from one generation to the next
I was in Italy when I first marvelled at the sight of a cut blood orange. Tasting the intensely flavoured fruit simply reinforced my infatuation. It was April 1997. I returned from that trip to find blood oranges had made their debut at home.
Each year since, the first appearance of locally grown blood oranges in our markets has been a winter highlight. Only the price deters me from buying them in bulk. Instead I treat myself each week to a single blood orange just for the taste. I exploit their deep jewel like colour shamelessly.
Nigella Lawson’s lemon polenta cake recipe is the basis of this post, simply swapping the lemon for blood orange, then adding candied fruit for embellishment. This is a seriously good cake. It’s moist and delicious and firmly textured so it easily cuts into thin slices without crumbling. The cake improves if left for 24 hours before cutting, allowing ample time for the syrup to penetrate, and the polenta to soften.
I’ve baked this cake with lemon, I’ve baked this cake with oranges, next I’ll try it with lime.
200 grams soft unsalted butter
200 grams caster sugar
200 grams ground almonds
100 grams fine polenta (or cornmeal)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder (see note below)
3 large eggs
zest of 2 blood oranges, finely grated
for the syrup:
juice of 2 blood oranges
juice of 1 lemon
125g pure icing sugar
candied orange slices:
1 blood orange
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 20cm springform pan and line it with baking paper.
Cream the butter, sugar and finely grated orange zest.
Beat in the eggs one at a time.
Combine the polenta, almond meal and baking powder, then stir it into the butter/egg mixture.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, smooth the top, then bake until done when tested with a skewer, about 40 minutes.
Leave the cake in the tin, stand the tin on a try.
Pierce the hot cake all over with a fine skewer then pour the syrup over. Leave the cake to stand for 24 hours. It will slowly absorb the syrup.
Gently release the cake tin clip and remove the cake to a serving plate.
Decorate the cake with candied blood orange slices, then melt the residual syrup and spoon over the oranges to glaze.
to make the syrup:
Combine the icing sugar, orange and lemon juices together in a small pot. Stir constantly over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved.
to make candied orange slices:
Cut a slice from the top and bottom of the orange deep enough to reveal the flesh.
Cut the orange in half vertically, then cut each half into thin slices.
In a wide shallow pan, bring the water and sugar to the boil, stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved. Add the orange slices.
Cook on a high simmer until the oranges have become translucent and the syrup has almost completely evaporated.
Remove the orange slices to a tray lined with baking paper to dry. Reserve the residual syrup as a glaze.