Lemon Almond Polenta Cake - Two Ways (GF)


The first time I encountered a polenta cake was at a small art gallery in Edinburgh on a family trip to Scotland. We had stopped in to the café for a quick lunch and decided that perhaps dessert was necessary as well -- something to boost our spirits on one of many chilly wet days. As my mother is gluten intolerant, she was skeptical that she would be able to find anything and was just about to settle for a cappuccino when a lemon polenta cake, advertised as gluten-free, caught her eye. It was immediately a hit among all of us, not just the gluten-intolerant, and we decided then and there that we would have to try it out at home. Many months later, I came across this recipe online. We were all delighted with the results. It is perfect for an elegant after dinner dessert, for tea, or even for breakfast/brunch. The first two times I made this cake, I baked it in a 9 inch springform pan. The last time, however, I decided to change it up a little by halving the recipe and dividing the batter up into the wells of a mini cupcake pan. The benefit of the mini cakes is that they are easier to serve, easier to eat, and easier to store. I will post both the full recipe and the halved recipe below.

Lemon Almond Polenta Cake (GF)
Ingredients
   Full Recipe (for whole cake)
     1/2 cup (90 g) dry polenta (or cornmeal)
     1/2 cup (65 g) gluten-free flour blend
     2 tsp baking powder
     1/4 tsp salt
     1 1/2 cups (210 g) whole or pre-ground almonds (I used Honeyville Farm's almond flour)
     1 cup (215 g) sugar
     1 lemon
     3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
     1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
     2 large eggs
     3/4 tsp almond extract
   Halved Recipe (for mini cakes)
     Makes about 3 dozen mini cakes (I made 2 dozen mini cakes and 3 muffin sized cakes)
     1/4 cup (45 g) dry polenta (or cornmeal)
     1/4 cup (33 g) gluten-free flour blend
     1 tsp baking powder
     1/8 tsp salt
     3/4 cups (105 g) whole or pre-ground almonds (I used Honeyville Farm's almond flour)
     1/2 cup (108 g) sugar
     3/4 lemon
     1/4 cup + 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
     1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
     1 large egg
     1/4 + 1/8 tsp almond extract

Instructions
   Full Recipe (for whole cake)
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan and line it with a round of parchment paper. 
Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
Pulse together the almonds and sugar in a food processor until coarse and sandy.
Juice half of your lemon and add that juice to the food processor. Cut the other half into quarters after removing the seeds and add it, rind and all, to the food processor. Process until well combined.
Add the oil, almond milk, and egg to the processor and process until well combined. Then add the dry ingredients and give a few long pulses until the mixture is combined. 
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 50-60 minutes. It should be fairly firm and golden brown. When inserted into the center, a toothpick should come away clean or with a few crumbs attached. Cool for 10 minutes and run a knife around the inside edge of the pan before releasing the spring and removing the cake. 
The first time I served the cake, I gave it a thick dusting of powdered sugar and garnished it with slivered almonds. The second time, I dusted it in powdered sugar, garnished it with candied lemon slices, and served it with a lemon glaze. It keeps very well, although I would recommend keeping it in the fridge to keep it moist.  
   Half Recipe (for mini cakes)
Preheat the oven to 325˚F. Grease 3 mini cupcake tins or 2 mini cupcake tins and 3 wells of a muffin tin.  
Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. 
Pulse together the almonds and sugar in a food processor until coarse and sandy. 
Juice half of the lemon and add that juice to the food processor. Remove the seeds from the remaining quarter of lemon and add it to the food processor, rind and all. Process until well combined.  
Add the oil, almond milk, and egg to the processor and process until well combined. Then add the dry ingredients and give a few long pulses until the mixture is combined. 
Scoop the batter into the mini cupcake tins. I used a tablespoon cookie scoop and put a full scoop of batter into each well. As I had some remaining batter after filling my two mini cupcake trays, I decided to use the rest in a regular muffin pan rather than waiting for the others to finish baking. Bake the mini cakes for 15-17 minutes until the very edges are slightly golden brown and have pulled away from the sides of the tin. Let them cool for at least 10 minutes and then run a knife around their edges before attempting to remove them from the pan. Muffin sized cakes will take about 20 minutes to bake and should also cool before being removed. 
To serve my mini cakes, I inverted them and dusted them generously with powdered sugar.  



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