Orange Polenta Cake
This upside-down cake recipe is adapted from one by Ottolenghi. I discovered his recipe didn’t quite work as planned for me, so here is my tried and true version. Be sure to read it through once entirely before starting as there are a few different parts to making it.
A piece of this is a perfect winter treat, like a dose of sunshine.
4 tbsp water
1 cup / 180 g granulated sugar
8 tsp / 40 g butter
3 oranges (blood oranges are best if you can get them)
6-1/2 tbsp / 50 g all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp / 200 g butter, softened
1 cup / 200 g superfine sugar (if you can’t find superfine sugar, just mix granulated sugar in a good processor with the blade for 3 minutes)
3 tsp orange blossom water
2-1/2 cups / 240 g ground almonds
3/4 cup / 120 g cornmeal
Optional for glaze: 4 tbsp marmalade + 1 tbsp water
Lightly grease an 8 to 8-1/2 inch / 20-22 cm round pan. Line the bottom and sides with parchment, using a circle on the bottom that is slightly larger (to help keep the caramel from leaking out). Just to be safe, scrunch a piece of aluminum foil around the bottom of the pan.
Zest the oranges, setting aside the zest. Carefully slice off the peel, being sure not to leave any of the white pith. Cut each orange into 6 slices across the end (making a sun shape with the centre internal stem a piece in the middle). Pull out any stem bits and set aside slices – they will be placed in the caramel.
Make the caramel: In a heavy medium saucepan, pour the 4 tbsp water. Pile the 1 cup granulated sugar in the middle of the pan and place over medium heat. DO NOT LEAVE THIS PAN UNATTENDED. DO NOT STIR.
Watch as the caramel gains colour. It will bubble, and as the water evaporates the sugar will darken. You want a golden colour so as soon as the steam stops, be ready to take it off the heat. When it reaches golden colour, pour it carefully but quickly into the baking pan. Tilt the pan to distribute it evenly, then place the orange slices in a pattern to cover the surface in a single layer.
Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350F / 177C. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, cream the softened butter and superfine sugar just lightly (you don’t watch much air in the mixture). Gradually add the eggs, then reserved orange zest and orange blossom water, almonds and cornmeal. Add in flour mixture and mix just until combined.
Gently pour the batter into the cake pan, making sure the oranges don’t move in the caramel (they will be the showy top of the cake when presented). Level the batter with an offset spatula.
Bake for approximately 1 hour, until cake has an internal temperature of 195F /91C and the top is slightly browned. (Add a few minutes on 325F /170C convection if needed to brown the top).
Once baked, leave cake for 5 minutes in the pan to cool. Remove the parchment from the sides of the pan. Get your flat serving plate ready.
In one move, turn over the cake pan onto the plate (it works best if you put the plate on top of the cake pan and hold it on both sides). Gently slide the cake pan off the cake, and remove the parchment disc.
If you want to add the glaze, warm the marmalade with the water, removing any chunky pieces to avoid a sloppy look. Brush over the top of the cake.
Serve at room temperature – with Caramel Sauce, and/or a dollop of whipped cream if desired.