Jacqueline's orange and rose polenta tea cake (gf) & a day in oxford

I am writing this now from a place far removed from what I picture here. But my holiday laziness and the enchanting nature of Paris have put me far behind, so now it is time to catch up. Here I have a recipe for my Auntie Jacqueline's Orange and Rose Polenta Tea cake. We practiced a lot of recipe swapping and sharing during our visit, featuring cake, pies, and fab homemade donuts by our family friend Nadia, who was trying her (talented) hand at the Bread Ahead recipe for filled donuts. My last post included a photo of the raspberry ripple and caramel honeycomb donuts Onni and I got from Borough Market, and they were without a doubt some of the best donuts I have ever tasted (up there with Dough Donuts from Brooklyn, which so far have sat as my number 1 on the list). I highly suggest visiting their stall in Borough Market if you find your self there, as well as having a wee look into the windows of the kitchen on site where Bread Ahead holds their baking courses, you might be lucky enough to see one in action.

We wanted to see something more of England, and our short time there permitted only a day's trip to somewhere close by, so my Uncle and Aunt suggested Oxford. A university town with a rainbow of colored houses lining the streets, Oxford provided us with a lovely day out. We were lucky enough to have the sun shining. We only had a few hours to have lunch and a wee stroll, as we had to get back to London in time to pack up all of our stuff and head to the over night bus leaving from Victoria Station to Paris. 

My Auntie Jacqueline, whom we stayed with in London, made this cake for us during our stay. I believe it was something my Grandma passed along to her, that she had picked up in the guardian one day. A perfect tea cake, with an orange soak and a hint of rose flavor, this cake can be enjoyed on it's own or with creme fraiche, or just plain whipped cream. I was drawn to this cake by its fresh spring flavors, moist texture, and by the fact that it is gluten free, and therefore adaptable to dietary restrictions. I am also a massive fan of rose water and rose flavor in baking, with Apple Rose pie being a favorite of mine for a long time. I have listed the recipe below. It is best served after it has had a few hours in the fridge, or overnight, so as to let all of the flavors and orange soak settle and permeate, so some planning ahead might be necessary. 

Jacqueline's Orange and Rose Polenta Cake (GF)

things you'll need

9-inch cake tin, preferably springform
large mixing bowl
hand held beaters (or standing mixer)
small sauce pan

for the cake batter

225g butter (at room temperature)
125g (1/2 cup & 2 tbsp) white sugar
100g (1/2 cup) dark muscovado sugar
4 eggs, beaten
225g (2 cups & 1/3 cup) ground almonds
115g (1/2 cup & 2 tbsp) polenta
Juice and zest of 3 oranges
A large pinch of rose petals
1½ tsp baking powder

for the orange soak & topping

100g (1/2 cup) white sugar
75ml orange juice
A small handful of rose petals
Zest of 1 orange

what to do

first, preheat the oven to 160˚C/325˚F. grease the cake tin with butter and line with parchment paper. in the large bowl cream together the softened butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. then add the eggs one by one, waiting between each addition in order to ensure the mixture doesn't split. 

second, add the polenta and ground almonds, and combine on a lower speed if using the mixer or fold if doing by hand. once the batter is smooth add the orange zest, juice, rose petals, and baking powder, and mix to combine. then pour the batter into the cake tin and pop in the oven. bake for 55 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. 

third, while the cake is baking prepare the orange soak. place the orange juice and sugar in a small sauce pan over medium high to bring to the boil. let simmer for 3-5 minutes until it has thickened slightly to a light syrup. 

lastly, once the cake has cooled but is still warm, poke 15-20 holes in the sponge with a skewer or fork. then pour the syrup over it, tilting the cake to help disperse the syrup. sprinkle the remaining rose petals and orange zest over the cake. then put the whole thing in the fridge over night. serve as preferred, with cream, creme fraiche or plain. serves 12.


From The Guardian