Lemon Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Icing

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Lemon polenta cake sounds like the sort of cake you would have in the oven in case someone popped in for afternoon tea. People don’t seem to drop by anymore though. Our society isn’t very conducive to this type of lifestyle. We are all so rushed and frantic trying to fit everything into our busy schedules that the thought of just popping over to a friends unannounced seems bizarre, as does the thought that said friend would just be waiting and available at home.

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In my grandmother’s day having a friend over for afternoon tea was the done thing and she still does it with her friends nowadays. And I think it’s lovely. It’s a time to enjoy something sweet, sip on tea and catch up. It makes me a little sad to think this tradition is being lost. It’s such a nice way to enjoy someone’s company – so quaint and charming. Slices, biscuits, fruit breads and teacakes are recipes from a different era but still no less delicious.

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This cake is an amalgam of Italian and English desserts. The polenta lends it it’s Italian heritage while the syrup saves it from being too dry, as while I love Italian food their cakes do err on the side of dryness. This dessert is a sweet yet sharp cake with a sticky syrup that highlights it English heritage. The cakes sweetness is not sickly-so, thanks to the sour nature of the mascarpone and lemon. The slightly gritty texture of the polenta paired with the nutty, fragrant almonds provides a lovely change from a simple flour cake. While there may be a fear that polenta in a dessert would make it stodgy, this fear is unwarranted thanks to the syrup, which brings a lovely wetness to this perfect afternoon treat. So why not whip this up next time you have a minute to spare, call up a friend and spend the afternoon catching up like we used to, not over a rushed coffee on the way to somewhere else.

Lemon Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Icing

Cake:

  • 3 eggs
  • 200g butter, softened and diced
  • ¾ cup caster sugar
  • Zest of two lemons + juice of one
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1½ cups almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

 Syrup:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup lemon juice

Mascarpone Icing:

  • 250 mascarpone
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • Zest of ½ lemon

Method:

  1. Cake: Preheat oven to 160°C
  2. Grease and line 20cm springform cake tin.
  3. In a medium sized bowl beat together butter and sugar with electric mixers until pale and creamy.
  4. Add lemon rind and vanilla and beat well.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture looks a little curdled and lumpy, once the polenta and almond meal are added it will regain a smoother appearance.
  6. Add lemon juice, almond meal, polenta and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon stir until mixture is smooth.
  7. Bake for an hour. Cake will be ready when an inserted knife comes out clean. If the cake looks to be browning too much while it’s cooking cover it with a layer of foil.
  8. Syrup: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and place on stove over a low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and let it come to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat.
  9. Icing: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.
  10. Assembly: Make indentations over the cake using a skewer or fork. Gently pour syrup over cake letting it run into the holes. Leave the cake in tin to cool. Once cool, remove from tin and spread with icing. Garnish as desired.
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