It's our last month baking from Cake Keeper Cakes by Lauren Chattman and we were allowed to choose any recipe we liked. I gave you a list in the last CSB post of cakes I had been eyeing up so I was just going to choose one of those. But it was so hard to choose! I narrowed it down to the Apple and Cheddar Cheese Cake or the Red Grape, Polenta and Olive Oil Cake. Don't they just sound wonderful? I looked at the ingredients to see which had the more accessible ingredients to help me make up my mind and found that they both actually contain polenta. Well, if I am going to make an effort to find a bag of polenta then I may as well make both cakes. And, am I glad I did? Oh yes. I loved both of these. And, as you know, I make a lot of things for the kids - all a bit fun and childish, but these cakes just felt very grown up and sophisticated. Didn't stop the kids eating them, of course!
So, two recipes today.
Red Grape, Polenta and Olive Oil Cake.
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal (found in the UK and Europe as polenta)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 large eggs
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp grated lemon zest
1 3/4 cups (about 10oz) reg seedless grapes, washed and dried
Icing sugar for dusting (ooops - I was too excited to get stuck in and forgot to prettify it)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 9-inch round springform tin. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat on medium-high speed until light in colour and increased in volume, about 5 mins. With the mixer on low speed, add the oil in a slow, steady stream. Turn the mixer to medium speed and beat for 1 min. Stir in the milk, vanilla and lemon zest on low speed.
3. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until just incorporated. Stir in 1/2 the grapes. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 10 mins. (You only put half in so that you can scatter the other half on later to try to keep them all from sinking to the bottom.)
4. Scatter the remaining grapes over the top of the partially baked cake (next time I do this I will wait a little longer before scattering the remaining grapes - you can see in my pictures that my grapes still managed to mostly make it to the bottom layer) and continue to bake until the cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean, about 40 mins longer.
5. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 mins. Release the sides from the tin and let the cake cool completely before dusting with icing sugar, cutting into wedges and serving.
6. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 3 days.
Verdict - beautifully sumptious cake. I had never heard of grapes in a cake before but they were sweet and juicy. The polenta gave a lovely, glowing colour and a bit of texture and the fragrant olive oil gave it a grown up, subtle taste. Lauren Chattman suggests serving it with an Italian sweet wine for a dinner party dessert. I think that would be extremely classy. Most of my one was eaten with cups of tea and was thoroughly enjoyed.
Apple and Cheddar Cheese Cake.
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) (4oz/113g) unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
6 tbsp milk
1 cup grated Cheddar (I used a yellow Cheddar but in the book she has used an orange one and it actually looks really quite different with the flecks of orange through it. The yellow Cheddar is probably better if you are serving it to people who might be put off by the thought of cheese in their cake but the orange would be better for making a statement or a bit of drama!)
1 large tart apple, such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4 inch dice (I used almost two apples as I do like apple in a cake)
1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 9-inch round cake tin and dust with flour. Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
2. Combine the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 3 mins, scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice as necessary. With the mixer on medium-low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition.
3. Turn the mixer to low speed and add 1/2 the flour mixture. Stir in the milk. Stir in the remaining flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the cheese and apple.
4. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, about 35 mins. Let the cake cool in the tin for about 10 mins, invert onto a wire rack, and then turn it right side up on a rack to cool completely.
5. Store uneaten cake in a cake keeper or wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 2 days.
Verdict - intriguing cake. I need to make it again and give it to people without telling them what is in it to see if they get it straight away. It is not an overtly cheesy taste - more an extra tang - but recognisable when you know there is cheese there. Went down extremely well also.
Winner - I am having a hard job choosing my favourite cake from the 13 recipes I have done from this book. These two are definitely Number 1 and Number 2 but I'm not entirely sure which one wins. I guess it would depend what mood I'm in. Anyway, they are both similar recipes just with different additions so I think I might use the basic recipe and try experimenting with other additions. In fact, just the plain, basic polenta cake on its own would be very satisfying.
So, this time next month I will reveal the book the cake slice bakers will be baking from for the next 12 months. It's a good one! If anyone is interested in joining The Cake Slice Bakers, see Katie's post for details.