Wake and bake

I wake up most Sundays feeling the need to bake.  Anything that I can take my time making whilst pottering around the kitchen with a cup of coffee in hand.  Something that will taste good in front of the telly later that night or the following morning.  

If it's cake, it normally doesn't last.  Unfortunately, by Monday, it's rare if a piece actually makes it to a plate.  Guilty little forkfuls are shoveled into mouths as we pass by, quickly replacing the cover as if it never happened.  Tuesday usually results in me feeling the need to give the cake to anyone who will take it, as long as it's out of the house.  Even the dog gets a nibble.  

The cake below is particularly nice with a morning cup of coffee.  It's lemony and delicious and I love the way the polenta makes it crumbly.  Some may scoff at eating cake first thing in the morning.  My mother was the queen of cake & coffee for breakfast, so I'll follow her lead.

A note on polenta:  it's used as an ingredient for this cake, but there are so many ways I love to eat it, especially with roast chicken or game.  I'll have to do a future post devoted entirely to it.  The polenta served at one of my favorite restaurants here in Chicago, Terragusto on Addison, is so buttery and creamy that it's worth going there for it alone.

This recipe comes from The River Cafe in London.  Owners Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers are cooking royalty in Britain, and Jamie Oliver spent his formative years with them.  Their restaurant is right on the River Thames and is gorgeous in the summer.  Who am I kidding?? Any time of year is perfect.  Their menu for March makes me want to book a flight back, pick up a friend on the way from the airport, and head straight there.

Their ever-changing, seasonal menu, with it's  beautifully fresh ingredients, make this Italian restaurant truly special. 


Lemon Polenta Cake
Adapted from  The River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers

Serves 6-8

2 sticks of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup of sugar
grated zest of 2 organic lemons (wash and scrub well if not organic)
2 cups ground almonds
1 tsp natural vanilla essence
3 free range, organic eggs, beaten
juice of 1 lemon
1 cup of polenta
1 tsp baking powder
good pinch of salt

Heat the oven to 325 F.  Butter a 9 1/2 inch spring form cake tin and line the base with baking parchment. 

Beat the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until white and fluffy.  Stir in the almonds and vanilla.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly before adding the next one.  Fold in the lemon juice, polenta, baking powder and salt.

Spoon the cake mixture into the buttered cake tin and bake until the sides of the cake have shrunk slightly away from the tin and the top is golden- about 50 minutes.

This is wonderful served as is.  I'm sure you can top it with your favorite form of cream, but I'm not a cream kinda lady.  I'd also suggest letting it cool completely before diving in.  It's crumbly, but it seems to fall apart if you're greedy like me and try to cut a piece too soon.

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