About three years ago my sister told me about a great cake she’d made from a Waitrose recipe card – the sort of thing they post near the entrance so you can duly go and buy all the ingredients on the way. For those of you unfamiliar with Waitrose, it’s the poshest of supermarkets in the UK, where even the own-brand stuff looks incredibly stylish on the shelves. I used to send my mum the Waitrose magazine and she’d bemoan the fact that so many of the ingredients it mentioned would be impossible to find in provincial New Zealand. Ho-hum.
Anyway, I remember my sister giving me the recipe card, which I duly tucked into my notebook. It fell out when I was looking for something else recently and it’s been sitting on the pile of bills on the bench ever since. I’m now about as far from a Waitrose as you can get (as are all my sisters, incidentally), but this is still a great cake.
Berry Polenta Cake
Polenta gives this cake a fantastically gritty texture – it’s the sort of thing you need to eat with a fork on a plate. Don’t give it to a small child indoors unless you have a fondness for sweeping up crumbs. The original recipe was a bit hard to follow so here’s a re-written version. I’ve also used orange zest, juice and orange flower water rather than the lemon zest, juice and vanilla in the original.
175g soft butter
175g caster sugar
3 medium eggs, beaten
150g fine polenta (the instant variety is best for cakes)
100g ground almonds
1tsp orange blossom water (or vanilla)
2tsp baking powder
350g mixed berries, fresh or frozen (or sliced stonefruit – I threw in a couple of Omega plums)
zest of 1 orange
50g caster sugar
juice of an orange (the one you zested for the cake will do nicely)
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a 23cm cake tin with baking paper.
Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then add the eggs and polenta and beat again until well mixed. Fold in the ground almonds, orange flower water and baking powder, followed by the fruit and orange zest. Spoon this mixture into the prepared tin and smooth down with a spoon. Bake for about 35 minutes, until golden and a skewer comes out clean. This may take longer if you use frozen berries.
About five minutes before you think the cake is done, put the sugar and orange juice in a small saucepan and bring to the boil over medium heat. Let bubble away for a couple of minutes, until syrupy.
When the cake comes out of the oven, stab it with a skewer (this is incredibly satisfying) and pour the syrup over the top. Let cool completely in the tin, then turn out and sift icing sugar over the top. Serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt or whipped cream.