Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Lemon / by Amy Cantu

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I had this lemony, moist, squidgy, lightly gritty polenta cake stuck in my head. I knew just how I wanted it to look, taste, and feel in my mouth, but I was having trouble actually baking it. This one took three tries, but the results were totally worth it. I tried it as a loaf cake first, but the middle kept sinking, and the top was unattractively mottled dark brown. The Polenta Cake might seem plain Jane and suspiciously like cornbread, but I promise that its humble looks are deceiving. The olive oil and yogurt keep this Polenta Cake moist and just a bit dense, the lemon lends a bright citrusy flavor, and the polenta adds texture and earthiness. I love it on its own as a snack cake, (I'm determined to make "snack cake" a cake genre,) drizzled with a lemon glaze, in a trifle, or as it is here - topped with billows of lightly sweetened whipped cream and ripe summer fruit. The genius of Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Lemon is in its simplicity.

Notes: Polenta Cake with Olive Oil and Lemon is perfect for making a Berry Trifle because it's sturdy and textured enough to hold together under the many layers, but also moist and delicious all on its own. If you're not feeding a crowd, the cake can just as easily be sliced into squares and topped with whipped cream (or ice cream!) and any in-season fruit. In the winter, it would be lovely with poached pears or an apple-cinnamon compote - YUM!

Active time: 5 minutes, Inactive time: 35 minutes
Yield: One 9 x 9" cake

1 cup flour
1/2 cup polenta
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra to grease the cake pa

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 9" metal cake pan with cooking spray or olive oil. Line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper, and grease the parchment paper again. Set aside.

Whisk together flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

In a separate large bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla, and olive oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, until just mixed together with no dry spots.

Pour cake batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick poked into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool completely before slicing. Cut into squares and serve with whipped cream and berries or use to make Berry Trifle.

Recipe inspired by Ina Garten's Lemon Yogurt Cake.