Thursday, 14 June 2012

Nigella's Tangy Gluten Free Lemon Polenta Cake

A good friend of mine, Sophie, is lactose and wheat intolerant. She’s really easy going about it though. Never complains, never asks to go to a different restaurant, never even really mentions it. She just takes it all in her stride and orders or eats what she can. But it’s always a little sad at birthdays and special occasions when the cake comes out. Between no wheat and no dairy (that includes chocolate much to my amazement) she either can’t eat it at all, might be able to have a small sliver, or has to eat the top but leave the base. So when I can, I like to bake something she can enjoy without having to worry about. 

So the other day, just cos I could, I decided to bake her Nigella’s Lemon & Almond Polenta cake. I think people are a bit hesitant to make cakes for people with so many dietary restrictions. They think it will be hard to find the recipe, think it will either be really difficult, or that it will taste, well…bad. Well it isn’t, it doesn’t have to be, and it certainly doesn’t always. So this is Soph’s Lemon Polenta Cake!

200g soft unsalted butter, plus a bit extra to grease the cake tin
200g golden caster sugar (although I usually just use normal caster sugar)
200g ground almonds, or almond meal (same same??*)
100g fine polenta or cornmeal
1½ tsp baking powder
3 eggs, and make sure they’re free range and preferably room temperature
2 lemons
125g icing sugar
23cm springform round cake tin

Start by getting all your ingredients out and pre-heating the oven to 180 degrees. Also, grease your cake tin and line it with baking paper. I'm a bit obsessive and tend to cut the baking paper into a circle for the bottom of the tin, but that's just me.

Blend the 200g butter and 200g sugar until it's light and fluffy. I know the recipe says golden caster sugar, but I’ve never been able to find it, so I just use normal caster sugar.

Mix together the 200g ground almonds, the 1½ tsp baking powder and 100g polenta. 

Add about a third of this mixture to the butter and sugar mixture. Then beat in one egg, then another third of the ground almond mixture, then another egg, then the rest of the ground almond mixture and the final egg. Don't worry if the mixture goes a bit funny, just add a little bit of the ground almond mixture. 

Finally, add the rind of one of the lemons, and the juice of half of one lemon and put, pour or scrape the mixture into the pre-prepared tin. I think I accidentally used the juice of one lemon, not half, but it just made it a little more lemony which was still delicious.

Put the tin in oven and bake it for around 40mins, or until a skewer comes out clean and the edges of the cake start to shrink away a little from the sides of the tin, about 40mins.

While the cake is cooking, put the rind of the second lemon, plus the juice, as well as the icing sugar into a pan on a low heat until the sugar dissolves.

When the cake's ready, take it out of the oven, poke a heap of holes in it and pour the yummy lemony juice mixture. It may seem like heaps, but the cake just soaks it up! My cake came out a little burnt, but if it was too burnt I could have just sneakily scraped the top off. And trust me, you couldn’t taste it.

Let it cool then take it out of the tin. This is where the baking paper was worth the effort. 

But what’s really important is how it tastes…delicious! I served it with a dollop of natural yoghurt, which took the edge off the tartness and the sweetness. Also meant you could totally have more than one slice…but that’s not a bad thing, is it?

After making this cake again, it’s probably not the easiest cake to make, but then again, it’s definitely not the hardest. There’s nothing technically difficult in there, just a few more steps than the standard cake. But at the end of the day, it was delicious and worth the effort if I know that everyone, including Soph, can eat it.

*It seems there are arguments as to whether almond meal and ground almonds are the same thing. To me, they seem slightly different, but that doesn't mean they can both be used for the same purposes. I've used both in this recipe, just because I have the other in the cupboard, but traditionally it should be ground almonds.

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