Polenta is not only reserved for savoury dishes, and for good reason. It is commonly used in cakes and desserts throughout Italy, especially in the north where it is a staple. Paired with a little flour and some ground almonds in this cake, the polenta gives a unique pleasant grittiness that is impossible to achieve with flour or almonds alone.
Like the polenta, the olive oil is SO important! It provides a richness and lush texture, which is why I’m such a huge fan. I use it instead of butter in most cakes and it also makes baking even easier – no more trying to soften butter in the sun because you forgot to take it out of the fridge in time!
Once you top the cake with the pears and drizzle over the syrup, serve it immediately as the syrup disappears into the cake really quickly. Alternatively, serve it on the side and drizzle over individual pieces for maximum syrup enjoyment!
As the days get shorter and the weather begins to cool off, this is the cake I love to make!
For the cake
180g blanched almonds
80g plain flour
180g coarse polenta
1 tsp baking powder
140g caster sugar
150ml olive oil
1 orange: juice, and zest
For the pears
2 firm Beurre Bosc pears, cored, and halved or quartered
50g caster sugar
100ml Vin Santo
1 tbsp olive oil
For the cake
Preheat oven to 180C. Grease and line a 20cm round cake tin.
In a food processor, grind the blanched almonds. In a large bowl, combine the ground almonds, flour, polenta, and baking powder. Stir to combine and set aside.
In another bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy. Slowly add the oil in a steady stream while still beating the egg mixture. Add the orange juice, and zest and continue beating until combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the mixture and gently mix until well combined. Bake in preheated oven until golden and a skewer or toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean (approximately 25-30 minutes).
Leave cake to cool slightly and then turn out and cool completely on a cake rack. Pile the roasted pears on the cake and drizzle with the syrup and serve with mascarpone.
For the pears
Preheat oven to 180C.
Lay the pears flesh side down in a roasting tray. Scatter with sugar and drizzle over Vin Santo and olive oil. Roast in oven until just tender but still firm and holding their shape (approximately 20 minutes).
Place pears in a large frypan and cover with syrup. Simmer on low heat until syrup thickens slightly. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool slightly before dressing the cake.
HUGE THANKS Julia Busuttil of OSTRO for sharing her amazing sweet recipes with us this month, and to Eve Wilson for the gorgeous shots!
Ingredients by Polenta and Olive Oil cake with Vin Santo Pears by Julia Busuttil. Wooden Board made custom for Julia by Thomas Lentini. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull for The Design Files.
A serve of the delicious Chocolate Almond Cake with Roasted Rhubarb Julia Busuttil. Speckled bowl by Sarah Schembri from Craft, Wooden board custom made for Julia by Thomas Lentini. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull for The Design Files.
A serve of the delicious Polenta Olive Oil cake with Vin Santo Pears, with mascarpone on the side by Julia Busuttil. Speckled bowl by Sarah Schembri from Craft, Wooden Plate from Country Road, Oslo Copper Pink Tableware Fork from Third Drawer Down. Photo – Eve Wilson. Styling – Lucy Feagins, styling assistant – Nat Turnbull for The Design Files.