It isn’t often that I get to show off my Italian heritage in a dessert. Dinner…frequently…but dessert…that would be well, just about never. Never made tiramisu. Never made panettone. Never made cannoli, biscotti, or anything with Giada’s seemingly favorite dessert ingredient, Amaretti cookies. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I’m 50% Italian!

Until now. Caitlin, the Engineer Baker, chose this week’s TWD recipe: Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake. Now, I must admit that I was highly skeptical of this recipe. Polenta in a dessert? Combined with ricotta? Come on now. However, since I had skipped the previous two weeks of TWD, I had to make this recipe for fear of getting the boot from the group. And boy am I glad I did. While Dorie says that she modified this honey cake, as she calls it, from one she found in a French food magazine, I’d have to lean more towards the notion that there really is Italian food published in French media, no different that what you’d find here in the U.S.

This cake was just awesome. It was a perfect combination of sweet with savory and I almost cried after taking my last bite. Thankfully, I halved the recipe and made the cake in 6 mini-tart pans (and baked them at 300 degrees F for 35 minutes) so I actually had portioned leftovers. Whew.

A fair amount of sugar and honey went into this recipe and I know that quite a few TWDers ended up cutting down the amount of these vital ingredients but I went balls to the wall (as my dear husband would put it) and kept the original amounts which ended up being the right decision for my taste (and only mine since Kyle is on South Beach and couldn’t actually eat and of my delicious little cakes…too bad for him. lol) . I really feel like the combination of the honey and the lemon zest was a great complement to the savory polenta and ricotta and I didn’t think the sweetness overpowered the cake at all. Overall the recipe itself was a cinch to put together and the thought of making little tarts without preparing and rolling out any dough seemed genius to me. I omitted the butter dots on top of the batter because, well, I forgot about them. I couldn’t find any figs (even at Whole Foods – dried or fresh) so I bought dried dates instead. After seeping them in boiling water, I chickened out and reached for the Craisins. I’ve never even eaten a date so I don’t know what I was thinking by putting them in a new recipe. However, after putting the tartletts in the oven, I tasted one of the dates and realized that I will definitely use them the next time I make this recipe.

So thanks again to Caitlin for choosing this great recipe!! It was a little on the edgy side but well-worth the results. Be sure to check out TWD to see how the now over 160 members of the group did this week – and who was brave enough to try this recipe. :)

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Last week’s TWD: Bill’s Big Carrot Cake as chosen by Amanda of slow like honey

Next week’s TWD: Peanut Butter Torte as chosen by Elizabeth from Ugg Smell Food

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Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

source: Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home to Yours

  • About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed
  • 1 c. medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
  • ½ c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 c. ricotta
  • 1/3 c. tepid water
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • ¾ c. honey (if you’re a real honey lover, use a full-flavored honey such as chestnut, pine, or buckwheat)
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 large eggs

Getting Ready:

  1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.
  2. Check that the figs are, indeed, moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half.
  3. Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt together.
  4. Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey, and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You’ll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.
  5. Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled bits of butter.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the panm, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.