Even though I'd say that 90 percent of what comes out of my kitchen is Indian food, I am Italian and there are times when I just can't keep my inner Tuscan under control. One of those times is spring time in Sonoma, which is right now.
Sonoma looks a lot like northern Italy. That's what my parents say, and that's what attracted them here. The same sort of produce is grown and a lot of the same dishes are cooked.
Of course I'm feeling all Tuscan right now because the sun is out and the breeze has softened and there are tons of Fava beans and interesting greens to be had on the cheap in my local markets.
One of my favorite dessert recipes for this time of year is a simple Tuscan cornmeal or polenta cake basted with a rosemary infusion, and garnished with a bit of unsweetened whipped cream and some fresh blackberries.
We were out to dinner the other night at The Fig Cafe in Glen Ellen with some of our colleagues from the recent film festival. I suggested that everyone come back to our place for a bit of dessert afterwards. Not because the desserts at The Fig Cafe aren't great ( they are) but because I was jonesing to make this cake. Also, fresh blackberries were on sale at our local Whole Foods at 2 baskets for 4 bucks. It was in the stars that I had to make this cake like Now!
The big problem I always face with this recipe is locating good fresh inexpensive blackberries that don't cost an arm and a leg. The irony here is that we live in a virtual blackberry jungle. Our property is filled with blackberries.
Our driveway is lined with blackberry bushes.
The downside is they're not ready yet. The other downside is I'm battling the deer for them every year.
I must add here that when fresh figs are in season, they work great too..but we're a long way from fig season.
The cake is simple, easy to make and not a super sweet concoction. In fact, it might even be great on a brunch table. It whips up fast, bakes for 40 minutes and serves up to 10 people depending on the size of the pieces one cuts. Here's how to do it.
Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric beater. When it's nice and fluffy add in:
1 cup of fine cornmeal flour
3/4 cup of all purpose flour
3/4 tsp of salt
1 tsp of baking powder
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
2/3 cup of whole milk
Beat the cake batter with an electric beater on the high setting for about 3 minutes. It will turn a pale shade of yellow.
Pour the batter into a greased and floured 8x2 (I use 8x3) inch cake pan.
When the batter is in the pan, tap it against your kitchen counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles.
Place the pan in the middle rack of a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. You'll know it's done when a toothpick poked in the center comes out clean.
Let the cake pan sit on a wire rack for about 10 minutes to rest, then unmold the cake flipping it onto your hand bottom side up, and place it on a plate.
The bottom has become the top and this is the side that gets the rosemary infusion.
The Rosemary Infusion
While the cake is baking away in the oven make a simple rosemary syrup.
In a small pan add:
3/4 cup of water
3/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/3 cup of finely chopped fresh rosemary
Whisk it all together on a medium high heat until it comes to a simmer.
Let it simmer for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat add in:
1 tsp of vanilla and let the mixture sit for 30 minutes.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and pour it into a 2 cup glass measure.
Using about 1/3 cup of this syrup, paint the top of the cake with it. Always let the syrup sink in before you add more.
There should be about 2/3 cup of syrup left. Pour it into a small pitcher and refrigerate it until serving.
Putting It All Together
Cut a slice of cake, pour a bit of the refrigerated syrup over it in a little pool.
Add a few blackberries and a dab of unsweetened whipped cream on top. Perhaps drizzle a bit more syrup and stud the whipped cream with a final blackberry.
We served it up and everyone enjoyed it.
This cake is a traditional recipe. There are a million varieties of this recipe out there. I also make one that contains lemon zest and rosemary in the batter. All I can say is that this cake has never failed me when I want a dessert that's beautifully easy, not too sweet, and a total crowd pleaser.
This sounds wonderful and so does your place in Sonoma. My husband and I will be celebrating our anniversary soon and I was thinking of going to Sonoma or Napa sometime in September. Any great places you recommend staying?
Also, have you infused the cake with something other than Rosemary? If so, what?