A combination of two things led me to this recipe; an overly abundant lemon tree at my Mum’s house and a desire to use polenta in baking. It would appear (to me at least) a match made in baking heaven.
My Mum’s lemon tree is consistently plentiful with deliciously sweet lemons, not the normal hard skinned lumpy variety, but instead a perfectly oval shaped, thin skinned and sweet flavoured variety which I have come to love over the years. It is the perfect companion when baking, adding a naturally sweet zing to your creations. My Mum suggested that I take a bag home and experiment with some new recipes to see if I could make use of them. Ever up for a challenge, I accepted.
When told to get creative with lemons I instantly remembered a recipe in one of my Nigella Lawson cookbooks (there’s a few) for her Lemon Polenta Cake. I remember reading the recipe and being intrigued by the use of polenta during baking, so decided that this was a worthy challenge. Also, my dear friend Kristen adores polenta and had sworn by this cake previously when I asked her about it, so I took up my Mum’s challenge and tried something completely new and surprisingly, completely rewarding.
Sweet, a little tart and deliciously sticky – this cake is perfect made a day before serving and works well with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream if you’re feeling a little gluttonous.
200g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds (almond meal)
100g fine polenta
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 large eggs
Zest of 2 lemons
Juice of 2 lemons
125g icing sugar
- Line the base of a 23cm springform cake tin with baking paper and lightly grease its sides with butter.
- Preheat oven to 180°C.
- Beat the butter and sugar until pale and whipped (with an electric or bench top mixer is best).
- Mix together the almonds, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this mixture into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by one egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.
- Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour, spoon or scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.
- It may seem wobbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out clean and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the tin. Remove from oven and place on a wire cooling rack, leaving in its tin.
- Make the syrup by combing the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small pan and bring to the boil.
- Once the icing sugar’s dissolved into the lemon juice, you’re done.
- Prick the cake all over with your cake tester, pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before removing from its tin.
*Tip: Cut cake with a warm knife to avoid it pulling apart at the top – simply warm the knife by running it under hot water and then drying it.