Never admit mistakes in the kitchen. That was Julia Child’s policy. The famous chef was known for making a few errors herself, but she never apologized. She simply found ways around the various hiccups. During one such mishap on television, Julia failed to flip her potatoes at the right time and they promptly apart. Instead of giving up, she simply exclaimed, “You haven’t lost anything, because you can always turn this into something else!” She then grabbed a hefty amount of cheese and enthusiastically dolloped it on top.
Thank you for this, Julia. Because let’s admit, we all make plenty of errors in the kitchen. Cakes fall, breads don’t rise, muffins overflow. Behind every blog recipe or beautiful Instagram photo, there’s a story of mishap. It happens often to me, and it absolutely drives me up the wall. But you only truly fail when you don’t learn a lesson. So you try again or find a way to make it work. And that’s the story behind this recipe.
A year ago, I had the brilliant plan to make a polenta cake. I’ve done it before with my Rhubarb Almond Polenta Cake, but I wanted to try a new mix of ingredients without a flour blend. Unfortunately, when I got to the grocery store, there was no polenta to be seen. I did, however, see cornmeal. Practically the same, right? Wrong. I whipped those babies up, photographed them and then took a bite. CRUNCH. As it turns out, cornmeal is the coarse cousin of polenta. And unless you find a finely-ground version (I didn’t) or grind it yourself (nope, didn’t do that either), you’re going to get a little gritty cake (yes, yes you are). Okay, try again.
I decided that if I was trying the same recipe again, I might as well go for a new flavor and something classy. I opted for an elegant plum cake with beautiful circling plum slices on top – akin to my previous Nectarine Almond Tart. I bought the finer cornmeal (and even ground it again for good measure) and then prepped and poured the batter. It was a very liquid mixture, but I nevertheless went ahead with my original plan. And quickly failed. As I carefully placed each plum slice in its lineup, every single one decided that it did not want to sit on top – it’d rather sink deep into its velvety polenta-almond blanket and hide out there. I stared at the cake with frustration. I could have stopped. I could have thrown it out. I could have made a grand declaration that I would now and forevermore swear of the troublesome polenta cake. But I didn’t. I popped that cake into the oven to see what happened.
And you know what? It worked out. While I intended to have a classy plum cake, this recipe wanted to go rustic. So be it. It also turned out softer than I had envisioned because the cake is entirely olive oil-based and includes some extra juicy plums. But as Julia would say, “Eh bien, tant pis!” Oh well, too bad! It’s still a tasty little cake.
Rustic Plum & Cardamom Polenta Cake
- 1 cup almond flour
- ½ cup polenta or finely-ground cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 4 large eggs
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup light olive oil
- 2 Tablespoons orange juice
- 1 Tablespoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 4 plums, sliced or chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8×8” pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- In a food processor, briefly pulse together the almond flour and polenta/cornmeal to ensure both are finely ground. Add in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, and pulse mixture 2-3 times to blend. Set aside.
- In a stand mixer, beat together the eggs and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture is pale yellow and appears thick, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the olive oil, orange juice, orange zest, vanilla, and cardamom, beating until combined. Gradually beat in the almond-polenta blend, mixing until fully incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and evenly distribute the plums on top (the fruit will settle into the batter as it bakes). Bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for 15 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and flip it out onto a serving plate to cool completely.
Serving Size: 1 piece (1/12th of cake)
Total Fat: 14g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Total Carbohydrate: 17g
Dietary Fiber: 2g
*nutrition facts are estimations