If baking cookies and gingerbreads as well as shopping for gifts are the only things you have to worry about, consider yourself lucky.
Due to my garden weed situation, I have been diligent in weeding out my front yard for the past couple of days (my backyard is yet to finish, sigh!). So far, Orange does not have much of a summer, as the intermitent rain and the mugginess felt before downpours made gardening even less pleasurable than it was. Anyway, I’m glad that my front yard is looking a lot better now and before moving on to my backyard, I decided to take a break and bake a cake. A much needed gesture to inject some pleasure in between gardening.
Apart from the reason above, the other reason for today’s baking was the apricots which I bought were too sour for direct consumption. What a downer right? Usually I don’t like to tamper with stonefruits as to me, they are already perfect as they are – in aroma, color and texture. However, every once in a while, you’ll end up with a couple of sour ones which is okay because this is when the baking routine comes in: Hello Dolly Sugar!
I modeled this recipe against Nigella Lawson’s lemon polenta cake from her latest book – Kitchen: Recipes from The Heart of The Home. Since I’m baking for two, I halved almost all the ingredients except for eggs. The original recipe calls for 3 eggs, but I wasn’t going to halve the original portion to 1.5 eggs. Firstly, what a pain to lightly beat 2 eggs and try to estimate 1.5 right? Secondly, what am I suppose to do the remaining 0.5 egg? Therefore, I added 2 eggs instead plus 40g self-raising flour which was not in the original recipe.
Initially, I thought the cake was going to be quite dry as Nigella made a syrup to drizzle over the cake – like a pre-syrup semolina cake. But I was quite wrong. The cake turned out to be quite moist and crumbly with a crusty outer layer that reminded me of polenta-crusted potatoes for a split second. When a cake is as good as this, I think it’s best to keep it au naturale – minus the syrup in this instance (even though I have made some).
Apricot and Lime Polenta Cake
Fills a 20cm (8-inches) round cake pan, about 2cm (0.8 inch) thick
2 fresh apricots, cored & sliced into 24 slices (6 slices for each half)
100g (3.5 oz) butter, soften, plus extra for greasing
100g (3.5 oz) caster sugar
100g (3.5 oz) ground almonds (almond meals)
100g (3.5 oz) fine polenta/cornmeal
40g (1.4 oz) self-raising flour, sifted
zest of 1 lime
Syrup ingredients (optional):
1/4 cup lime juice (about 3 small-sized limes)
4 tbsps icing sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 356 degrees Fahrenheit. Line the base of your cake pan with baking paper and grease its sides with butter.
2. Whisk the butter and sugar until pale. Add the eggs, one at a time and continue to whisk until resembles double cream consistency.
3. Add ground almonds, lime zest, polenta and self-raising flour into the butter mixture until just mix.
4. Pour the batter into a cake pan, smooth the top and arrange apricot slices on top of the batter.
5. Bake the cake for 30 minutes until the cake tester come out clean. Leave it to cool in the pan.
6. To make the syrup: Boil lime juice and icing sugar in a small pot until the icing sugar is completely dissolved.
To drizzle or not to drizzle? Nigella’s method is prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester (in her words “a skewer would be too destructive”), and pour the warm syrup over the cake and leave to cool before taking it out of the cake pan. My preference is to drizzle over the slice(s) as I eat rather than soaking the whole cake in syrup. As I have mentioned before, I think the cake is moist so in my opinion, soaking in syrup may make the cake soggy.