Thursday, August 17, 2006

A Tale of Two Cakes : Part I

Blood Orange and Polenta Cake Orange Almond Cake

Where the proverbial cake is concerned, of course I want to have my cake and eat it to. The very purpose of cake is for its eating; there truly is no need for cake unless it is to be eaten. Imagine telling a little girl who has just turned two that she is not allowed to eat her birthday cake but merely look at the thing. Well that right there is temptation at its best, deliberately goading her to disobey orders. Cakes are irresistible and not only to two year olds, but to adults alike. The last time I was at kids’ party, I recall it wasn’t actually the seven year olds that were stealthily sneaking past the cake swiping a finger full of coffee buttercream icing, but the parents of those very children.

And when it comes to cakes, the citrus varieties are always my
preference, and luckily we are smack bang in the midst of citrus season. This first cake came about after a stroke, not of genius but of unintentional dyslexia. For reasons unknown, I had read a recipe all wrong and thought that “semolina” somehow said “polenta”. I know this is quite difficult to fathom and quite far-fetched, but sadly it is true. The two words actually do not sound alike, nor do they look alike except maybe for the letter “a” at the end. And they are actually two totally different things, but I had somehow deluded myself into thinking that the recipe called for polenta, and I did not realise this “slight” oversight until after the first step, which was to combine all the dry ingredients.

Thomas Edison, was known for his countless blunders and failed attempts, in fact his laboratory even burned down after an experiment that went awry. So I don’t feel too bad, as that this cake turned out surprisingly good. The cake was rather dry,
as polenta absorbs quite a bit of moisture and the texture was obviously gritty. However the addition of the syrup over the cake does alleviate any dryness and grittiness. And if it is in the eating that lies testament to whether a cake is good, well, I can assure you there was not a crumb left. I will point out that the cake's taste and texture does improve overnight, so if you are able to restrain yourself, then urge yourself to do so.

Blood Orange Polenta Cake
(serves 6 to 8)
adapted from this book

Blood Orange and Polenta Cake

1 cup plain flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 2/3 cups polenta
4 eggs, separated
¾ cup caster sugar
½ cup olive oil
1 tbsp blood orange zest
½ cup blood orange juice

Blood Orange Syrup

1 cup caster sugar
¾ cup orange juice
1 tbsp blood orange zest

Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a round 22cm baking tin with greaseproof paper.
Combine flour, baking powder and polenta in a bowl and mix. Set aside.
Place egg yolks, sugar, oil and orange zest in another bowl and beat until light and fluffy.
Fold flour into egg yolk mixture in three parts, alternating with some orange juice.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form.
Using a wide metal spoon, fold in egg whites into the batter.
Pour into prepared baking tin and bake for 45 minutes or until cake is cooked when tested with a skewer.
Cool in the tin for 5 minutes and turn out on a wire rack to cool.

While the cake is cooking, prepare the syrup.
Place sugar, orange juice and zest in a saucepan over low heat and stir until sugar has dissolved completely.
Allow to simmer for 2 minutes and turn off heat.
Pour half the syrup over the cake.

To serve, cut the cake into wedges and spoon over a few tablespoons of remaining syrup over each portion.
Serve with some vanilla yoghurt.



wheresmymind said...

I think you might need some whipped cream and fresh berries!!

Helene said...

I make a cake ith semolina in the same manner, with an Amaretto flavored syrup.It never last long enough for me to take a picture. What time should I bring tea?

Anonymous said...

That's one way to come up with an adaptation!
It looks very good.

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, I've done the same thing myself. I realized my mistake before I started making it. But it looks like following through with it turned out great. Those kind of mistakes are the best!

Anonymous said...

Lovely! I love polenta cake.

Anonymous said...

Jen - WOW. I wish all my cooking mishaps turned out as well as yours! That cake is completely drool-worthy!

Jen said...

wheresmymind- yes, definitely can't go wrong with that!

Helene- I must try the cake again, this time using semolina.

Come over at 3 and bring some of those lovely strawberry tarts you make!

Tanna- I know, and I didn't even mean to. At least it was still edible.

Natalia- this was probably just one of those odd times where the mistake turned out to be a hit and not a miss!

Peabody- thank you!

Ellie- thanks, oh it was just a stroke of dumb luck. I'll try to read recipes more carefully next time.

Anonymous said...

Great save of the recipe! If only that happened to me more often...

lobstersquad said...

so much new stuff! I´m longing to catch up, nice and leisurely, everything looks gorgeous

Jen said...

Anita- you are such a master baker, you probably wouldn't make such a blunder, but indeed it was nice to have averted a disastrous cake.

Lobstersquad- hooray does that mean you are back from holidays! I sure hope so. I have been missing all your beautiful drawings and culinary creations. Can't wait for the posts. Hope you had a gerat holiday!

Julie said...

I love that you just went ahead with your cake in the spirit of experimentation. Polenta cakes are no unheard of, after all, and if given the choice, I would choose a polenta cake over a semolina cake any day. Blood oranges are fantastic...sadly I didn't see them in my market last year, and it is summer in Florida right now. Lovely cake!

Alicia said...

Is this your picture of Polenta Orange Syrup cake? Would we possibly be able to use it on our website? We can can list your name as the source. Please email me at . Thank you!