Almond, polenta & lemon cake with blackberry compote

By • September 1, 2013 7 Comments

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Author Notes: Speak to any seasoned blackberry picker and they'll tell you they have a favourite spot they return to year after year. That first picking is invested with more hope than expectation. Will the fruit be plump or seedy? Fit for a blackberry and apple pie or destined to be sieved for a fruit jelly? My first pickings this year proved to be packed with juice, making the seeds barely noticeable. Half of the berries were the basis for a classic apple and blackberry crumble. The rest I warmed with a little sugar to enjoy as a compote which would be good, I thought, with a little almond 'something'. I had almonds; I had polenta; and I had lemons. With those ingredients, The River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers was the first book I reached for. Their recipe for Torta di Polenta, Mandorle e Limone is the basis for the recipe below.

Not wanting a cake as large as 30cm (12 inches), I cut down the recipe to suit a 17cm (7 inch) x 6cm (2.5 inch) round tin. It produced a beautifully light cake which is also gluten-free. I found the lemon didn't come through quite enough for me so I increased the amount of lemon zest recommended. I should mention the finished cake is fairly fragile so take extra care to prepare the tin. The cake keeps well for a couple of days but it will lose its crunch.

Serves 4-6

Almond, polenta & lemon Cake

  • 6 ounces unsalted butter
  • 6 ounces sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 ounces almonds, skinned and ground or use ready ground
  • Half teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of half lemon
  • 3 ounces polenta (coarsely ground cornmeal)
  • Half teaspoon baking powder
  • pinches salt

Blackberry compote

  • 12 ounces Blackberries
  • 1-2 ounces powdered sugar (depending on sweetness of berries)
  1. Preheat oven 170C (fan 150C)/Gas 3.
  2. Lightly butter the cake tin and dust with polenta.
  3. Cream the butter well with the caster sugar.
  4. Add the ground almonds and vanilla and mix briefly
  5. Gradually beat in the eggs.
  6. Gently fold in the lemon zest and juice, followed by the polenta, baking powder and salt.
  7. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until a skewer comes out fairly clean (under-cooked is better than over-cooked). Leave to cool in the tin before turning out.
  8. While the cake is cooking, put the blackberries in a heavy-bottomed pan with no more than 1 tablespoon of water. Heat just until the juices flow freely.
  9. Remove from the heat and mix in 1oz of icing sugar, adding more if the compote is too tart.
  10. Spoon a little compote alongside a slice of cake. I don't think it needs the addition of cream but you might.

More Great Recipes: Polenta|Fruit|Cakes|Desserts|Blackberries

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Comments (7) Questions (0)


almost 2 years ago EvieS

That's good to hear!


almost 2 years ago Mi Budare

I will put this one on my baking list!


almost 2 years ago sarah bodney

Sooo, do you think I could make this with masa harina, or even quinoa in place of the "polenta" which I assume is coarsely ground cornmeal? And, gulp, could I use frozen blackberries (of which I just happen to have a HUGE bag) to make the compot?


almost 2 years ago EvieS

Hi Sarah, You're right, coarsely ground cornmeal is the same as polenta. I've got to remember my American friends have different names for some ingredients and I'm going to make that clear on the recipe right now. Thanks. I think masa harina is probably too finely ground but maybe worth a try. Quinoa I feel would be too bulky to work. Nothing at all wrong with using frozen blackberries though the compote is likely to be more watery. To get over this, once cooked and sugar added, you could sieve out the fruit and boil down the syrup to thicken it before cooling and adding back to the fruit.


29 days ago Ginny Ickle

I've done ok with masa haring; the coarseness of the almonds seems to make up for it.


almost 2 years ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

Nice! I haven't seen the River Cafe recipe, but this one will be perfect for my berry-picking family and my ever-growing list of gluten-free friends.


almost 2 years ago EvieS

Thanks Chris. Wish I could take more credit for myself on this one. Hope you like it as much as I do.