Sweet polenta cake with caramelized apples & almonds

I am a horrible sucker for cheap cookbooks — they lure me in with their big colorful photos and promise of a few good recipes. The books are not written by any particular expert, merely ‘edited by’ a staffer with a passing interest in food.

The books are strategically placed into the bargain bins. And, I realize they are mass-produced for placement into such areas for those culinary minds looking for a few cheap thrills. Yet, I can’t resist. I purchased the The Complete Book of Baking from such a bin several years ago, the temptation being the sweet polenta cake. It’s been on my to-do list for some time and now I am able to mark it off.

The cake intrigued me mostly due to the use of polenta to make a cake. The batter contains almond flavoring and lemon zest along with a few currants, then it’s topped with fresh apples and sliced almonds. To ensure it is rich, the batter is drizzled with melted butter and sugar before being placed into the oven — how could I not resist making this?

The result is a moist yet dense cake boasting a light lemony-almond flavor. I’ll admit, the currants do nothing for this other than to create specs in the cake. They are lost and useless. The top is interesting, slightly caramelized apples with a crunchy sugar crust adds a nice sweet texture. The cake itself has a large and firm crumb, a stronger texture than typical cakes. I enjoyed the change of pace and found it rustic, like something a friend’s grandmother would make at a holiday dinner.

Sweet polenta cake
3/4 cup flour
1/2 polenta (or cornmeal)
1 tsp baking powder
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup currants soaked in hot water for 20 mins and drained
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 apples peeled, thinly sliced
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease and flour a 9″ springform pan. In a bowl, add the flour, polenta, lemon zest, baking powder, and salt. Stir to combine.

In a separate mixing bowl, beat eggs and 1/2 cup sugar, then add milk and almond extract. Combine currants and 4 tablespoons butter. Slowly add the dry ingredients. When blended, pour into prepared pan.

Arrange apples in concentric circles on top of the batter. Sprinkle with slivered almonds. In a saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Pour over the apples, then sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup sugar.

Bake until the cake is puffed and golden, about 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes, then remove from the springform pan.

Although it was gone before these pics were taken, I created a topping from: 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tsp almond extract. A dollop of this mixture adds a nice sweet-tang.

I used polenta that had a slightly larger texture than cornmeal, which came through loud and clear. You can see the bits of polenta and the texture is defiently firmer. I kind of like it tough because it does stand out as something different.

Next time, I would likely remove the currants. I might try doing something different with the apples or possibly another fruit. The apples were tender but kind of blah — they didn’t stand up to the dominate flavors of lemon and almond. Once again, they were ok but kind of useless. Don’t get me wrong, the cake is quite good.

I need to see what’s next in this book. It’s a generic baking book but all of the recipes have a very international flair to them, but the book isn’t marketed in this way. There’s Guiness Cake, or maybe Lekach, a Jewish honey cake. Hmmm, I need to give this some though … and, I also need to give some thought to the MeMe I received. Yikes … what info shall I divulge about myself?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Manggy February 29, 2008, 1:47 am

    Ah, I’ve never tasted polenta cake but I’ve heard of chocolate polenta cake (from an issue of Food and Wine when I was 8y/o, from Gale Gand). The loose crumb and moistness (here I go again) intrigues me. I’m surprised there is only half a cup of sugar in the whole cake! The apples and butter/sugar topping do make a great addition.

    A 9″ cake between you and Joe? Oh my! :) I am guessing Bobby can’t share in the feast..

    Divulge everything! Kidding :)

  • Manggy February 29, 2008, 2:38 am

    I forgot to say– those authorless cookbooks freak the f@$k out of me. I feel like every page spells failure. Are we about to let our fears and prejudices go starting today? :)

  • Peter M February 29, 2008, 7:08 am

    Allen, the cake looks moist and if it was too dense…make a honey-lemon syrup and drown the sucker!

  • Cakespy February 29, 2008, 10:05 am

    Oh, but doesn’t that look delicious. I love, love, love the texture and taste that polenta lends to cakes, and this looks like a fine specimen indeed.

  • Allen February 29, 2008, 1:00 pm

    manggy: Haha! You remember a cake recipe from when you were 8? Good memory.

    I love to bake but it’s hard when there’s only two people to eat it (and Joe’s not a big fan of sweets). Bobby just has to watch and isn’t allowed to have any :-)

    Authorless cookbooks are a strange fetish of mine — I think that I like the diverse recipes they provide (i.e. not all coming from one person’s viewpoint). I grew up reading local cookbooks (put out by local organizations or church groups), so maybe that’s where this all comes from.

    peter: I like the way you think! I didn’t have any amaretto on hand but considered how I might be able formulate a sauce or syrup from it.

    cakespy: thank you! The polenta does add a nice unique quality. I love textures in general, so this was perfect for me :-)

  • Geggie February 29, 2008, 1:41 pm

    I recently had a almond polenta cake with pignoli nuts and a chocolate dizzle. It was very nice.

    I did round two of flourless choc cake today. I used an orange/spice dark chocolate bar from Green and Black’s and painted the cake with La Belle Orange liqueur when I put it on the plate. To be served with vanilla ice cream tonight.

  • Deborah February 29, 2008, 4:15 pm

    I have a few of those “bargain” cookbooks, and I really love some of them! This looks delicious!

  • Kevin February 29, 2008, 8:45 pm

    Nice looking cake! I also like the sound of a sweet polenta cake. try to stay away from cheap cookbooks as I always walk away with a few new ones…

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