Suzi's Blog

Double Berry and Polenta Cake



Before summer ends — it’s 57° at 1:40PM on August 15th and I don’t know where summer is — but assuming it reappears and before the berries are gone, use them wisely and well. It is a rare cake that does not need frosting or whipped cream or ice cream, but this cake can just be eaten on its own.

For breakfast, add espresso. For lunch, a sip of white wine. For dinner, ice cream. I know, I said this cake does not need adornment, but just one scoop of buttermilk ice cream here is really a very good idea. For her clients at Cooking by the Book, Suzen always has ice cream. And she’s found this cake is a perfect match.

This recipe comes from Michele Scicolone’s latest wonderful volume: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook. With dessert ideas like this, even I can become a fan of vegetables.

Warm from the oven, wafting with the polenta aroma you cannot mistake, and bright withberry bites, this cake is one you’ll make again and again.

Double Berry Polenta Cake

Yield: 8 servings


  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup fine yellow cornmeal
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • ⅓ cup whole milk
  • 1 cup raspberries
  • 1 cup blueberries


Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Butter and flour a 9-inch spring form pan. Tap out the excess flour.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add ¾ cup of sugar, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla and lemon zest. Beat in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. On low speed, mix in half of the dry ingredients. Add the milk. Mix in the remaining dry ingredients just until smooth, about 1 minute.

Spread the batter in the pan. Scatter the berries over the top and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake for 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Remove the pan rim and cool completely on the rack.

Cut the cake into wedges and serve.

Source: The Italian Vegetable Cookbook by Michele Scicolone

Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/4 for 1/30th second at ISO‑3200



Berry Crème Fraîche Cake from Emily Luchetti



[To view this post in a pretty PDF format that is easily printed, please click on this the link below. I'm still working on the mechanics here. When you click on this link,  you'll get a new window that says click on a link. You'll then  have a  new min window with the ability to actually save or print the PDF. Do either and you can see the recipe in full scale.

Click here for PDF.]


“I’m going to make this poppy seed cake,” Suzen announced. She flashed a picture before me. At least it had berries.

“What if I have to take a drug test?” I protested.

“Just tell them you are in a Twelve Step Program,” she uttered, unwilling to engage me.

“I only eat poppy seeds on top of challah!” I yelled after her.

“You’re getting cake!” She yelled back. “And you are eating it, too.”

I ate the cake, with relish. It is so good, with tangy crème fraîche fresh contrasting with those sweet berries. This is a perfect dessert.

Of course, I knew it would be great before it was out of the oven. I tasted the batter. No, I was not being a child, here. Tasting batter — cake batter or cookie dough — is like being a culinary detective. Is the batter rich and satisfying, like this one? Is it too thin, is there some tang that seems strange? You can tell a lot about how the final product will taste by sampling that batter. Don’t consider it an affectation. It’s your culinary responsibility.

I actually said that to Suzen when she caught me with a finger in the mixing bowl. She glared. I told her it was simply my responsibility thing. All I got back was a grunt. I tell my therapist that I don’t think my wife understands me. My therapist just writes something down but never says anything. Of course, I can change therapists, but I can’t change wives.

Berries have arrived in the stores. Please make this cake. You will be very, very happy. The batter and the cake reflect a bounty of ingredients: lots of sugar, egg and buttermilk. The resulting cake is soft, delicate and studded with hints of poppy seed flavor.

This lovely recipe is from A Passion for Desserts by Emily Luchetti. In her recipe, presented below, the cake is four layers high. You have options here. The picture above shows the cake served in just one layer [unsliced] with the berries on the side. Or you can do just two layers [by slicing one of the baked layers]; the second pan of cake can be baked, frozen and used on another night. Emily’s recipe also calls for cooking  blueberries in sugar as a filling/topping for the layers. If you wish, if you are in a hurry, then simply sprinkling the berries with a hint of sugar and using them whole is fine. And, instead of blueberries, you can use blackberries as we did. Think of this lovely cake as a berry platform.

With poppy seeds.


Berry Crème Fraîche Cake

Yield: 8 to 10 servings


For the cake:

  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup poppy seeds

For the crème fraîche berry filling:

  • 1 pint blueberries¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 cups crème fraîche
  • ⅔ cup whipping cream
  • 1 pint raspberries [or strawberries]


Preheat the oven to 350⁰F. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.

To make the cake: In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder.

Beat the butter with the sugar until light, 1 minute on medium-high speed with a stand mixer or 3 minutes with a handheld mixer. On a medium speed, add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds with a stand mixer or 1 minute with a handheld mixer after each addition. Periodically scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Stir together the buttermilk and the vanilla. On low speed, add half of the buttermilk. Mix until incorporated and the scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add half of the dry ingredients. Mix until combined and scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the remaining buttermilk and the dry ingredients in the same manner. Stir in the poppy seeds.

Divide the batter between the two pans. Evenly spread it in the pans. Bake the cakes on the middle oven rack until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean, 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool the cakes in their pans for 10 minutes. Unmold the cakes by running a small knife around the inside edges of the pans. Place a plate or wire rack on top of each cake and invert the cake and plate. Remove the pans and let the cakes cool completely. Carefully peel off the parchment paper.

Using a serrated knife, cut each cake in half horizontally, making a total of 4 layers.

To make the filling: Cook the blueberries and ¼ cup of the sugar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the sugar has dissolved and the berries have popped open and become juicy, about 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.

Whip together the crème fraîche, cream, and remaining two tablespoons sugar until stiff enough to hold its shape but is still smooth.

To assemble the cake: Place a cake layer on a serving platter. Spread one quarter of the crème fraîche filling top of the cake. Top with one quarter of the blueberry sauce and then one quarter of the raspberries. Place a second cake layer on top and repeat with crème fraîche, blueberries, and raspberries on top as you did with first cake layer. Repeat with the third and fourth layers, ending with the berries on top of the cake.

If not serving within an hour, refrigerate the cake. Once removed from the refrigerator, let it sit at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving for optimal flavor.

Planning ahead: The cake layers can be made up to 2 days in advance, wrap well in plastic wrap and store at room temperature. The blueberries can be cooked 2 days in advance and kept refrigerated. The crème fraîche and cram should be whipped just before assembling. The cake should be assembled the day it is going to be eaten.

On buttermilk: if don’t want to buy buttermilk, then you can make one faux cup of buttermilk by adding one teaspoon of lemon juice to one cup of whole milk. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.


Source: A Passion for Desserts by Emily Luchetti

Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55mm lens at F/5.0, 1/60 second at ISO 1250 [no flash]