Mixed Greens Blog

Mixed Greens Blog
Living Sustainably in the Pacific Northwest


Berried Treasure: Polenta Cake

I’m thinking that this Polenta Cake might actually be good for you. Or, if that’s a stretch I could put it another way, that it might not be all that bad for you. Polenta (cornmeal), less flour and sugar than other cake recipes, almonds, no butter, no frosting . . . see where I’m going with this. If you believe in this theory, and I absolutely do, then you abandon guilt and let yourself eat berries and have some cake too.

I love it when I come up with an idea that’s ridiculous, but just too tempting to discount, like inventing ways for cake to be good for you. Plus, remember the fruit, which is the whole point: that this cake is a vehicle for officially designated super food, BERRIES. Gotcha. Make the cake and pile on the berries. You’ll be fine.

2012 Skagit Valley berries

And this is the moment for our local, uniquely delicious strawberries, not the plump, tasteless variety that are picked early, bred to be transportable and have had just a little too much – how can I put this delicately? – plastic surgery. Our own strawberry patch, and to call it that is a stretch, has maybe two dozen berries each year. One of them, pictured below, will surely have been devoured by our backyard squirrel, Obese Buddy we call him, before this is even published. We’re lucky if we get a handful. We could take our strawberry patch a lot more seriously. Blueberries, on the other hand, are on their way and we’ll have a good harvest again this year. Three plants provide a hefty cup or more each day for 5 or 6 weeks. Fruit of any kind, sliced and juicy, is the perfect companion for the Polenta Cake.

Orange Almond Polenta Cake Recipe

With berries or not, this is a darn good cake. Recipe from Moosewood Restaurant’s Simple Suppers.

Ingredients: 1/3 C cornmeal or polenta/ 2/3 C unbleached white flour/2 t baking powder/ 1/2 t salt/ 1 1/2 C almonds/ 3/4 C sugar (I used 1/2 C)/ Juice and zest of 1 orange/ 1/2 C vegetable oil/ 2 eggs/ 1/2 C water/ confectioner’s sugar

The difference between polenta and cornmeal is in the grind. Polenta is coarser. There’s definitely a bite to this cake, a slight crunch, which I like. Substitute polenta for a more finely ground cornmeal if you prefer.

Directions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees, lightly oil and flour a 9″ cake pan/ Sift cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl/ Whirl almonds and sugar together in a food processor until almonds are finely ground/ Add flour mixture to the sugar and almond mixture, process briefly to mix/ Grate orange (about 1 T) and juice the orange (about 1/3 C) and add to dry ingredients along with eggs, oil and water/ Process for 15 or 20 seconds, scrape the sides and whirl again just briefly/ This is a thin batter/ Pour into prepared pan and bake for 40- 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean when tested. Ovens vary so check after 35 minutes./ Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool/ After 30 minutes or so, carefully loosen edges, remove from the pan and return to rack for cooling. (If you line cake pan with parchment before baking removal is a snap.)/ After the cake is completely cooled, dust with powdered sugar if you like.

Using a food processor this is ready for the oven in about 10 minutes. Without a food processor, proceed by hand or with a mixer. Finely ground almonds are an important ingredient and that could be accomplished in some blenders, a coffee grinder, or by hand.

Polenta Cake becomes berried treasure with its frosting of strawberries, raspberries, marion, black and blueberries, gooseberries, cherries, peaches . . . many a fruit will enjoy a ride on this cake. Maybe a spoonful of whipped cream too. Bake it and then wrap it, freeze it, use it whenever there are berries on the table, with a drizzle of local honey or with your own homemade berry jam. Your friendly, easygoing cake-next-door cake.

One of two dozen or so precious home grown strawberries.

Blueberries will ripen in the next few weeks. Will they find their way to a Polenta Cake?

Father’s Day. I’m remembering my Dad, who showed me how to cook, to play and to laugh hard, to do the right thing even when it’s the tough choice. It came naturally for him. When my brother and I laugh so hard we cry, we gratefully remember Dad. For fathers and surrogate fathers, such gifts add immeasurably to our lives as children and adults. Thank you.

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5 Responses »

  1. Sally, I am touched by your comments about your Father and your gratitude for his gifts. Right now every peony blossom I sniff deeply transports me back to my Dad’s prized plants …the memories find their way back to us, don’t they?
    Am considering making this cake for my upcoming book club meeting…it looks lovely and unusual…unless chocolate somehow wins out!
    Hugs and thanks for sharing

  2. I’m trying this tonight!

  3. Elaine and Annie, thank you for comments. Great to hear from regular readers.
    If you make this cake, and I hope that you do, let me know how it works out. Crumbs on the plate now from the one I made two days ago. Truly, a delicious venue, the Polenta Cake, for summer’s fresh fruit.

  4. Sally,

    Thank you for “inventing a way to make cake good for us”! (I’m still chuckling.) I’m sold, and might even try this one day : ) (I’m in love with all things polenta. And what a perfect canvas for fresh, local antioxidants.)

    Your comments about your father are such a lovely tribute, and brought a tear to my eye.

    Thank you for yet another entertaining, informative, and touching post.



  5. Carm, we finished off a polenta cake the other day without any fresh fruit around and it was delicious on its own. I say, go for it!