Friday, 23 March 2012

Lemon and Orange Polenta Cake with Limoncello Syrup

Mother's day has been and gone, I was planning to tell you about a lovely ox tail, beef shin and red wine stew that I made, only it wasn't that lovely... So I'll have to try it again and come back to you, I'm not sure what I did wrong... I've made it before and it was thick and delicious with sticky slow cooked meat, but this time it was thin and watery and not so good. I blame the challenge of cooking with an aga which I'm not used to. The only thing I succeeded in was becoming hot, bothered and stressed...

So after failing the 'make something lovely for your mother in a calm and relaxed environment' challenge, the next challenge was 'make a birthday cake for a friend at work who is gluten intolerant and doesn’t like most things'. It's been a challenging week... I feel a bit nervous about specialist gluten free cookery, especially because I might poison some poor gluten intolerant soul. I'm not sure I like a substitution food, so I was looking for a cake that just didn’t go anywhere near flour, wheat or gluten. Gluten free flour make me think of quorn, is it not just a poor substitution of the real thing, is it not better to just eat something else? It is a world I know very little about so I approached with trepidation.

I've made rich flour-less chocolate cakes before, and almond cakes. A polenta, orange and almond cake drenched in lemon, orange, sugar and lemoncello syrup sounded interesting. I think I've almost convinced myself that by using polenta it is healthy? A healthy cake? Hmmm... Maybe not. It was a Nigel Slater recipe that I have tweaked a bit to suit.

Start by finding a cake tin about 20cm in diameter, line the base with a piece of baking parchment and set the oven to 180C°. Then beat 210g of butter and 210g of caster sugar in a food mixer till light and fluffy. Next break 3 free range eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. Pour a little of the beaten egg into the creamed butter and sugar, beating thoroughly, then slowly continue adding bit by bit, beating till all the egg is used up. I often seem to get a bit of curding going on at this point so may need to hone my baking skills a bit as I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong...

Add 225g of ground almonds to the egg cake mixture. Then stir in 150g of polenta and a teaspoon of baking powder or gluten free baking powder gently to the mix. Lastly, mix in the grated zest of 1 large orange and its juice.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, it is quite thick so smooth it out evenly with a spoon. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, then turn the heat down to 150C° and continue cooking for a further 30 minutes, cover the surface with tin foil if it is browning too much. Then remove from the oven but leave the cake in its tin.

To make the syrup, grate the zest from 1 lemon and 1 orange into a measuring jug, cut the fruits in half and squeeze their juice into the jug, then top it up with water so it measures 250ml in total. Pour into a saucepan and add 100g of brown sugar. Bring this mix to the boil and keep at a rapid bubble until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has reduced to about 175ml. Then add 2 tablespoons of Limoncello.

Finally make small holes in the top of your still warm cake with a thin skewer and pour the syrup mixture very slowly over the top of the cake. You want to get an even spread of syrup soaking down into the cake. Leave to cool and let the flavours mingle.

I was very impressed with my first gluten free attempt actually, the cake has quite a grainy feel to it from the polenta, but is light and drizzly, sweet but tangy and fresh from all the orange and lemon.

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Happy cooking! Let me know if you make any of my recipes, send a picture, and let me know any of your own recipes and tips! Anna x