The inspiration for this little concentration of edible sunshine came from the masters at Ottolenghi, one of my favorite pâtisseries and gourmet food shops in London. I deviated from the recipe, somewhat: I added a D'Anjou pear to the mix and used a dairy-free butter substitute. I know, I know. Not using butter in a cake is sacrlicious for some, but one of the recipients of this cake can't eat dairy. The recipe below lists how much butter one ought to use, though.
Orange Pear Polenta Cake
Caramel Orange Layer * 1/2 cup superfine granulated sugar1 * 2 tbsp water * 2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into bits * 2 navel oranges * 1 pear
Cake * 1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, softened * 1 cup superfine granulated sugar * 3 large eggs * 2 tsp orange-flower water2 * 1/2 cup all-purpose flour * 1 tsp baking powder * 1/2 tsp salt * 2 cups ground almonds * 2/3 cup quick-cooking polenta
Glaze * 1/4 cup orange marmalade * 1 tsbp water
Make sure your rack is in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°3. Take out a 9-inch round cake pan, butter it, and line the bottom with a thin layer of parchment paper.
Bring 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tbsp water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Once that happens, brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush that's been soaked in cool water. Continue to let the caramel to boil, without stirring, swirling the pan every 3 minutes, until the color turns an even dark amber. Remove from heat, add the bits of butter, swirl until well incorporated, and then immediately pour the sauce into the cake pan, careful to tilt the pan to evenly coat it.
Grate the zest from the navel oranges and reserve it for the cake batter. Cut the remaining peel, pith and seeds from the fruit and arrange 1/4 inch segments in a single layer on the bottom of the cake pan. Cut the pear into thin slices and fan them in the middle of the bottom of the pan.
Beat the butter with the 1 cup remaining sugar until just combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir together the orange zest and orange-flower water, then add it to the butter-sugar-egg mixture.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. With mixer set at low speed, mix the ground almonds, polenta, and flour into the wet ingredients until just combined.
Spread the batter evenly over the oranges and pears (preferably with an offset spatula). Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean... about 1 - 1 1/4 hours. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cake stand or plate, and discard the parchment.
To make the marmalade glaze, heat the jam and the 1 tbsp water in a small saucepan until melted. Strain through a sieve4 into a small cup. Brush the top of the cake with the glaze.
I candied some navel orange slices in the leftover marmalade orange peel threads, 2 tbsp of sugar, and 1/4 cup water.
1 You can make superfine sugar at home by putting regular granulated sugar in a food processor, blender, or chopper and pressing "pulse" for about 20 seconds. 2 Orange-flower water is available at most gourmet and Middle Eastern markets. The A. Monteux brand I own came from Bristol Farms. 3 I initially turned up the dial to 375°, and then down to 350° just to make sure there weren't any cool pockets in the oven. 4 No sieve? No problem. Just pop open your mesh tea strainer and pour the marmalade glaze through it. That's what I did.
It’s called Serious Business Pastries because baking is serious stuff. It’s a science and an art form, and it demands a lot of care and attention. But baking also allows for a lot of fun and whimsy, too. They’re the veritable frosting and sprinkles on top of a delicious, well-made cupcake. If you try our pastries you’ll see that we’re serious about quality and craftsmanship, but fun and funky when it comes to flavors and creativity.