As it happens I have benefited from my sudden and unexpected return to singledom in very few ways. Aside from trying to talk myself into hating a person I previously liked and losing my restaurant partner, I also find myself with a lot of time on my hands. A lot. Weekends have turned into an endless quest of finding ways of keeping myself busy so the mind doesn’t wander.
Cooking, I find, is the perfect antidote to mind-wandering. I spend my evenings trawling the blogosphere for culinary inspiration, while weekends are reserved for realisation phase. (Have you guessed my day job is IT?) On a standard Saturday I cook or bake at least three different things, excluding a cooked breakfast. As the novelty of the situation wears off I go back to my usual ways of healthy eating. Nonetheless I did get in a fair amount of comfort food: daal, fish pie, braised ham and roast dinners, which in turn had to be be offset by a hard climbing sessions. In a truly extravagant manner I have begun to bake my own sourdough bread and with impending Christmas I have made so many edible Christmas gifts my friends will probably think I have gone seriously mad. I can’t see them saying no to raspberry vod though… I have now just about managed to convince myself that this break up was for the best, enabling me to spend my time doing what I love the most.
And so I find myself baking unreasonable amounts of cake – unreasonable for someone who does not possess a sweet tooth. My excuse is that I don’t technically have to eat them, the boys will, nevertheless I always end up eating most of the cakes I bake. At the same time I feel a niggling guilt at the thought of Gemma, who is wheat intolerant and dessert for her usually means pouring yogurt over a sliced banana while the rest of us munch on cakes. Not fair, I thought to myself. So to make things right I came up with this lovely little creation, inspired by Nigella Lawson. I have baked with ground almonds, polenta and a mixture of both before with great results. I would even go as far as saying that the fluffy and subtly sweet almond sponges are far superior to traditional floury cakes. I urge you to have a go at making this cake, its sweetness combined with the sharp, zingy lemon glaze is the perfect alternative to plain old lemon drizzle. You might think the amount of lemon glaze is excessive, after all the cake does go quite sticky and soggy, but therein lies the pleasure. And what’s more, you positively can’t feel gloomy whilst eating this cheerfully yellow cake.
Almond and Polenta Lemon Drizzle Cake (makes 16 squares)
200g unsalted butter at room temperature (I have used Stork before and it’s fine)
200g caster sugar
200g ground almonds
100g coarse polenta
1.5 tsp baking powder (GF)
2 lemons, zest and juice
125g granulated sugar
I have used a square brownie tin, however you may just as well use a 23cm round spring tin. Grease or line the cake tin with baking paper, and preheat your oven to 180C. Cream the butter and sugar vigorously until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, mix together the polenta, almonds and baking powder. Break the eggs into the butter and sugar mixture and add the dry ingredients gradually, beating to eliminate lumps.
Zest the lemons first, then squeeze their juice into a small pan and add the granulated sugar. Add the zest to the cake mixture and give everything a good stir. Transfer the cake mixture into your cake tin and pop into the oven. Keep an eye on the cake while it bakes – baking time will need to be adjusted depending on how deep your cake is. I have used a 23cm round tin before and baked the cake for about 35-40 minutes. This time I used a largish brownie tin and only baked for about 15-20 minutes. It’s not an exact science.
When the cake is baked leave it to cool in its tin on a wire rack. Now begin to heat the lemon juice and sugar mixture, stirring all the while. When the sugar is dissolved you are good to go. Like I said, it will seem like a lot of glaze, but it does make the cake deliciously lemony. Pour the glaze all over and eat when the kettle’s boiled.