Spring is peeking out from behind the clouds and I couldn't be more ready! It's this point of the year that I attempt a quick spring clean, and discover any ingredients lurking at the back of my cupboard that haven't been used since Christmas. Mixed peel is one such ingredients. It seems to go into every single festive recipe, yet is left redundant for the 11 months that follow, and will likely have dried out my the time you next come to use it! It sounds a rather ordinary ingredient, but weaving it into the batter of this polenta cake transforms the small pieces of leathery peel into chewy nuggets of citrus flavour, almost like sweets.
To me, cakes fall into two categories. You’ve got your light-as-air, tea-and-cake style numbers, often dainty and delicate, and then you’ve got dessert cake. Dessert cake should be a different encounter: dense, eaten with a spoon and suitable to drench in cream or custard. A polenta cake is all these things – being beautifully stodgy and sticky, but matching it with orange and lemon makes it light and moreish at the same time. My version is topped off with cheats candied peel – tubs of shop-bought peel tossed in chunky pieces of sugar. A perfect dessert for me is a generous slice of this cake with a dollop of Greek yoghurt on the side and a scattering of pomegranate seeds or fresh raspberries – an indulgent yet refreshing end to a meal.
Give it a try and let me know how you get on!
Mixed Peel Polenta Cake
Written for Waitrose Weekend
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
3 Waitrose British Blacktail Medium Free Range Eggs
200g ground almonds
100g polenta or cornmeal
1 tsp baking powder
Finely grated zest 1 orange
75g mixed peel
FOR THE SYRUP
3 tbsp caster sugar
Juice of 1 orange
FOR THE SUGARED PEEL
25g mixed peel
1 tsp granulated sugar
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. 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, then fold in the orange zest and mixed peel.
3. Scrape the batter into the prepared tin and level the surface, place on a baking tray. Bake for 50-55 minutes until risen and fairly firm (it will have a very slight wobble in the middle). Test the cake using a skewer – it should come out clean when inserted into the centre.
4. While the cake is baking, make the orange syrup. Place the sugar and juice of the orange into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 1 minute, then remove from the heat. When the cake is baked, remove from the oven and, while still hot, brush the warm syrup all over it, then leave to cool completely on a wire rack. The cake may sink slightly in the centre, but this is normal for polenta cakes.
5. To finish, make the sugared peel by shaking together the candied mixed peel and granulated sugar in a sealed ziplock bag until well coated. Sprinkle over the top of the cake, then serve generous slices as a delicious dessert.