Sunday, September 16, 2012

Plum and Cranberry Polenta Cake

I love desserts! Or should I say, DFJ and I both love desserts. Our household never runs out of homemade treats. During the weekends, I (DFJ does his share of this too) would make some cookies, a cake, a tart, muffins, or cupcakes to last us for a week or as long as a week, if we can help it.
We eat desserts during breakfast, lunch, or dinner, which in my opinion, is the way to live a happy life. The trick is moderation and I’m pretty good at it (err… most of the time). A single cookie is split in half and enjoyed with coffee as a breakfast dessert and the other half with more coffee as an after work treat. Then I would eat a whole one for dessert after dinner. A slice of cake is something that I will nibble on the whole day, just a little bit in the morning and then some more for the rest of the day. And then reward myself with a small slice after dinner. Moderation. *wink*
When I saw that this week’s Food Matter’s Project is a dessert, Apricot Polenta Cake, chosen by the lovely Jen of Prairiesummers. I got so excited and was even more thrilled that we had all the required ingredients on hand.

I absolutely love how this cake turned out… it is old-fashioned, unassuming, and surprisingly delicious! A cake so perfect for any occasion and time of day: breakfast, brunch, an afternoon snack, or dessert.  

This cake is made special by the polenta, which I would never have thought could go in a cake batter. Mark Bittman sure knows best and I trust him. The polenta made for a really sponge like cake and it went well with the spelt flour (I used this instead of all-purpose), which added a nice nuttiness to the already grainy texture.

One of the interesting things about this cake is the use of olive oil. It works just as well as butter and although it does not taste like olive oil at all, it gave the cake a really nice, soft texture. Creaming the olive oil, sugar, and eggs took a while, but every minute of it was enjoyable. The golden mixture coming together smoothly is quite a pretty sight.  

This lovely cake is so simple but so good! It is like a creamy cornbread, lightly sweetened with subtle hints of citrus, studded with dried cranberries, and topped with luscious sweet and tart Italian plum slices.

Plum and Cranberry Polenta Cake
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Apricot Polenta Cake, The Food Matters Cookbook

½ cup cornmeal
¼ tsp salt
1 and ¼ cups water

½ cup spelt flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup olive oil
½ cup sugar
2 eggs, separated
3 tbsp orange juice, freshly squeezed (if possible)
½ cup dried cranberries

1 Italian plum, sliced

a bit of olive oil to grease the pan

In a small cooking pot, whisk together the cornmeal and salt. Add 1 and ¼ cups of water and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low and cook until the polenta is thick. Turn off the stove and move the pot away from heat. Whisk the polenta well and let cool slightly.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with a little bit of olive oil all over the bottom and sides. 

In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the spelt flour and baking powder.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the olive oil and sugar using a hand held mixer on low speed until the sugar dissolves. Add the egg yolks and beat on low speed until the mixture is thick, about 6 minutes. Mix in the polenta and beat on low until smooth, about 3 minutes.

Add in the spelt flour and baking powder mixture and beat on low for about 1 minute until the batter is smooth. Pour in the orange juice then add the cranberries and beat on low for about 30 seconds until well blended. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure everything is mixed well together.

In a separate small mixing bowl, beat the egg whites on low speed until they form soft peaks. This will take about 5 minutes. Using a rubber spatula, stir the egg whites gently but thoroughly into the batter.

Slowly pour the batter into the greased pan and very gently lay the plum slices on top to form a circle. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. It should turn a nice, golden color and the sides slightly brown and pulling away from the pan. Turn the oven off and allow the cake to cool in the pan on top of a cooling rack.


P.S. Check out Prairiesummers for the original Mark Bittman recipe and check out what cake awesomeness the other FMP members did at our website. 


  1. Yum! Margarita this looks great. I love desserts but I don't make them very often because I am nowhere near as good as you with moderation. I eat the whole thing in one sitting. Yikes!

  2. If I had such a cake I wouldn't be that abstemious! Looks gorgeous!


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