Tag Archives: cake

Lemon Polenta Cake (gluten-free)


This lovely cake represents my first successful foray into gluten-free baking.  My daughter and I attempted a birthday cake for a friend earlier this year which yielded dubious results.  Now I realize the error, and on the opposite side of the coin, what it takes for successful gluten-free baking (and this theory also applies to successful vegetarian and vegan cooking):  don’t strive for an exact replica of your favorite food containing gluten, meat or dairy.  Rather embrace recipes and foods that are naturally gluten-free or meat/dairy-free.


This Lemon Polenta Cake doesn’t attempt to be a light, fluffy chiffon layer cake.  It is a dense, earthy cake with the slightly gritty polenta and the nuttiness of the almond meal.  These two ingredients are showcased – the recipe in no way attempts to transform them into something which they are not.


And that’s a typical mistake I see with vegetarian and vegan dishes.  Can’t have pork bacon?  Then eat some weird “fake-on” (FYI – that’s my word for fake bacon).  Can’t have cheese?  Have a lab-cultured cheese-like creation.  There is a bounty of delicious and amazing vegetarian and vegan foods already existing in nature – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, herbs, spices, pulses.  Feast on those rather than on some not nearly as satisfying imitation product.


Give this delicious Lemon Polenta Cake a try.  Not because it’s gluten-free, but because it is an amazingly delicious cake!


1 year ago:  Shakshuka (eggs in spicy tomato sauce)

Lemon Polenta Cake

Note:  If you don’t have or can’t find almond meal/flour, grind whole almonds or almond pieces in a food processor or Nutribullet until they make a fine powder (don’t overmix or can turn into almond butter).  This cake lasts longer than most cakes:  keeps for up to 6 days.

For the cake:

1 3/4 stick (200 grams) unsalted butter, softened

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

2 cups (200 grams) almond meal/flour

3/4 cup (100 grams) fine polenta/cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3 eggs

Zest of 2 lemons (save juice for syrup)

For the syrup:

Juice of 2 lemons

1 heaping cup (125 grams) powdered/icing sugar

Plain yogurt or créme fraîche

Fresh or frozen raspberries

Line the base of a 9″/23cm springform cake pan with parchment paper and grease its sides lightly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350º F (180º C).

For the cake, beat the butter and sugar until pale and whipped, either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.  Mix together the almond meal, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour the mixture into your prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. It may seem wibbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its pan.

For the syrup, boil together the lemon juice and powdered/icing sugar in a smallish saucepan. Once the sugar has dissolved into the juice, you’re done. Prick the top of the cake all over with a toothpick, pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its pan.

Cut cake into slices and serve with a dollop of yogurt and a few raspberries.  (The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead and stored in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for total of 5 to 6 days.  It can also be frozen on its lining paper as soon as cooled, wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil, for up to 1 month. Thaw for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.)

Adapted from Nigella Lawson



Filed under Desserts, Vegetarian

Chocolate Bumpy Cake


Love isn’t always smooth and pretty.  It can be a bit bumpy at times.  So this Valentine’s Day, don’t just celebrate love’s sweetness, but embrace those bumpy bits as well.  Particularly if they’re formed of buttercream and smothered in chocolate fudge sauce.



Detroiters will recognize this Sanders classic, which they’ve been baking for over 100 years!

P1100753 P1100754


Though I grew up in the Detroit area, my parents were not native Detroiters, plus I can probably count on one hand the times we had store-bought cake at home.  So deprived child that I was, I never had bumpy cake until my 20’s.  Then I moved away – no more bumpy cake.  Fast forward to last summer, the girls and I are visiting friends in Detroit and what’s served up for dessert?  Bumpy cake!  I loved it, my kids went bananas and I knew I had to figure out how to make it.


It’s composed of three components: chocolate cake, buttercream frosting and fudge sauce.  I made it for Molly’s 9th birthday party last year and it was the first cake I’ve served where every kid (and adult) was a clean plater.


And if that isn’t a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is.

