April 06, 2013

Honey Lemon Polenta Cake

Isn't it the best when you meet someone who isn't afraid to take action when they see a problem in the world? And who does it with enthusiasm and optimism? And leaves you feeling inspired and hopeful that we all have the power to make a change if we just put our minds to it? I had the great pleasure of meeting such a person this winter.



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
GMO-FREE HONEY LEMON POLENTA CAKE 
(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.

Cake
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
3 eggs
Zest of 2 lemons

Syrup
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!






25 comments:

  1. yes! i wanted this recipe after andrew brought some home. it is so delicious! can't wait to try it!

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    1. i'm thinking it might be delicious served with... sour cream ice cream!! ;-)

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  2. Love the moistness of this cake! It looks wonderful! We need the sunshiny desserts here in Michigan too. Where's spring?

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    1. I hope it brings a little sunshine to Michigan too :-) I'm sure spring must be just around the corner, I keep telling myself this, but it's hard to believe it amidst all this cold and grey weather... at least the crocuses are up!

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  3. Your cake looks so delicious, the texture looks perfect!

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  4. This kid is so inspiring.
    Greetings
    Anuszka

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    1. I agree! She is tremendously inspiring, hopeful, and optimistic :-)

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  5. very creative, sounds delish!

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  6. Hi! I’m new follower of your blog and would like to invite you to join me at my weekly Clever Chicks Blog Hop:
    http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2013/04/clever-chicks-blog-hop-29-and-jewelry.html


    I hope you can make it!

    Cheers,
    Kathy Shea Mormino
    The Chicken Chick

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  7. Dear Aube, I made it and it was amazing!! My friend thought it was very Middle Eastern, soaked in sweet syrup like many Arab sweets. It is also a good cake for Passover, as there is no flour. Thanks for posting!

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    1. Laura I'm so happy you made it and liked it, that's a real compliment especially coming from an Italian! :-) Yes, it also reminds me of Arabic semolina cakes soaked in syrup, mmm, those are so delicious with the rose water syrup (miam miam!). So happy you enjoyed it!

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  8. That young lady is inspiring!! She will do great things and I wish her all the best!

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  9. What an inspiration for people of all ages. We need more like her to change the world. I have LIKED your FaceBook page and two others have also liked your page Isaac Bruck and Jeff Rosner. Does this mean I am entered into the drawing for the Le Creuset pot? thanks for your beautiful and tasteful articles, recipes, stories and photographs. Debby

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    1. Hi Debby, I totally agree with you we need more Rachels in the world :-) Thanks for entering the draw, yes I've added both you and your two friends to the draw! Good luck and thanks for following my blog!

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  10. Holy crap I made this and it turned out pretty good! Thanks for this recipe as it is just one step above my current cooking level, so gave me a challenge and a boost of confidence.

    What's interesting is regional names for things. Here in Montreal, it was really tough to find "polenta" and I went all over the place trying to find it. Some woman at a bakery explained to me how easy it was to make, and that you just needed cornmeal, which I had at home. So I came back and then re-read the recipe and saw that it was for Polenta cornmeal. D'OH! All that running around for nothing. In any case, Montreal has tons of corn meal, but I only found one brand at a store that actually labelled it polenta cornmeal.

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    1. Yes! I'm so glad you made this! But yikes, I'm terribly sorry about the running around the streets of Montreal for polenta though, thanks for sharing the story, I'm actually going to put a little note on the recipe right now to clarify, because any cornmeal will do the trick (I tried it with a bunch of different varieties and they all worked out fine, but I did have a preference for the finer grind, I thought gave a better texture to the cake). Say hello to Montreal for me (my city of birth :-)

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  11. My 11 year old granddaughter who loves to bake is going to get this recipe for her collection. Thank you Rachel.

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  12. Your cake is really looking so delicious. Thanks for sharing this.
    Modular Kitchen Installation

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  13. I'm gonna try making that cake! I am happy to see such a young girl aware of GMO foods & spreading the word. Keep up the good work!

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