Thursday, January 17, 2008

citrus-glazed polenta cake

Citrus-Glazed Polenta Cake

As you may have noticed, I took a little hiatus from blogging. I didn't intend to. In fact, I didn't want you to even notice that I went away on a business trip, and knowing I wouldn't have access to a kitchen on the trip, I prepared extra recipes before I left so I would have something to post while I was out of town. Ah...yes, I like to pride myself on being prepared.

Rockefeller Center at ChristmasThe best-laid plans of mice and men, right? Mmhmm. I was in New York City all by myself for over a week, so I thought for sure I'd have time to post, at least in the evenings. Given my occasional hermit-like tendencies, I promise you this was a reasonable thought. Plus, I had a pishy-posh hotel room, so I was certain I would spend enough time in it to post once or twice. Obviously I was wrong. Between concerts (work), networking at a bar (also work), and keeping up with things back at the office (the not quite as exciting work), there wasn't a spare second that wasn't spent working, sleeping, or getting ready for the next event on my schedule.

Statue of Prometheus at Rockefeller CenterBut I had a good time. A great time, in fact. Being thrown into New York City for one week twice within a year is a liberating experience for a girl from a little coal-mining town. And even though I was even busier this time than before, I made an effort to see some of the city.

Rockefeller Center Christmas TreeThe number one thing on my sightseeing to-do list was seeing the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. Yes, it's mid-January and I'm still infatuated with Christmas, so before I go any further, let me tell you my little theory about why I love Christmas so much -- all the time. I was conceived, not so very many years ago, in early December, I figure. And Mom's way of telling Dad about their impending bundle of holiday joy was to wrap up a little slip from the doctor that documented her pregnancy. I was a Christmas present, so I think it's natural that I'm capable of carrying the spirit of the season all year long.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree 2Anyway, I saw the Rockefeller Center tree on its very last day, and even though it was no longer lit up, it still delighted me. I probably spent about an hour walking around the plaza, looking at the tree from various angles. What a treat! For a moment it was like I had a company-paid trip to see a Christmas tree, and lights or no lights, it made me happy.

I managed to squeeze a few other things into my trip: the Buttercup Bakeshop, some very interesting secret-room shopping in Chinatown, a 6:00 a.m. trip to the Chelsea Antiques Garage, and a visit to one of my favorite restaurants, Fiorello's. A lot of work, but a lot of fun, too. What a great week!

Citrus-Glazed Polenta Cake 2This cake presents a lovely opportunity for you to learn from my mistake. It looks perfectly fine in the picture, right? Sure. But, oh, it is not fine. Not fine because I did not follow the directions. The recipe plainly states that one should use "instant" or "fine" polenta. Not finding any such product in the three grocery stores I tried, I trotted out of the third store with a package that was simply labeled "polenta," assuming those coarse bits of corn in the bag would soften right up once they were mixed with wet ingredients and baked. Wrong. Wrong. WRONG. The cake had the horrible texture of sand and small stones in my mouth -- not even remotely edible. The flavor, however, was good. If I eventually stumble upon the right polenta and make this cake again, I think I'll use a little less lemon zest and more of the orange and lime since the lemon flavor was the most pronounced. I'll also make the glaze with far less confectioners' sugar because the suggested 2 cups is overpowering. I think this cake could be quite good with a couple of tweaks, so I'll gladly give it another try with the right ingredients one day.

Citrus-Glazed Polenta Cake
(torta di polenta con agrumi)
From Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen
Yields one 9" cake

1 1/2 cups flour, plus more for dusting
1 lemon
1 lime
1 orange
3/4 cup instant or fine polenta
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly grease and flour a 9" springform pan. Grate the zest from the lemon, lime, and orange and set aside. Reserve the fruit for the glaze.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and granulated sugar on medium-high speed until they are pale yellow and have tripled in volume, about 3-4 minutes. Beat in the reserved citrus zests.

Add the flour mixture to the eggs in three additions, alternating with the oil and beginning and ending with the flour, beating just until each addition is incorporated. Pour the batter into the pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and bake until the cake pulls away from the pan and springs back lightly when touched, about 25-30 minutes. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes and then remove the sides to allow the cake to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze: squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice from each of the reserved fruits into a bowl. Gradually whisk in the confectioners' sugar until smooth. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and allow it to set until it is completely dry.


  1. I've been looking for a good polenta cake recipe and with the beautiful bounty of citrus at the farmers' market, this recipe is perfect! I've been looking at that cookbook for a while now; I think I'm going to Border's this weekend to buy it. Thanks for sharing the delicious cake!

  2. No problem -- just be SURE to buy the right polenta or you will have to throw the whole cake away!

  3. Sorry, not a comment on your recipe (though I'm sure it's divine), but the secret-room Chinatown shopping sure is a unique experience, eh? I bought my sister a funky Coach bag there!

  4. Unique? Yes, absolutely. It was certainly my first time doing any shopping of that sort. But as a result, my sister will receive a trendy little Dior bag this week....