Chocolate Bumpy Cake

Note: Vegetable shortening isn’t readily available in the UK, so unless you know of an American with a secret stash who will share with you, replace the shortening with butter (you’ll use 110 grams butter in total for the buttercream frosting).

For the cake:

1/2 cup (60 grams) cocoa powder

1/2 cup (120 ml) hot black coffee

1 cup (250 ml) buttermilk

1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

3/4 cup (150 grams) dark brown sugar, firmly packed

3/4 cup (150 grams) granulated sugar

2 cups (280 grams) plain, all-purpose flour

For the buttercream frosting:

1/4 cup (55 grams) unsalted butter

1/4 cup (50 grams) vegetable shortening

2 cups (250 grams) powdered/icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the fudge sauce:

1/2 cup (120 ml) buttermilk

2 1/2 cups (310 grams) powdered/icing sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar

1/3 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder

1/3 cup (115 grams) dark corn syrup or golden syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 sticks (225 grams) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces

Preheat the oven to 375º F (190º C).  Grease a large baking dish (9” x 13″ or 23cm x 33cm) using either nonstick spray or butter.

For the cake: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine cocoa and coffee, and beat on medium speed for approximately 30 seconds. Add each of the following ingredients, one at a time, and beat for approximately 30 seconds before adding the next: buttermilk, oil, vanilla, baking soda, salt, eggs, sugars.  Add flour and beat about 5 minutes to remove any lumps. Batter may begin to bubble.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for about 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (my oven runs a bit hot and only took 25 minutes, but most recipes say 30-35 minutes – best to check at 25 minutes, knowing it may take up to 35 minutes). Transfer to a rack and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes. Transfer to the freezer for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

For the buttercream frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and shortening on medium speed until smooth, about 1 minute.  Reduce speed to medium-low, slowly adding the powdered (icing) sugar and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and beat 1 more minute. Frosting will be stiffer than traditional buttercream.

Transfer to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip (if you don’t have a piping bag, put frosting in a large ziplock bag and make a 3/4″ (2 cm) cut in one of the corners).  If frosting is soft, refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to allow it to firm up.  You can test whether it’s firm by piping onto a clean surface and if frosting holds shape, it’s firm.  After test, just scrape up “test frosting” and transfer it back to the piping bag.

Pipe frosting crosswise into a 1″ (2 1/2 cm) wide line starting 3/4″ (2 cm) from one of the short sides.  Repeat making 7 total lines that are each 3/4″ apart; each “bump” should run the width of the cake, 9-inches long.  If you have remaining frosting after making the 7 bumps, go over any of the smaller bumps or fill in any gaps. Return cake to the freezer for about 15 minutes to set the frosting.  Frosting should feel quite hard to the touch.

For the fudge sauce: In a large bowl whisk together buttermilk, powdered sugar and vanilla and set aside. In a medium saucepan, combine granulated sugar, cocoa, corn syrup, salt and 1 stick (115 grams) of butter over medium heat.  Stir occasionally to fully incorporate butter as it’s melting then bring mixture to a boil over medium high heat.

Cook until mixture registers 240°F (115º C) on a candy or instant read thermometer (a small amount dropped into cold water should form a soft, malleable ball), then remove from heat.  Should take 1-2 minutes. Pour saucepan contents into the buttermilk mixture, whisking constantly. Add remaining butter, a few tablespoons at a time, and continue whisking until fully incorporated and mixture has cooled (frosting must be only slightly warm).  Fudge sauce will be thin and sauce-like.  Transfer to a 4 cup (1 liter) liquid measuring cup, or any other pourable pitcher.

Remove cake from freezer and pour slightly warm fudge sauce over the buttercream bumps, covering them entirely.  The fudge will run down the sides of the bumps and fill in the spaces between bumps.  Any remaining sauce can be used to touch-up the cake or serve it along with the cake (don’t know anyone who’d pass up extra fudge).  Return cake to freezer for at least 30 minutes more to set. Serve chilled, cutting cake so that a cross-section of the bumps appear in each serving (see pictures above).  Store leftovers in refrigerator or freezer.


Filed under Desserts