I always think that autumn is my favourite time of year but then January ends and February rushes in with all of its unexpected light and my heart does a somersault every year – there’s sun in rooms that have been dark all winter and crocuses in scrubby flower beds, and remarkably enough it takes me by surprise every single time.
I’m mesmerised by the flavours and colours of food at this time of year too – the bright, lively citrus tones of Seville and blood oranges, and the zippy, energising dark greens of kale and tenderstem broccoli and leeks that just seem so appropriate for the rising light levels and the cautious push into the new season that February brings.
With all of this in mind, and with my family coming over for tea and to see the new place we’ve just moved to, I decided to make a cake that would highlight the bright early spring flavours and colours that I love so much.
After realising that I’m now a 30-minute walk from any shop that might sell ground almonds for a damp almond & orange cake, I settled on this lovely blood orange & polenta option instead. It turned out to be perfect for the occasion: bolstering and sunny and wonderful with a cup of tea after a chilly walk around the Phoenix Park…my new area! 🙂
BLOOD ORANGE & POLENTA CAKE
Keeps for up to a week – just wrap it up tightly in parchment and store in a tin.
Zest & juice of 2 blood oranges
200g self raising flour
250g caster sugar
250g butter, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1tsp orange extract
For the topping
1 blood orange, sliced thinly
100ml orange juice
3tbsp caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 160°c and line a medium sized, steep-sided baking tin with baking parchment. Cream the butter and sugar with the vanilla and orange extracts. Once pale and fluffy, add the eggs one at a time, mixing well until each is completely incorporated. Add the flour and polenta and mix thoroughly. Stir in the zest and juice of the two blood oranges and combine fully. You should have a nice, smooth, reasonably thick batter at this point.
Transfer the batter to the parchment-lined tin and bake for around 35 minutes, or until deeply golden and an inserted skewer comes out clean. Once done, cool the cake on a rack. Meanwhile, with the peel still on, slice the remaining blood orange as thinly as you can. Bring the water, orange juice and sugar to a rapid boil. Reduce the heat and add the blood orange slices and continue to cook for around ten minutes. Once the blood orange slices are soft and the syrup has reduced by about half take the pan off the heat. Make holes in the cake with a fork. Arrange the blood orange slices over the top of the cake, overlapping them slightly if desired. Spoon the syrup over the cake. Serve slices of it with big dollops of crème fraîche and a hot pot of tea.