Two of my favorite things to bake (and cook) with are olive oil and polenta. Olive oil because it adds complexity and richness and polenta because it adds texture and flavor. I have blogged about my two desserts with olive oil so far: my pear olive oil cake and my chocolate mummy cakes, but I though it’s about time I talk about polenta and how truly great it is.
First, some celerity, let’s clear up some confusion about cornmeal and polenta. Cornmeal is made by grinding dried corn kernels into fine, medium, and coarse textures. The traditional way of making cornmeal (through stone-grinding), allows some of the hull and germ of the kernels to remain. Cornmeal can be made from blue, white, or yellow corn.
Polenta is really a dish from Northern Italy, not an ingredient. Truthfully, polenta is a simple porridge made from coarsely ground cornmeal. Polenta is most often made from yellow corn. Packages labeled “polenta” simply mean that the grind of the corn is appropriate to make the traditional polenta dish, but you can substitute regular medium or coarsely-ground cornmeal instead, but you can not use finely ground cornmeal or corn flour, it is not the same.
So technically speaking, this cake could be called a “cornmeal cake“, but to avoid confusion in which grind or what type of corn, I’m going with “polenta cake” instead which implies a coarser grind. Polenta has a great texture that works well in this simple, yet flavorful, rustic cake. Coconut (another favorite of mine) helps soften the crunchy, nuttiness of the polenta perfectly, while adding just the right amount of sweetness.
The best part about this recipe is that it’s foolproof. One bowl is all you need and it whips up effortlessly in minutes. I’m making this cake for New Year’s this year because the ingredients are common pantry ingredients I typically have on hand, but also because of it’s simplicity. I’ll be honest, right now I need simple. This year has been a grind from start to finish. There have been twists and turns no one could have imagined a year ago. We all have a story, many (like my family) have lost loved ones to COVID. We are all worn down in different ways. Looking ahead, I think 2021 will be a year of more comfort food on my blog, perhaps my own personal way help with the healing process.
This coconut polenta cake is great on it’s own (for dessert or breakfast) or served slightly warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, but that’s just a personal preference. No matter how you serve it, I want to wish you a peaceful, happy, healthy and healing year ahead.
Coconut Polenta Cake
- 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4-1 cup castor sugar (depending on how sweet you want it)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- dash of salt
- 3/4 cup polenta
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup almond flour
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract
- 2 tablespoons Extra Virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
- vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 10-inch springform pan with parchment paper and lightly oil. Set aside.
- Step 2 In a large mixing bowl add the softened butter and sugar. Next, using a whisk, beat well till incorporated.
- Step 3 Whisk in the baking powder and salt. Add the polenta and mix well followed by the all-purpose flour and almond flour.
- Step 4 Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well to incorporate.
- Step 5 Add the vanilla extract, coconut extract and olive oil and mix to blend. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the shredded coconut.
- Step 6 Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Using a spatula, smooth out as evenly as possible.
- Step 7 Place int he oven and bake till set, about 45-50 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing.
- Step 8 Serve with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.
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