A lovely lady by the name of Elaine, who was raised by an Italian mother, posts recipes and the lyrical stories behind them at theitaliandishblog.com. She loves food made at home as much as I do, and enhances her stories of it with her beautiful photographs. Today she posted a recipe for a simple lemon cake that she was inspired to create after having tasted one for breakfast (breakfast!) on the island of Capri. I’ll stop there – you’ll do best to read the story in her own words.
I needed to make a little something to take to the heavenly salon where kind and supremely talented ladies take the baling twine that grows out of my head and make it resemble hair. I had just enough time to stir this together, bake it, and turn it out onto a doily before jumping into the car. I modified Elaine’s recipe a bit, using polenta in place of almond flour, and I omitted the vanilla and added some thyme because it just sounded like a good combination with the lemon.
Makes 1 8″ or 9″ cake
4 ounces room temperature butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup polenta (or cornmeal)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup milk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves (and if you have lemon thyme, all the better!)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cream together butter and sugar using a mixer fitted with the paddle. When light and fluffy, it’s safe to add the eggs.
- Crack the eggs into a liquid measuring cup. It makes adding the eggs one at a time easy. With the mixer running on low speed, tip one egg at a time into the bowl and allow it to be fully incorporated before adding the next. Adding the eggs this way emulsifies the water in the whites into the butter and egg yolks, and keeps your cake nicely tender. After the eggs have both been incorporated, stop the mixer and scrape all around the sides and bottom of the bowl. Mix again to incorporate everything.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer and set a sieve over it. Measure the flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, and baking soda into it. Sift the dry ingredients into the bowl. If all the polenta won’t pass through, sift everything else, being sure to push any lumps through with your fingers, then dump the polenta in last. Add the milk, lemon zest and juice, and thyme. Mix on low speed just until all ingredients are incorporated.
- Brush the edges of an 8″ or 9″ cake pan with the melted butter. Place a circle of parchment in the bottom. Scrape in the batter – it will be thick, and that’s fine – then level it evenly.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until cake is golden brown and springy when you tap the center with your fingers. Let the cake cool for 15 minutes before your depan it. It’s lovely served warm with afternoon tea. Or with breakfast!