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.
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
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.Print recipe