Imagine strolling through the streets of Italy, the sun gleaming on your skin and the faint aroma of orange blossoms swirling through the air. During these chilly winter months that’s just about all we can think of; running away and strolling through the sunny romantic streets of Venice. Can you imagine that wonderful scene, spending your day strolling through sun-kissed streets and stopping occasionally for an espresso and a treat? These are the things I dream of while sitting at my desk slaving away at my 9-5.
The only way I’ve managed to come close to such a dream was to create a dessert that would allow me to close my eyes, take a bite and be transported to Northern Italy, where the sun shines, and you can breathe in a whiff of orange blossoms as you stroll along. And so a citrus infused orange blossom cake came into being.
Polenta; which is made from yellow cornmeal; originated in the Northern parts of Italy and was actually considered to be peasant food. Its versatility has only recently lent itself to the world of fine dining and comfort food. One of its main attributes is that it’s entirely gluten-free, contains a boatload of minerals and vitamins and is so incredibly easy to prepare. We would like to make you aware that corn is known to be a high GMO food, and you should be mindful of the type of corn/polenta you purchase. We always try to ensure that the label clearly states non-GMO, so we’re able to make conscious decisions on what we’re putting in our bodies.
Up until recent years, I’d completely forgotten the grain even existed, and it took a friend to ask me why I’d never cooked with it to remember the joys of working with such a versatile grain. If I’m being honest, I’d never experimented with it to create a dessert and only ever made it creamy and to form a base for stews and savoury things. But what is the point of having a food blog, if you can’t try out some new things and experiment with old ingredients right? The fun of experimenting often happens when we least expect it and generally get influenced by the surprising ingredients we find around us. I knew I wanted to create a dessert that was fresh, but still warming and comforting – creating fresh flavours in winter can sometimes prove a little difficult, but I was determined.
We paid a visit to our favourite market in the search of fresh and seasonal produce; hoping something would speak to us. What manages to set seasonal fruit and vegetables apart from their counterparts is that their colours are always more vibrant and their flavours more robust. Take one sniff of an orange that’s in season and you’ll know exactly what I mean – this is what drew us to citrus, they’re bright, sweet and lush, like little suns. The smells of citrus in the air as you have a walk around the market, and seeing the giant mountain of citrus gave us the answer to a perfectly balanced polenta cake. We’re all aware of the most common benefit of all citrus – their immune boosting superpowers, but citrus offers many other impressive benefits too. Citrus contains flavonoids, plant compounds that may promote heart health and because fruits such as grapefruit contain such a high level of antioxidants they’ve been proven to lower the bad cholesterol in our diets. An important part of being vegan and even vegetarian is knowing how to pair your foods to optimise the nutritious benefits of those foods. Iron is an incredibly important part of our diet and the Vitamin C in citrus helps your body optimally absorb all of it, in the same way, that eating healthy fats aids in the absorption of protein.
This polenta cake is all kinds of good for you. We managed to find that perfect balance of fresh and comforting by combining our fresh citrus produce with warming flavours from dates and polenta’s natural flavours. You might find the idea and texture of the polenta a little strange, but give it chance, things that you’re unfamiliar with have an amazing way of surprising you.
- 1 cup non-GMO Polenta
- 1 cup Gluten Free Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
- 2 Oranges zested, and juiced
- 4 Oranges juiced
- 1-2 Oranges sliced
- 12 Medjool Dates pitted and soaked for 10 minutes
- 1/3 cup Apple Sauce unsweetened
- 2 tbsp Coconut Oil
- 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar with the mother
- Coconut Yoghurt for serving
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius and line a 22cm springform cake tin with baking paper. (Cutting out circles so they fit at the bottom) Oil the sides of the pan with coconut or olive oil.
To a blender add your orange juice, soaked dates and 1/2 the water your dates soaked in, pulse until the date mixture is smooth. Now add your apple cider vinegar, applesauce, and coconut oil. Pulse again to combine - the mixture should be completely smooth.
In a large bowl combine your polenta, gluten-free flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and orange zest, mix thoroughly until you can begin smelling the orange zest again.
Add your wet ingredients to the dry and use a wooden spoon to combine.
In your prepared cake tin, arrange your orange slices so that they cover the base, we found the best way to do this was to halve and even quarter some of the slices, so that they fit snuggly.
Once your oven has preheated pour your polenta cake batter over your arrange orange slices and even the batter out with a spoon. Lift and drop the cake gently to release any air bubbles, the goal is to compress the cake as much as possible.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake starts pulling away from the edges. Let the cake cool for 20minutes before removing. Removing the cake prematurely will result in the cake falling apart and crumbling.
Once cooled invert the cake onto a plate or cake stand if you're fancy and peel off the baking paper. Serve with a dollop of coconut yoghurt and enjoy!