Great gluten-free recipes are like gold dust. I find so many recipes claim to be gluten free, but lack in texture or flavour due to flour substitutes and other additions. Using polenta is a fantastic replacement for flour. It's more than a replacement - it has its own unique flavour and texture which works perfectly. Ground almonds also add structure and a nuttiness. Use any kind of nut you fancy - I've used a mixture of pistachio which lends its vibrant colour to the batter.
Also, crystallising nuts is FUN! I experimented with it for the first time for this cake and they are both easy and beautiful - almost sparkling on the top of the cake. It does feel unnatural and slightly wrong to add nuts to syrup and stir until it clumps and becomes dry, but that's almost what makes it so much fun; it breaks the normal sugar work rules. Rose and pistachio work together like a dream too.
Recipe written for Waitrose Weekend. Find my recipe here.
FOR THE CAKE
100g ground almonds
1 tsp gluten free baking powder
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
3 large Waitrose British Blacktail Eggs
FOR THE CHRYSTALLISED PISTACHIOS
50g caster sugar
FOR THE ROSE ICING
75g icing sugar
1 tsp rose water
Cooks’ Ingredients Pretty Rose Petals, to decorate
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C, gas mark 3, grease and line the base and sides of a 20cm loose-bottomed tin with baking parchment.
2. To make the cake, place the pistachios into a food processor and pulse for around 30 seconds until the nuts are the same texture as the ground almonds. Tip into a small bowl and add the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder.
3. Cream together the butter and sugar using an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between each addition. Stir in the dry ingredients and beat until smooth. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 45-50 minutes until risen and firm. Test the cake using a skewer – it should come out clean when inserted into the centre. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. The cake may sink slightly in the centre, but this is normal for polenta cakes.
4. While the cake is baking, make the crystallised pistachios. Place the sugar and 50ml of cold water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. When the sugar syrup reaches 135°C on a sugar thermometer and it just starts to colour around the edges, remove from the heat and tip in the pistachios. Beat rapidly with a balloon whisk so the syrup crystallises around the pistachios, then tip onto a sheet of baking parchment to cool completely. When cool enough to handle, pull apart to separate the nuts.
5. To make the icing, combine the icing sugar and rose water in a small bowl with just enough water to make a thick icing. Drizzle all over the cooled cake, then roughly chop the crystallised pistachios and sprinkle over the top with a few rose petals before serving.