do you ever find yourself in a chocolate coma? y’know, that tooth-achy, bloated-belly, can’t look at another dairy milk, choc fatigue? i know more than a few ladies who could munch on chocolate all day and never tire of it, and indeed i understand your addiction girls – i can do the same with peanut butter (obvs), ice cream and most cheeses without blinking an eye. but i can only handle so much chocolate. after a cupcake, or a slice or two of cake, i’m done for. no more can pass my lips for another few days.
but does this mean i have to sacrifice dessert? how dare you even suggest it! no, there are so many pudding options that don’t involve sickly sweet, molten chocolate. baked fruits (my mother’s brandied peaches are particularly amazing) lemon or lime meringues, eton mess… the list of my faves goes on. this is one of them: nigella lawson’s lemon polenta cake. and before you comment, yes, i’m aware i cook a lot of nigella recipes. nige is my girl, ok? great. moving on.
this recipe is unlike a normal cake in so many ways. where others tend to aim to be fluffy and airy, this is dense, moist and crumbly. the gritty texture of the polenta gives a wholesome sturdiness to each mouthful that is so unexpected for a dessert.
and while i’m all for dazzling guests with a flourish of frosting or intricate adornment on desserts, the unabashed simplicity of this italian-inspired cake is so right. a plain brown circle drenched in glorious syrup, with a delightfully chirpy yellow inside when you slice into the cake. i like to add a dousing of cream before gobbling mine up.
for the lemon polenta cake, follow this recipe taken from nigella kitchen. you will need:
200g soft unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
1 1⁄2 tspn baking powder
125g icing sugar
preheat oven to 180c/gas mark 4. line the bottom of a 23cm springform cake tin with baking parchment and grease the sides with butter.
in your mixer (or if are in need of some arm cardio, do it manually), beat butter and caster sugar until pale and fluffy. in another bowl combine the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder. beat some of the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar, followed by the first of the eggs. alternate the dry ingredients and the remaining two eggs until all of the ingredients are combined. beat in the lemon zest (reserve the lemons for their juices later) before scraping the mixture into the cake tin.
nigella says to bake for 40 minutes, but i have a very hot oven, and even after lowering the temperature mine was perfectly cooked after just 30 minutes. keep an eye on yours. the cake is ready when a cake tester comes out clean and the edges of the cake have begun to shrink away from the tin. allow to cool on a wire rack in the tin.
for the syrup, combine the juices of the two lemons with the icing sugar and boil in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved. prick small holes in the cooled cake with a small cake tester (i used a stalk of raw angel hair spaghetti) and drench the cake in the warm syrup, allowing the liquid to spill over the sides and pool in the slightly concave middle to create an intensely dense and moist cake.