Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Olive Oil Polenta Cake
20 Random Things That You Never Wanted To Know About Me
Now that I have my new Facebook page up and running (thanks to all who joined!), I thought that it would be fun to occasionally post 20 random facts about myself on my blog. This will allow new readers to get to know me, and long-time readers to learn some more things about me (which hopefully won't scare either group off.) If random facts don't interest you, then by all means skip down to the recipe at the bottom of the page. These are all fairly short and, in case you didn't catch it, also quite random.
1. I was a contestant on Wheel of Fortune when I was 17. I won, but I've either hidden or burned all of the photographic evidence because I was wearing a hideous Laura Ashley number, which should never have been allowed on national T.V.
2. Fast food: I've never eaten a Big Mac, and I've never been to Taco Bell. I love Wendy's Frosties. Oh, and that freaky Burger King mascot in their commercials gives me nightmares.
3. When I was little, I was afraid of the windshield wipers on our car. I also thought that the Empire State Building was called the "Vampire" State Building. Looks like I wasn't alone:
4. I once got my arm stuck in a pool table. That was embarrassing.
5. I also once locked myself in a dumpster. That was even more embarrassing.
6. I'm really good at shooting pool (providing I don't get my arm stuck in the table, which takes my skill level down a few notches.)
7. My brother Jay is the single most interesting person I know. You should take him out for a beer sometime. He has some great stories to tell, my favorite of which includes the dog from There's Something About Mary and a very unfortunate chicken.
8. I can say the Pledge of Allegiance in french which, now that I think about it, makes no sense whatsoever.
9. I absolutely hate mayonnaise. It's pretty much a mayo-phobia. That goes for aioli too. You chefs aren't tricking me with your fancy french terms (see #8.)
10. I'm left-handed. So is my husband, Eric. We figured that there aren't very many of us in the world, so we might as well get married.
11. One of my pet peeves is when people over age 16 use terms like "preggers", "vacay", and "adorbs!" to shorten words that really weren't that long to begin with. Scratch that -- it bugs me when anyone uses those terms.
12. I once had a 5-minute conversation with Tom Brady at a party. Unfortunately, I did not know who Tom Brady was at the time. I've been kicking myself ever since.
13. I like to eat frozen peas.
14. I put Tabasco Chipotle sauce on almost everything (but not frozen peas.)
15. About 10 years ago, I developed an allergy to scallops, which sucks because I really like scallops. Why can't I be allergic to mayonnaise?
16. I love to cross-country ski. Unfortunately, I live in the desert so my opportunities are limited.
17. Music: I love listening to Hair Nation on Sirius, and I wish that the original members of Guns 'n Roses would get back together (although that could be a disaster.) I think that Eminem is a brilliant lyricist, although he could afford to ease up just a hair on the profanities. I think the Dave Matthews Band is completely overrated. Josh Groban's "O Holy Night" always makes me cry. I have a Justin Bieber song on my iPod. Don't judge. It's good for working out.
18. I have one blond eyelash and one brown eyelash.
19. I'm a stickler for punctuality. We are a dying breed.
20. I don't have much of a green thumb, which I partially attribute to the climate in which I reside. That said, a few things grow beautifully here, including Meyer lemons. I have two huge Meyer lemon trees in my backyard, which yield in excess of 500 fat yellow-orange lemons each year. If you live in the area, let me know. I'll give you some :)
Which leads me to today's recipe.........
This weekend, it became evident to me that this year's Meyer lemon supply had gotten a bit out of hand. Branches drooped due to clusters of fat oval-shaped fruit, some of which looked more like oranges. The ground was dotted with dozens of bruised lemons that my dogs had snatched from the tree and discarded. It was time to bake something lemony (not using the dog discarded lemons, of course)!
Have you ever tasted an olive oil cake? It sounds a bit weird, I know. Most of us are used to enjoying a nice, fruity, extra-virgin olive oil drizzled over something savory, not baked into dessert. The olive oil cake is very common in Mediterranean baking, and there are countless variations on it. Olive oil replaces butter as the main source of fat, creating a lovely moist cake that is neither too sweet nor too heavy. Adding polenta (or cornmeal) to the batter yields a slightly crunchy texture and a crisp crust. I decided to load up this cake with plenty of Meyer lemon zest and a bit of fresh lemon juice. Then, at the last minute, I tossed in some blackberries (the cake was just calling out for some fresh berries!)
Overall, I was quite happy with the results. The cake sunk in the middle a little bit, which I sneakily hid with some extra blackberries, but I know that the sinking was due to my frequent checking for doneness (thus the fluctuation of the oven temperature.) Try to avoid doing this, tempting as it may be. See the notes below for a few variations that I will try next time.
Here are a few additional tips and twists for this citrusy snack cake:
- As you can tell from the photo, some of the blackberries sunk to the bottom of the pan during the baking process. This is fine, but the next time that I prepare this, I might just sprinkle the top of the batter with the blackberries and allow the cake to bake up around them. If you try it this way, please let me know what happens!
- The lemon flavor in this cake is definitely evident, but it is by no means strong or overly tart. If you would like something like that, I would suggest drizzling the cake with a lemony sugar syrup while it is still warm and/or a lemony glaze after it has cooled. Instructions for both can be found in my Mini Blueberry and Meyer Lemon Pound Cakes recipe.
- This recipe will keep well for 3-4 days in an air-tight container or tightly wrapped.
Meyer Lemon and Blackberry Olive Oil Polenta Cake
2 1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup instant polenta or yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
Zest from 3 large Meyer lemons (or 4 large regular lemons)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 ounces fresh blackberries
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Spray an 10-inch springform pan with non-stick baking spray - or - spray a 10-inch round baking pan with baking spray and line it with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the sugar and the eggs on medium-high speed for 4-5 minutes, until the mixture is pale yellow and tripled in volume. Mix in the lemon zest.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and the lemon juice. Add this to the egg mixture, alternating with the flour mixture, in two additions each, mixing after each addition until the ingredients are incorporated. Gently fold the blackberries into the batter.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Bake the cake until the top springs back when lightly touched, and a cake tested inserted into the center emerges clean, 30-35 minutes.
Cool the cake in the pan set on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then release the sides of the pan and allow the cake to cool completely.
Sprinkle the cake with powdered sugar and garnish with additional fresh blackberries (optional) before serving.