Bergamot Polenta Cake

bergamot polenta cake

The glycemic index of this blog has increased exponentially lately. I’ve been baking a lot, I realise – to relax, to energise, for fun.  I promise I’ll move to savoury next, but for now, let me tell you about this bergamot polenta cake, for it’s sure worth a mention.

The paradigm from which this cake originates is not dissimilar from this other cake recipe I’ve shared a while ago. This, too, is a flourless cake (if we don’t count polenta as flour), and it has citrus as the primary accent within the flavour spectrum. And yet, the result is completely different, for no other reason than this cake uses the fruit in its entirety (as opposed to just zest and juice), which, of course, changes everything. Add this to the fact that the citrus in question is bergamot  (easily one of the most aromatic fruits ever known to men), and you’ll have a cake that is at once seductive and surprisingly simple.

bergamot polenta cake bergamot polenta cake

The idea of using the whole citrus in a cake is nothing new – Claudia Roden’s wonderful Orange and Almond Cake is easily the best example within the category. In this case, however, the floral and vaguely bitter note of bergamot really shines through – in a way an orange could hardly do. The aroma is potent, inebriating, intense. It’s not to everybody’s taste, I suspect, but if you are a worshipper of Earl Grey Tea, then you’ll love it.

All that said, I know that sourcing fresh bergamot can be tricky, even when they are in season – they are a rare treat. If you can’t find them, rest assured that good lemons will work just as well, if only with different (more tamed) results.

I like serving this cake as is on most days. On occasion, however, I whip up some sweetened mascarpone cream (made with 200g mascarpone and 4-5 spoonfuls of icing sugar) to go with it. The pairing is formidable if only a little indulgent; not essential, but welcome nonetheless. The choice rests on you.

bergamot polenta cake bergamot polenta cake

Bergamot Polenta Cake

1 fresh unwaxed bergamot
3 large eggs
180g caster sugar
125g fine polenta (such as Fioretto)
250g ground almonds
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
140g unsalted butter, softened, plus more for the tin
Icing sugar, for dusting

Wash the bergamot thoroughly, place it in a saucepan and cover it with cold water. Set it over a medium heat and bring to the boil. Simmer for about one hour, or until the bergamot is tender all the way through, topping up the water if the level drops too much – the fruit should be bobbing in plenty of liquid at all times. Drain the bergamot and discard the seeds. Purée flesh and skin in a blender until smooth.

Next, preheat the oven to 180°C and butter a 20cm springform cake tin. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar until airy and pale yellow. Add the puréed bergamot and fold through.  In a separate bowl, combine polenta, ground almonds, baking powder and salt. Add the butter and work it into the dry mix until completely broken through. Finally, pour over the eggs and sugar and stir until you have an even mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and level the surface. Bake for 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for about 20 minutes, then free it from the springform and transfer it to a rack to cool completely. Dust the surface with icing sugar before serving.

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29 Comments

  1. Valentina @Hortus February 16, 2017

    I bought ‘fioretto’ polenta flour a couple days ago just because I knew you were going to post this. Can’t wait to try it!
    xx

    Reply
    • Valeria February 16, 2017

      Can’t wait to hear how you liked it! Can you find bergamot where you are? xx

      Reply
  2. val February 16, 2017

    How perfect! I am cooking through 10 lbs of Bergamot. I have to order it from California, but it is so worth it. I freeze most of the zest and juice, but I have some I have not processed yet.

    Reply
    • Valeria February 16, 2017

      What a brilliant idea, I didn’t know you could order from California, I get mine in London from a greengrocer that feels more like a jeweller – pricey stuff, but marvellous.

      Reply
  3. val February 16, 2017

    haha–and what is it with Vals and bergamot? I am Valynda.

    Reply
    • Valeria February 16, 2017

      Nice to e-meet you, Val! 🙂

      Reply
  4. Sophia February 17, 2017

    Valeria this is a stunning cake. And I love that you used Bergamot – I am sure it has a strong flavour but a unique and intriguing one at that! I agree that Claudia Roden’s recipe is fantastic but why stick to oranges? I have made hers using a few Moroccan preserved lemons (rinsed thoroughly to get rid of the salty brine) and the results were stunning too – so heady and perfumed and probably not unlike this bergamot version!

