Swirly whirly snowflakes are falling outside, 15cm so far and the sky is still heavy with no signs of it stopping…, a hushed and ‘silent’ weekend, so I thought I’d try baking an upside down chocolate & wild cherry polenta cake, a self-indulgent early Valentine’s Day present to me, and of course my partner.
I remember reading UK chef Nigel Slater once discussing how a citrus polenta cake was fantastic for banishing winter blues; up in Abruzzo’s Gran Sasso Mountains it’s probably a little more Abruzzesi to reach for the jar of preserved wild cherries to rekindle the warmth of summer. They are superb to bring a blast of sweet June sunshine on a low-sun day, alongside their almond amici who should soon be in bud. For those that don’t know, Abruzzo is famous and deservedly so for its divine cherries; if you are over here in June you must check out the Raiano festival or pick a handful for your picnic, there’s really nothing quite like them.
I found this traditional chocolate & cherry polenta cake recipe online by a cook called Jules and have played with it a little, well the upside down bit. I wanted to see & taste those Abruzzo cherries not have them completely lost in the mixture. Polenta cake is one of my all-time favourite torte simply because it’s always so scrummily moist, and for those still abiding by your New Year’s resolution, as it’s a torta it’s fat free!Unless you count the chocolate of course…
I had the suspicion that the cake would work well if in a glass of vino cotto or a hot chocolate curled up to next to the fire, it did us perfectly and was a bit of light relief as just after it came out the oven our area lost its electricity for 36 hours due to the snow-storm.
195g semi-sweet chocolate
5 eggs, separated
100g caster sugar
120 g ground almonds
Grated zest from 1 orange
1 small jar maraschino cherries drained and halved (keep the syrup)
Icing sugar for dusting
Place polenta in a bowl and pour over just enough boiling water to cover it.
Line the base of a 8-1/2 inch round springform pan with a greased parchment paper. Preheat the oven to190 C.
Break the chocolate into squares and melt it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water (water bath).
Whisk the egg yolks with sugar in another bowl, until thick and pale. Beat in the melted chocolate, then fold in polenta, ground almonds, flour and orange rind.
In a clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Stir 1 tbsp. of the stiff egg whites into the chocolate mixture, then fold in the rest.
Add the cherries evenly on top of your greaseproof paper in the tin.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and bake at 190C for 45-55 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.
Depending on where your cherries are from and the type of syrup that they are in, when the cake is cool, using a skewer make small holes and pour in the remainder of the syrup.
Remove greaseproof paper dust with icing sugar.