I like to play a game if I'm in a cafe or at a farmers' market - which cake would I have if I were going to have a piece of cake? I get all of the pleasure of selecting without the worry of it not living up to its looks. If The Scientist is with me I like to play which cake would he pick if he were going to have a piece of cake too. This is risky as he's more likely to actually buy some cake, which can on the one hand make me feel all happy that I know him so well if he goes for my guess - but then on the other leave me feeling bewildered, disorientated and wondering what's happened to my carrot cake and apple tart loving boyfriend when he occasionally veers off trend and pick something completely unexpected. There's a risky world of cafes and relationships out there.
Of course for me it's not usually so much which cake would I buy, as which cake would I like to go home and make myself. There's a stall at our farmers' market which often has golden, fruity little polenta cakes in fancy wrappers which always catch my eye. I've searched for recipes which look similar - sometimes they're polenta cakes, and sometimes yogurty cakes, sometimes with ground almonds and sometimes not. I now have so many possibilities bookmarked that I've never actually tried any of them, but last week I happened to have bought some more polenta; I happened to have acquired some plums; and I happened to have stumbled on a promising-looking recipe for grape polenta cake on Lucillian Delights.
The plums were from the tree in Munchkin Gramps' garden (the same one which gifted me the fruit for a plum tart last year). They've had another good year but I only had very limited carrying capacity when I was up there last week and a shopping trip with Kiwi Sis to nurse them through (I LOVE it that Kiwi Family are now characters on this blog instead of the intended audience, btw). I brought home more than enough to top a small cake though, and I only had a small cake in mind, to bring out as a lunch dessert for Scientist Sister and her husband when they popped in last weekend.
The cake was unlike anything I've made before. The polenta is steeped with warm flavoured milk and then mixed with eggs - that's it. The fruit goes on the top and the whole thing is baked. I made it as a little break from a work task on Friday, but it was so simple that steeping apart it was all over in the time I could have made a cup of tea. I baked through nicely and looked very promising.
When we came to eat it, I have to admit that I was disappointed. It was quite dry, and not very sweet at all. I thought it was disturbingly like a savoury baked polenta with fruit on the top and really needed either some sweetener in the batter, or a nice fruity sauce. The Scientist drizzled some maple syrup on his which he said improved it, and everyone else did seem to like it more than me - or they said they did anyway :) So I have yet to find my polenta cake nirvana. I think that next time I will try one with some ground almond or other flour to lighten up the polenta. In the meantime I will go back to playing my dangerous cake games in the local cafe.
Thank you to Munchkin Gramps and Grandma S for the plums, and Kiwi Sis for a lovely afternoon of sisterly bonding, and for spending more money than me on our shopping trip :)
Plum polenta cake (based on a half sized version of the grape polenta cake at Lucillian Delights)
125 ml milk
1 1/2 - 2 Tbsp sugar (or more - see above)
1-1 1/2 Tbsp butter
the peel of half a lemon
dash of salt
plums for the topping
Bring the milk to the boil with the butter and the lemon peel. Mix the polenta with the sugar and salt, and then pour on the hot milk. Mix well and leave for at least 30 minutes at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200C.
Remove the lemon peel, add the eggs and mix well. Pour mixture into a cake tin (I used a small one - perhaps 5 inches across). Place sliced plums on the top and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
I'd recommend serving this with some fruity sauce or syrup, and dusting with icing sugar.