|Photo courtesy of reader Duncan Campbell*|
Just about everyone loves a good old gooey chocolate cake; I know I do. But I often find myself fancying something with a crisper, more citrus-y bite--chalk it up to the sun pouring in the windows (or who knows, maybe I'm finally growing up? Nah.) Anyway, several months ago I played around with a polenta cake recipe from the brilliant Moosewood Desserts cookbook, added my favorite Italian liqueur, and came up with a cake that's become an oft-requested favorite. The texture is wonderful--buttery yet slightly gritty, the way Milano cookies are--and the Limoncello's alcohol will evaporate during baking, making the cake fine for kids (I know mine adore it, though it contains nary a speck of chocolate), but if you like a genuinely boozy cake, you can also sprinkle some of the liqueur on top of your creation while it's still warm. Off to the kitchen with you, then, to make...
Limoncello Polenta Pound Cake
1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus a little for greasing the pan.
3 cups sugar
the finely grated rind of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 teaspoons lemon extract
3 cups unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup Limoncello (a gorgeous, intensely lemony Italian liqueur)
1/4 cup milk
1 cup cornmeal (organic if you can, so as to avoid all the GMO corn out there)
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. (give or take a few degrees if your oven is wonky like mine--I always err on the side of going a bit lower and baking longer in order to prevent an overly dark crust). Butter and flour a nonstick bundt pan and set aside.
Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar until light, then add the lemon rind and mix well. Continue beating and add the eggs and the vanilla and lemon extracts, and beat until fluffy. Sift the flour and baking powder and mix it into the egg-butter mixture, using a wooden spoon now. Then add the Limoncello and milk, and stir until smooth. Mix in the cornmeal until just blended.
Scrape the cake batter into the prepared bundt pan and place in the center of the oven. You'll want to check on it in an hour, then every five minutes or so (it may take up to 1 hour and 15 minutes to be done). When your cake looks golden and is pulling away, slightly, from the edges of the pan, remove it from the oven, allow it to cool for 10 minutes, and invert it onto a large, flat plate. (Gently tap the edges of the pan if necessary.) Remove the pan from the cake, and voilá! A picture-perfect cake with an intoxicating fragrance is yours--to eat plain, to dust with powdered sugar and adorn with candles, or to serve warm with vanilla or lemon ice cream. Enjoy!
* Duncan writes: I used the juice of one of the lemons mixed with powdered sugar and a shot of Limoncello to make a glaze that I brushed all over the cake until it was saturated.
And I will add: Earlier this month--and due to constant demand--I wound up making this cake two weeks in a row; I wanted to try a variation of my own the second time. So I substituted the grated peel of two oranges for the lemon peel; pure orange extract for the lemon extract; and Grand Marnier for the Limoncello (same amounts). It was scrumptious, though I have to admit I still prefer the lemon version, which is a Tornello classic at this point.