Her name is Rachel Parent, she is 13 years old, and she is seriously kicking some GMO butt!! Last year, she founded an organization called Kids Right To Know which is fighting for genetically modified foods (GMOs) to be labelled in Canada. I showed up on her doorstep one snowy morning to interview her for an article I wrote for the spring issue of Edible Toronto Magazine. But before we got down to business, Rachel and I baked a buttery and zesty honey lemon polenta cake. (GMO-free of course!) Here is a video of our delightful morning together.
If you live in Toronto, I hope you'll consider joining Rachel on her upcoming Right To Know Walk on June 1st, because Canada and the US are the only two industrialized countries in the world that don't label genetically modified foods (GMOs), and we need to change that. Actually, the fight for GMO labelling just became more urgent than ever because last week, US Congress passed the 'Monsanto Protection Act' into law. This new law protects biotech companies from any litigation if it turns out any of their varieties of GMO seeds are harmful to humans or the environment. Unbelievable, but sadly, true. In case you missed it, Jon Stewart recently gave a brilliant explanation of how this law was passed. And then to top it all off, Monsanto's GM alfalfa is poised to be released this month in Eastern Canada. Because it is a perennial plant pollinated by bees, GMO alfalfa would inevitably contaminate neighbouring farms and threaten the future of organic food production. On April 9th, Canadians are speaking out in rallies across the country, please join in and click here to find a rally near you. Now if you're wondering, like many people, what the heck exactly is a GMO and why should you avoid eating them, I highly recommend watching this documentary. It was produced by an award-winning journalist and it clears up a lot of questions about GMOs.
Now. Let's talk about cake.
I have fallen head over heels in love with this cake. It's a buttery polenta cake that is soaked in honey lemon syrup. So it's moist, almost custardy, and bursting with delicious lemon zesty-ness. It's the perfect cake to herald the arrival of spring. In fact, I have taken to calling it the Sunshine Cake. And I've made it 5 times in the past 2 months alone. Let's just say, my month of March was very grey and very long, and I needed to pump up my world with as much sunshine as possible.
A little bonus for the gluten-free's out there, this one happens to be made entirely with cornmeal and ground almonds so you're in the clear!
|Rachel proudly displays our cake! Photo: © Andrew Norton|
(aka SUNSHINE CAKE :-)
Adapted from Nigella Lawson
For a fully GMO-free cake, the polenta cornmeal, butter, and eggs should be certified organic. Cane sugar is a preferred option since most commercial sugar is made from GMO sugar beets. And yes, even baking powder can contain GMOs so certified GMO-free baking powder is advisable (and can be found at most health food stores). As for the lemons, they won't be genetically modified, but may have some lingering pesticides on their skin so organic is best since this recipe calls for zest.
3/4 cup polenta cornmeal (any regular cornmeal will do the trick, but I found a finer grind yielded the best texture)
2 cups ground blanched almonds
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup cane sugar (I actually use 3/4 cup to cut down on sugar content)
1.5 tsp baking powder
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup honey
Juice of 2 lemons
Line the base of a 23 cm/9 inch springform pan with parchment paper and grease it with butter. Preheat oven to 350F.
Whip the butter, sugar, and lemon zest until pale and smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together the ground almonds, polenta, and baking powder. Beat roughly a third of this dry mixture into the creamed butter, followed by an egg. Mix well. Repeat 2 more times until all the ingredients have been incorporated together. Batter will be thick. Pour this into the prepared pan.
Bake at 350F for about 40 minutes. A cake tester should come out clean and the top of the cake should be golden and the edges pulled back from the pan slightly. Cool the cake right in the pan.
Make the syrup by simmering the honey and lemon juice together until hot. Prick the top of the cake with a toothpick and pour this syrup slowly and evenly over the top of the cake, while still in the pan. Allow the cake to soak up the syrup (minimum 15 minutes). Remove from the pan and serve. Enjoy!