I love cake. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of tea or coffee and it goes exceptionally well with a cold glass of bubbles. It can be eaten any time of day from first thing in the morning for breakfast to late in the evening after dinner. It’s shows up for all occasions (birthdays, weddings, retirements, anniversaries…) and in many different forms. With so many shapes, sizes and flavours it’s hard to find a cake not to love. What is difficult, is choosing what cake to bake. With so many choices, it just means cake baking is never boring and can be just as enjoyable as the cake eating part.
Yesterday, I baked a lemon and rosemary polenta cake from Rachel Allen’s ‘Cake’ book. For anyone unfamiliar with polenta, it is a grain traditionally used in Italian cooking and it can be used as a replacement to flour in baking. It has the added benefit of being gluten-free so polenta cakes are a great alternative to serve anyone following a gluten-free diet. Polenta cakes are much moister than ordinary flour cakes and have a slightly grittier texture. I’ve eaten polenta cake before and loved it but I’ve never baked one so I was keen to try this recipe.
The recipe calls for 225g polenta, 1 teaspoon of baking powder, 450g softened butter, 450g caster sugar, 450g ground almonds, 6 eggs, finely grated zest of 2 lemons and 3 teaspoons of finely chopped rosemary. It makes a cake that is dense, moist and lemony similar to a lemon drizzle cake but with a crunchy bite from the polenta and an added hint of rosemary. The cake turns a deep golden brown colour on the outside after it is baked but remains a lemony yellow on the inside. After the cake is cooled it is drizzled with a lemon and rosemary syrup (juice of 2 lemons, 2 sprigs of rosemary, 100g caster sugar, 50ml water) to further intensify the flavours.
Lemon and rosemary are two flavours that pair well together but I wouldn’t have expected them together in a cake. I’m a bit undecided as to whether the rosemary adds anything to this cake or if it would be just as good without it. There is already a lot going on with the crunchy texture of polenta and the tangy zing of lemon so it seems like an unnecessary addition. I think the cake would be just as lovely with a more intense lemony flavour. I will definitely bake this polenta cake again but next time I will try it without the rosemary and with a little more lemon instead. If you decide to bake it for yourself, let me know what you think.