My friend Tony loves citrus-flavoured cakes and seeing as it was his 40th birthday at the weekend, I decided to make him a moist lemon cake. Pouring through all my cookery books, I found this lemon and polenta cake recipe in Annie Bell’s Baking Bible, one of my favourite baking books. The recipe looked so quick and easy, it seemed like the perfect choice.
180g/6.3oz unsalted butter, softened and diced
200g/7oz caster sugar
3 large eggs
finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
130g/4.6oz ground almonds
2 tsp baking powder, sifted
100g/3.5oz fine polenta
icing sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 190°C conventional oven/170°C fan/375°F/gas mark 5 and butter a 20cm non-stick cake tin with a removable base, at least 5cm deep.
Simply place all the ingredients for the cake in a mixing bowl or food processor…
Transfer to the prepared tin, smoothing the surface with a spoon.
Place in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden, risen and firm and coming away from the sides. A skewer inserted into the centre should come out clean.
(I had to make this cake twice. The first time I took it out the oven it looked perfect. I left it to cool and when it had, I went to take it out of its tin. Unfortunately the whole thing broke into pieces and it turned out the middle of the cake was still uncooked! So I made it again. Luckily its so easy to make, it didn’t cause too much of a problem. The next time I made it I kept it in for about 45 minutes and it came out fully cooked through.)
Run a knife around the sides of the cake and remove and place on a cooling rack to cool.
As I wanted to make this cake extra citrusy, I decided to pierce some holes in the cake with a skewer/cocktail stick and drizzle some lemon syrup onto the top of the cake. This isn’t in Annie Bell’s recipe but it definitely did no harm at all. It made the cake extra moist and zesty. I just heated up the juice of half a lemon in a pan with about 2 tablespoons of icing sugar and let it reduce into a syrup. Do this to taste…if you want it sweeter, add more icing sugar. If you want it a little more tart, add more lemon. I think I spooned about 3 tablespoons of the syrup on this cake. Of course, you don’t have to add it at all, I just did it as an extra. The cake is delicious with or without it.
Shortly before serving, dust the cake with icing sugar and serve with a spoonful of crème fraîche.
This is a really beautiful tasting cake. The polenta and ground almonds work together to create a lusciously moist cake whilst still remaining light in texture. As Tony said, “The balance of sweet and bitter matched well giving the cake a real zest without being overpowering”.
This cake will keep for several days in an airtight container.
PHOTOS: Tony Woodhead (the good ones! First one and last two. Thank Tony! x)