Lemon, Almond, and Cornmeal Cake

23 Apr

For a while there, we were eating a lot of cake.  I brought this up a few weeks ago, but it bears repeating because, after I brought it up the first time, we continued to eat cake, and lots of it.  It’s not like we were just sitting around while stuffing cake in our mouths (at least, we mostly weren’t doing that).  There were dinner parties and birthdays and then, um, Cake Tuesdays, which is not a real thing but now that I’ve mentioned it right here, I sort of want to make it a real thing.  The point is, a lot of cake was made, and a lot of cake was enjoyed.

Most of the cakes I made over the past few weeks were old favorites.  This dark chocolate zucchini cake and this butter cake made appearances (the butter cake is an old standby of mine, but that blood orange curd was a new addition and, boy howdy, was it a fantastic one), as did a newly conceived cupcake.  Another new addition to my baking repertoire was this lovely number from Nigella Lawson and, though I hesitate to play favorites when it comes to cake, I think I might have found a new best friend.  Not Lawson (lovely as she is).  The cake.

With a base of both almond meal and cornmeal, this cake’s structure is just a delight.  It’s crumbly but moist, and the slight bite of the cornmeal adds a little something special.  Once the entire thing is soaked, whilst still warm, with an intensely lemony syrup, that little something special magically becomes a whole lot of something special, and I’d be lying if I told you that I wasn’t totally consumed by this cake (while I simultaneously consumed it, as it were).  Like I said, I don’t want to hurt any other cake’s feelings by declaring favorites, but this is a cake you definitely want to get to know.  Perhaps with a few friends, a pot of coffee, and a lazy afternoon of chit chat, because if you truly love your friends, you’re going to want to get them in on this cake as well.

Last year: Yeasted Buttermilk Biscuits

Lemon, Almond, and Cornmeal Cake Recipe

Adapted from Nigella Kitchen, by Nigella Lawson

I’ve made a few changes to this cake in both ingredients and process, mostly notably in the form of reducing the sugar in both the cake and the syrup. By reducing the sugar in the syrup topping, but not reducing the lemon juice (and then adding a bit of zest to the mix), you get a clearer, brisker lemon topping that just makes this cake a total showstopper. There are a couple more tweaks here and there, but I’d still say this cake is definitely Nigella Lawson’s and not mine.

2/3 cup granulated sugar

zest of 2 large lemons

1 ¾ sticks (14 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus a tad more for greasing the pan)

2 cups almond meal or almond flour

¾ cup finely ground cornmeal

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

3 large eggs, at room temperature

For the Syrup:

Juice of 2 lemons

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan, then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the sugar and lemon zest and process until the sugar is finely ground and the lemon zest is incorporated.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, or in a large bowl using a hand mixer, combine the sugar and lemon zest with the butter.  Beat together until pale and whipped.

In a medium bowl, combine the almond meal, cornmeal, and baking powder.  With the mixer still mixing, add 1/3 of the almond mixture to the butter, followed by 1 egg.  Continue beating in the remaining almond mixture and eggs in this fashion, adding one after the other.  When the last egg has been added, beat the batter until everything is fully incorporated, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes.  The cake will be done when the edges begin to shrink away from the sides of the pan.  The middle of the cake will appear a bit underdone, but a cake tester inserted into the middle should come out marginally clean with several moist crumbs still attached.  Remove the cake from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool, leaving the cake in the pan.

To make the syrup, gently boil together the lemon juice, lemon zest, confectioner’s sugar, stirring all the while, until the sugar has completely dissolved into the juice.  Prick the top of the still-warm cake all over with a toothpick or cake tester, then spoon the warm syrup all over the cake.  Allow the cake to cool almost completely before taking it out of its pan.  (Lawson recommends allowing the cake to cool completely, but I found this cake to be even more fabulous when served just barely warm.  You definitely don’t want to serve this cake while it is hot, but anything just a few degrees warmer than room temperature is perfect, I think.)

5 Responses to “Lemon, Almond, and Cornmeal Cake”

  1. Nancy April 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    Elisabeth – I’m often whizzing thru the Internet, on my way somewhere, and see a new post from you on iGoogle and say to myself “later”, but by then I’ve read part of the opening sentence and I’m sucked in totally. This cake is intriguing, especially with so many friends who aren’t eating wheat flour. And who might be coming to dinner. We enjoy your recipes and writing so much!!

    • savorysaltysweet April 23, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

      Thank you so much, Nancy. Your encouragement keeps me inspired. Try the cake! You’ll love it.

  2. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide April 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Cornmeal cakes are the best. This looks fantastic.!

  3. Yer old friend Hillary April 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

    So is the regular old yellow cornmeal in the bulk bin the same as finely ground cornmeal? Or do you have to whiz it in the food processor or else shop for the finely ground stuff? This cake looks quite delightful. I’m into lemons.

    • savorysaltysweet April 26, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      Hillary! Finely ground cornmeal is the regular old stuff in the bulk bin, yes. Coarse cornmeal is usually labeled as polenta or grits (usually, not always). The finely ground stuff will still be pretty gritty (not smooth and fine like wheat flour), but it will be a great deal less gritty than cornmeal meant for polenta. You can always compare the two cornmeals (if your bulk bin offers both) side by side, just to get a real gander at the difference between the two. Let me know how the cake turns out for you. (And then give your adorable baby a kiss from me!)

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