Social media often gets a bad rap, justifiably so. In my experience however, apart from the occasional odd message, I’m fortunate enough to never have experienced the dark side of it.
What I have experienced instead, is the ability to meet and make friends with people whom I might not have crossed paths with otherwise. Some of my friends IRL (cool people speak for ‘In Real Life’ - I’m trying it out for size), I’ve known for so long that I forget that I met them through social media yonks ago!
Recently I’ve been lucky to have come across some more lovely ladies - one of whom surprised me when she came to pick up a cake in December last year with a copy of Michelle Obama’s ‘Becoming’ for me - which I loved! Have you read it?
Meeting up with another such new friend is the inspiration behind this cake. We met for coffee at a coffee shop near Camden where they had a selection of baked goods. The Swedish style cinnamon rolls looked absolutely delicious but I’d had breakfast so I didn’t have one. My friend decided to try the lemon and courgette drizzle cake. Truth be told, I wasn’t wowed by its appearance - so I didn’t have any. We sat down, a big chunk of cake arrived for her and she offered me a taste. I of course said yes … and wow, wow, wow!
It was very slightly (pleasantly) gritty in texture, which we both instantly recognised as polenta, and it was gorgeously citrusy with a just right burst of sweetness. It was delicious! I instantly ordered myself a slice of the same cake - she was a new friend after all, it wouldn’t make a great impression if I finished off her cake.
I personally didn’t taste/feel the courgette in the cake so when I decided to try it out at home, I looked for just lemon and polenta cakes and found this one which I adapted my cake from. This cake is moist and full of that zesty lemon flavour that is the reason that I, usually a chocolate, cookie dough, cookie fiend, would rank lemon desserts near the top of my favourite desserts list.
This cake is gluten-free if you use gluten-free baking powder and either flour your cake tin with gluten-free flour or skip that step and instead thoroughly grease your cake tin. Polenta, also called corn meal, is made from corn and hence doesn’t contain gluten. Ensure you buy a reputable brand to minimise the chances that it might have been cross contaminated.
After the first 30 minutes, you’ll likely have to cover your loaf tin with a piece of foil to avoid your cake browning too much. After the first 50 minutes, you’ll have to keep a close eye on your cake and insert a skewer/table knife every 5 - 10 minutes to check if it is done as the timing will differ from oven to oven. Your cake is ready when your skewer comes out of the middle of the cake clean. It took 1hr 20 mins in my oven.
140g butter, room temperature, plus extra for greasing your loaf tin
250g granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon extract
200g ground almonds
175g polenta or fine cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder (gluten-free if you want to keep the cake gluten-free)
For the drizzle
100g icing sugar
2 tbs lemon juice, approx half a lemon
Put the lemons in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, drain, pour over more cold water, then simmer for 1 hour until the lemons are really soft, topping up with more water if you need to. Drain the lemons well and allow to cool. This will take about an hour. When cool, halve them, remove the pips and blend the lemons in a food processor to a puree.
Grease a loaf tin and preheat your oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4.
In a bowl, combine the polenta, ground almonds and baking powder.
Using a mixer, beat the butter with the sugar in another bowl until the mixture is fluffy and has lightened in colour, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating for around 30 seconds after each addition.Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the vanilla and lemon extracts and beat until well incorporated.
Add half of the polenta/almond mix into the bowl and mix until just combined. Then add in all of the pureed lemons, mix until just combined and finish by adding the rest of the polenta almond mix.
Scrape the batter into your prepared cake tin (it might be very full but as the cake won’t rise very much, it shouldn’t be a problem) and bake for between 1hr - 1hr 20mins, depending on your oven. Please note the tip above regarding oven timing.
When the cake is ready, move it to a cooling rack and leave it for 15 minutes before turning it out carefully and allowing it to cool completely. You might need to gently tease the cake from the sides of the cake tin using a table knife before turning it out.
When your cake is almost completely cool, make your drizzle by measuring out your icing sugar into a bowl, pouring on your lemon juice and mixing until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps of icing sugar remaining.
Pour your drizzle onto your cake and round the edges so it drips down the sides.
Enjoy with a cup of tea for elevenses (or fourses) or even breakfast!