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
Grandsons often possess special powers. For example, if I want a marble cake, and I ask for it, Suzen is going to reply, “You have to watch your sugar intake! How many times ….”
On the other hand, our grandson Reid was visiting from Austin. “Can I have a marble cake?” he asked.
“Brian, find the best possible recipe,” Susan commanded me.
“Okay,” I acknowledged and backed away. I bowed slightly so Suzen could not see the smile on my face. Reid was stone-faced, not showing one hint of conspiracy. I want the kid to be a lawyer, with his acting skills, but maybe with such skills he should just be an actor. Well, not just an actor. He’s bound to get an Oscar, Emmy, Tony or probably all three. He convinced me at that moment of his angelic innocence.
I waited a reasonable amount of time, then reentered the kitchen with the recipe Reid and I had found the night before. Like I said: conspiracy.
In such a situation, where you may have only one shot before discovery, you make the shot count. There is a marvelous book, Cooking with Chocolate edited by Frédéric Bau, the Director of the École du Grand Chocolate Valrhona. This book was released in English in 2011. If you are a chocolate lover and have not yet discovered Cooking with Chocolate, it is time for an Amazon visit. I’ll post a full review in a few days. But, in the meantime, …
The book, of course, is impeccable. You know that every recipe has run the gauntlet from a battery of the world’s best chefs. There is a small picture on the recipe page for this cake, just a simple little snapshot of a slice of cake. Dark chocolate waves are embedded in a dough so richly yellow you just have to pause. What would this taste like?
Really good, actually. Moist with distinct chocolate and vanilla layers. The vanilla batter has 8 egg yolks [just like a good ice cream base!], so every bite is the definition of satisfaction. Extravagant satisfaction.
For something this good, the recipe is simple with a preparation time of just 20 minutes. It takes 50 minutes to an hour to bake and is dense, so after about 45 minutes you need to start checking for doneness with a long toothpick or, better, a skewer.
Quite honestly, this cake does not require frosting, sauce, whipped cream, ice cream or even just powdered sugar. It doesn’t. But, in the interest of continuing the conspiracy, I will supply a few ideas for accompaniment over the next few days. Decadence, like conspiracy, is not a sin. Well, not if it’s for a good cause. At least that’s what I told my grandson.
For this coming weekend, here is a family-pleasing dessert. If you have young children, giving them a spoon or fork with order to "make the marblilng" is a moment they will always remember.
Chocolate-Vanilla Marble Loaf
Yield: serves 8
For the vanilla batter:
- 8 egg yolks
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 1 ¾ cups cake flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- 4 ½ tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
For the chocolate batter:
- 2 ½ ounces bittersweet chocolate, 70 percent cocoa
- 4 egg yolks
- ⅔ cup sugar
- ⅓ cup whipping cream
- 1 cup [2 ¾ ounces or 80 grams] cake flour
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon grape-seed oil
- A little melted butter to dip the spatula [optional]
Prepare the vanilla batter.
In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks with the sugar. Add the cream. Slit the vanilla bean lengthways and scrape out the seeds into the mixture. Sift in the flour and baking powder and incorporate them into the batter, then stir in the melted butter. Set aside.
Prepare the chocolate batter.
Chop the chocolate and melt it slowly in a bain-marie or in the microwave oven.
In a mixing bowl, combine the egg yolks with the sugar, then stir in the cream. Sift the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder together into the mixture and stir in. Then stir in the melted chocolate and grape-seed oil until just blended.
Preheat the oven to 300°F (150°C). Line the loaf pan with parchment paper. For a really attractive marbled pattern (see p. 132), pipe out one-third of the vanilla batter over the bottom of the pan. Then pipe out half of the chocolate batter lengthways through the center. Cover this with one-third of the vanilla batter and pipe out the remaining half of the chocolate batter lengthways through the center. Cover it with the remaining vanilla batter. Dip a spatula into a little melted butter and run it lengthways along the batter, making an incision about ½ inch deep so that the cake rises nicely.
Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the tip of a knife or cake tester comes out clean.
Turn the cake out onto a cake rack and leave it for about 10 minutes on its sides so that it retains its shape.
Source: Cooking with Chocolate edited by Frédéric Bau
Photo Information Canon T2i, EFS 60 mm Macro Lens, F/5.6 for 1/15th second at ISO‑3200