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.
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.