it sits. The inside was pretty much as I remembered that cake from long ago, maybe a little heavier. It was a riot of flavor, of course. The fennel and the Marsala fought a bit, but the lemon acted as peacemaker. The figs were really lush, and the pignoli got that soft translucent way they do when they are cooked without pre-toasting. My kid liked it, and the adults had third helpings, even my husband, who usually shows far more restraint.

What will I do differently next time? I want to do something about that top crust. I think it detracted from the smooth unctuousness of the whole. I think I'll bake it in an 8 inch pan, so it's that much thicker. I'll mince the lemon zest instead of using a microplane, so there are more texture punctuations. And maybe I'll play around with less flour/more liquid/more egg, or even a little leavening just to see if it can get a little lighter. But it doesn't need to.

Let me know what you think...

Want to stay up to date with this post?

Recommended From Chowhound