My first sweet taste of this cake took place at Dough Pizzeria Napoletana, a new and exquisitely good restaruant just inside loop 410. They make a salad called the Burrata Caprese (boo-RAH-tah cap-REE-see) that makes my mouth dance every time I think about it. For those you of you who have not had the pleasure, let me describe the Burrata Caprese. It is in fact a salad made almost entirely of cheese, with a garnishing of tomato and basil. The cheese looks, at first glance, like a large ravioli of fresh mozzarella with the edges crimped together like a pie or pastry crust. But once you cut into it, the center reveals itself as a tangy core of cream and soft mozzarella, all blended with herbs. It oozes onto the plate and mixes with small yellow and red tomatos and olive oil. The result is adicting, and oh so good. In short: It's the molten chocolate cake of cheese. Once you have it, you need to have it again.
The salad is to-die-for, but this post is not about Burrata Caprese, now is it? This post is about polenta cake, which is yet another wonderful menu option at Dough. I am going to admit that polenta cake is not the sexiest item on the dessert menu, which is why it took me several visits before we order the polenta cake. When it comes to desert I sometimes succumb to the glitzy flash and glamor of the more "elaborate" desserts, which is why our first visit to Dough ended in tiramisu. But our second visit ended in polenta cake, and I will never go back.
Polenta cake is a wonderful cake, for me largely because it seems more exotic than your standard cake yet is so simple to bake. Because it is made with both cornmeal and flour, it has a more substantial texture than your average cake, while still remaining "fluffy." The color is beautiful, and the cake remains simple and elegant with powered sugar rather than frosting. My favorite part is the subtle yet rich almond flavor, derived from the almond past blended with the butter. The sour cream and abundant egg yolks keep the cake moist. It saves very well in a tupperwear for late night eating or breakfast. It is the perfect dessert to pair with a strongly flavored partner, perhaps more classically with a cappuccino, or in our case with a scoop of rosemary honey ice cream. Buon appetito!
ALMOND POLENTA CAKE
1/2 cup fine yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup almond paste, cut into half-inch pieces
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar, plus more for dusting
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 egg yolks
1/4 cup sour cream
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease an 8-inch round cake pan with vegetable spray. An alternative is to butter and flour the cake pan.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, cake flour and baking powder and set aside.
Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and almond paste on high speed until smooth, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed to low and slowly add confectioners' sugar. Mix until thoroughly combined and light and fluffy. Raise speed to high and add the vanilla extract, whole eggs and egg yolks, 1 at a time. Mix until well combined. Reduce speed to medium and add the sour cream and dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated.
Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool. Remove from pan and dust with confectioners' sugar.