When you don’t pay attention to what you are doing
When you are in a bit of a rush
When you are trying something new
When you don’t quite have all the ingredients in
Welcome to my world !
I’ve wanted to make a Lemon Polenta cake for ages, you see I’d eaten one at a friend’s birthday tea and my tastebuds were suitably impressed. Light, moist, lemony, not overly sweet, not too cakey, delicious, moreish. All these things.
So I tracked down a recipe by Nigel Slater – Lemon syrup cake from the Guardian website. The title of which I don’t think does it justice. You see I was taken with the idea of using polenta in a cake, it gives it texture and stops it being, well spongey. Besides I love citrus desserts, I love the tang and sour.
So onto making the cake and why I talk about my failings – my failings led to a happy accident. Relief! You see there I was busy getting the jars of this and that out of the cupboard, and later on measuring and weighing, then adding to bowls and stirring.
But you see my mind is never completely on the job at hand, it wanders and meanders. It skits about. I seem to live life in some kind of semi-permanently distracted state. Outwardly looking like I know what I’m doing, inwardly thinking I must pay the gas bill, write an email, buy a stamp. A bit like a duck on the surface of the water, gliding along but paddling furiously underneath. And all the time wanting to QUACK !
When half way through pouring what I thought was ground almonds (crushed almonds) and peering into the bowl thought, hmmm strange colour, bigger grain and different texture. A quick taste. and an Oh la, la, la, la moment – I’d added desiccated coconut instead of ground almonds.
A moment of reflection. Stop what you are doing.Think and concentrate here. Luckily I hadn’t added all the coconut, so then weighed what was left and switched the remaining amount for the ground almonds. Carried on stirring. And basically hoping. Hoping that I hadn’t just gone to a whole lot of effort for a big fat nothing.
Hummed and Ahhed, put it in the oven, finished baking and making the syrup. Stood back and wondered. First slices cut, hmmmm, rather coconuty. Ponder, shall I confess? Partner to the rescue and confessions made. “well I like it, the coconut adds even more texture”. Result!
So if you like the sound of adding some desiccated coconut to this wonderful recipe, please do. I’d suggest adding half-half coconut and ground almonds, or even a quarter coconut and three-quarters ground almonds. But if you’d like to make a polenta and almond cake then follow the recipe. Oh and concentrate!!
A Happy Accident Lemon Polenta and Coconut Cake – all with a lemon syrup
- 210g butter
- 210g unrefined caster sugar
- 100g whole or split almonds (skins removed)
- 3 large eggs
- 125g ground almonds (or if like me add a mixture of desiccated coconut )
- 150g ground polenta
- a level tsp baking powder
- finely grated zest and juice of a large orange – (I used a grapefruit and some more lemon juice)
For the syrup:
- a large, juicy lemon
- a large orange (I used another lemon)
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 2 tbsp liqueur, such as limoncello (I added vodka or you could miss this out entirely)
(from Nigel Slater, with my additions added in italics)
- Using a non-stick, loose-bottomed cake tin about 20cm in diameter, line the base with a piece of baking parchment. Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 5. Put the kettle on.
- Beat the butter and sugar in a food mixer till light and fluffy.
- If using whole almonds with their skins on – Put the almonds in a heatproof bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover them. Leave for 5 minutes, then pop each nut out of its skin, squeezing between thumb and forefinger. Discard the skins. Alternatively use sliced almonds.
- Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. You just want them lightly mixed. Pour a little of the beaten egg into the creamed butter and sugar, beating thoroughly, then slowly continue adding and beating till all the egg is used up.
- Finely chop the almonds. Add the chopped and the ground almonds to the egg cake mixture. Stir the polenta and baking powder together then add it gently to the mix.
- Mix in the grated orange zest and juice. (I used a combination of grapefruit and lemon)
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160C/gas mark 3 and continue cooking for a further 30 minutes, covering the surface with tin foil if it is browning too quickly.
- Remove from the oven but leave the cake in its tin.
Lemony Syrup ~
- Finely grate the zest from the lemon and orange (I used all lemon) over a measuring jug. Cut the fruit in half and squeeze their juice into the jug, then top it up to 250ml with water.
- Pour into a saucepan and add the sugar. Bring to the boil and keep at a rapid bubble until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has reduced to about 175ml. (I guessed at this bit)
- Remove from the heat and add the liqueur.
- Spike holes into the top of the cake (still warm in its tin) with a skewer, pour over the hot syrup and leave to cool.
- Serves 8.