    Reply
    • Valeria February 17, 2017

      I am very intrigued by the thought of using preserved lemons in cake – it never occurred to me, thinking that they would only work with savoury food, but you convinced me – I’m truly hooked now. The bergamot flavour is present and powerful, yes. Which is why this is the sort of cake that splits audiences. I’m a worshipper of its floral and slightly bitter flavour, but I know that those who dislike Earl Grey won’t like this cake either.

      Reply
  5. Annabelle February 23, 2017

    How long does it keep, its my daughters birthday Sunday but I need to make it today?

    Reply
    • Valeria February 23, 2017

      Hi Annabelle, the cake will definitely keep until Sunday – just wrap it well in cling film so that it doesn’t get stale and keep it in a cool place.

      Reply
  6. A beautiful cake, Valeria! And so beautifully shot and styled. I’m having a real thing for bergamot lately. it’s my favorite candle scent and I recently had a cocktail mixed with Italicus Bergamot. Wonderful, this is on my to make list.

    Reply
  7. Agnes {Cashew Kitchen} March 8, 2017

    Aw yayy, a gluten free cake recipe! Those are kind of hard to come across (at least good ones 😉 I love the smell of bergamot. Hope I can find some to make this cake! Otherwise I might try it with some other kind of citrus fruit. Also, in love with your soft, white photography. I never manage to nail the white balance in such white images… Glad I found your blog! :*

    Reply
  8. I’m pretty sure I drooled over this on instagram. So beautiful. And in your signature white and light photography.
    When’s your book coming out. Soon, right?
    Hugs
    Kimberly

    Reply
    • Valeria March 10, 2017

      Thank you Kimberly! Yes, out on 6th July. Coming up so fast! x

      Reply
  9. Suus March 8, 2017

    This is so pretty and Claudia Roden is such an inspiration to me too.
    Liefs, Suus

    Reply
    • Valeria March 10, 2017

      Thank you, Suus. Claudia is fantastic. Up there with all my mentors. x

      Reply
  10. Polenta, almonds, and citrus seems like a perfect match – I honestly can’t remember how bergamot tastes – and this cake sounds like the perfect treat for a Sunday morning ^_^

    Reply
    • Valeria March 10, 2017

      Ciao Vale! Bergamot is the dominant flavour in Earl Grey Tea – so zingy and floral and a bit bitter. Just lovely – I’m obsessed!

      Reply
  11. Rakhee @ Boxofspice March 8, 2017

    I didn’t even know what bergamot was till 2 minutes ago! I’ll definitely be looking out for it… Beautiful pictures and styling.

    Reply
    • Valeria March 10, 2017

      Thank you, Rakhee. Bergamot is seriously life changing. Too bad it’s so rare! x

      Reply
  12. Linda March 9, 2017

    This cake looks absolutely incredible!! I’ve never tried baking with polenta. Or bergamot for that matter! x

    Reply
    • Valeria March 10, 2017

      Hi Linda, oh polenta is such a brilliant ingredient, I might be biased because it belongs to my heritage but I love the rustic, crumbly feeling it gives to cakes and biscuits. And bergamot – I could spend hours waxing lyrical about it. The fresh fruit is not too easy to come by but there are good natural extracts around, which can be added here alongside a lemon. x

      Reply
  13. Kankana March 9, 2017

    I have been thinking of polenta cake for a while now, but never gave an attempt. You tempted me 🙂

    Reply
    • Valeria March 10, 2017

      It’s very easy and it gives cakes and biscuits a lovely rustic texture. Would love to hear how you liked it if you give it a go! x

      Reply
  14. Annabelle March 11, 2017

    Just made this cake for my daughters birthday so delicious, and because we had to go away a few days wrapped the last two slices in cling film and put them in the freezer. Bergamot is also the taste in many gins, but if they are not available can we assume an orange or even grapefriut would be an alternative?

    Reply
    • Valeria March 11, 2017

      This is so great to hear! Thank you for your precious feedback, Annabelle. Orange in winter or lemon all year round will work a charm, most definitely.

      Reply
  15. Daniela October 31, 2017

    This cake sounds marvelous – sadly I can’t find Bergamot anywhere – what else could I use?

    Reply
  16. Daniela October 31, 2017

    Sorry I missed the comment where you could use orange or grapefruit.
    Just to clarify – I am removing the seeds but using the entire boiled fruit?- including all the juice?

    Reply
    • Valeria October 31, 2017

      Correct, use the entire fruit minus the seeds. If the grapefruit is very large, then I’d use only half of it as bergamot is normally as big as a small orange.

      Reply

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