Lemon & Sage Polenta Cake

It turns out I can’t bargain. There must be a bargaining gene of some sort and I most certainly don’t have it. Most people in Cambridge cycle, and, well, when in Rome…

So I’ve decided to buy a bike. I had a day off today and went scouring the second hand bike shops around here. I wanted to get one of those retro Dutch-style bikes with a basket and a comfy seat, but apparently those are in high demand and expensive. I know nothing about bikes, and when I finally found something I liked I tried to bargain with the guy selling it. It was a complete failed attempt, ending up in me leaving, then coming back, then coming back again and still not managing to get the price down. It was all very awkward. I don’t think bargaining is something you can learn. You either have it in you or you don’t. And I don’t. I hope the same can’t be said for photography, as my crappy iPhone attempt at capturing this cake needs a lot of improvement.

Anyway, onto the recipe. Anyone having spent some time in Switzerland will be familiar with Ricola, a Swiss cough drop made of herbs. It seems to me that every Swiss above 50 carries a pack of these around. I remember eating these as sweets. Their herbal flavour is actually quite refreshing, and brings back memories of summer hiking trips in the Alps. I wanted to capture this ‘herbal freshness’ in a loaf cake, and also wanted to experiment with using polenta in a cake, which I had never done before. I was actually really happy with the result. It definitely has that herbal tone to it coming from the sage, but it’s not overpowering. Infusing the butter with sage by browning it really helps with this I think. The polenta gives it a moist crumb which I like, and overall it feels like a simple, rustic cake with a fresh ♥.

Lemon and Sage Polenta Cake

½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 ¼ cup ground almonds
½ cup polenta
¼ cup flour
3 medium eggs
1 tsp. baking powder
Juice and zest of 2 large unwaxed lemons
A pinch of salt
15 sage leaves

Make the sage brown butter: Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. When melted and beginning to bubble, add 6-7 sage leaves. Leave to bubble until the butter begins to brown and smell nutty. Remove from heat and leave to cool.
Preheat oven to 160°C
Butter a medium-sized loaf pan. Place sage leaves along the walls of the pan with the top side facing the cake pan. If you have trouble making them stay flat against the pan, spread a small amount of butter on the leaves to help them stick to the pan.
Combine the ground almonds, polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
Remove the sage leaves from the brown butter and discard (or eat, they’re really crispy and tasty). In a large bowl and using an electric mixer, beat the brown butter and the sugar together for 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla and blend. Fold in the dry ingredients into the wet mixture until just combined (do not over mix!). Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake for one hour, or until a skewer or a sharp knife inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan and leaving to cool completely.

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