This is a cake for summer days.
There are puddles of sticky strawberries and the sharp brightness of lemon zest. There’s the sandy crunch of the polenta, like you’re having a picnic on the beach.
This cake served as a reward after we spent a sticky Sunday afternoon with my boyfriend’s parents, hanging an oversized mirror on the wall of our sitting room. They brought us a new yucca plant in a comically over-sized pot to replace the one which didn’t make it through the move.
They stayed longer than we’d anticipated, not that it really mattered. I made cups of tea (because we’re English and therefore like nothing more than a hot cup of tea at the height of summer). We opened all the windows and the front door so that a light breeze danced through the flat. The talk was desultory and meandering. And there was, of course, plenty of cake, served with dollops of tart creme fraiche and some leftover strawberries.
Strawberry and lemon polenta cake
Adapted from the River Cafe’s lemon polenta cake
Yield: Serves 8 – 10
This cake gets made fairly frequently in our house – it’s easy, naturally gluten free and reliable. The sweetness of the roasted strawberries scattered throughout are a nice complement to the tartness of the lemon and there’s a little bit of bite from the polenta. If the strawberry season has already passed where you are, I’m sure any other berry would work nicely. Or you can just leave them out and enjoy the lemon cake in its simplicity.
- 300g (3 cups) strawberries, topped, tailed and halved
- A sprinkle of sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 225g (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 225g (1 cup) unrefined caster/granulated sugar
- 225g (2 cups) ground almonds
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 medium eggs
- Zest of 3 lemons
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- 110g (2/3 cup) polenta
- A pinch of salt
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
First of all, mix up your strawberries with a touch of sugar and the balsamic vinegar. Set aside and allow to macerate while you make the cake.
Preheat the oven to 150C/300F (fan). Grease a 20cm round tin and line it with non-stick paper.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth. Add the ground almonds and continue to beat until combined. Add the eggs, one by one, beating well after each addition.
Fold in the lemon zest, juice, polenta, salt and baking powder.
Pout the batter into the prepared cake tin and roughly scatter the strawberries on top. Some will sink, some will stay on the surface. Both are good. Bake for about 45 minutes until the cake is firm and golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack.