This month’s Random Recipes challenge has been combined with Tea Time Treats, a blog challenge hosted by Kate at What Cake Baked and Karen at Lavender and Lovage, and the theme is (you guessed it!) “tea time random recipes” – a recipe either from a book or the section of a book that covers tea time treats. I decided to use randomly pick a recipe from my A Treasury of New Zealand Baking book, which is full of baking recipes (shocking, I know) that are definitely tea time appropriate. The random number generator on my calculator directed me to page 216, a recipe for blueberry polenta upside-down cake, which also calls for white wine and olive oil in the ingredients list. Polenta, white wine, olive oil and blueberries? In a cake? Intriguing. And an excellent excuse to clear out some of the frozen blueberry reserves currently taking up space in my freezer.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too convinced and wasn’t sure what to expect. As curious as I was, if it hadn’t been for Random Recipes, I might not have tried it at all and gone for a “safer” cake option. By “safer” I mean a recipe that I was fairly sure what the results would be. You see, I’ve never cooked with polenta before (never mind baked), so I really wasn’t too sure. But rules are rules. So off I went on a mission to find some instant polenta. I wasn’t expecting it to be particularly difficult since after all the recipe book was written in NZ by Kiwi chefs, so all the ingredients must be available here… But it turned out that my mission required a trip to the big slightly-out-of-the-way supermarket, which (thankfully) did have instant polenta squirrelled away in the international food section.
So, with all the ingredients assembled, time to try out the actual recipe… I really wasn’t too sure about the whole cake until I was able to try some. But thankfully my doubts were misplaced. The top of the cake has a little crunch from the sugar that started off underneath the blueberries (it’s an upside-down cake remember), the blueberries come out slightly mushy and all juicy since they’ve been cooked, and as for the actual cake part, I’d describe it as slightly denser than a sponge cake in texture, which I guess probably comes from the polenta, but not particularly heavy. The citrus zest, white wine and the olive oil add a distinct fruity flavour which goes wonderfully with the blueberries, although one might not necessarily be able to fully pin down the flavour combination if you didn’t know that wine is one of the ingredients. I probably wouldn’t have been able to guess. So if you’re looking for something a little different (and there aren’t any kids involved) I’d definitely suggest giving this a whirl.
Blueberry polenta upside-down cake
Makes 16 slices
Adapted from A Treasury of New Zealand Baking
Since blueberries are out of season at the moment I used frozen ones, which worked wonderfully, but fresh will also work (just be sure to pat them dry after rinsing). If using frozen blueberries, there’s no need to thaw them first. I used a very fruity NZ Sauvignon Blanc. The cake will keep for up to three days if stored in the fridge, but make sure to bring to room temperature before serving.
75g light brown sugar
300g blueberries (fresh or frozen)
185g all-purpose flour
1½ tsp baking powder
85g instant polenta
200g caster sugar
2 large eggs
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
165 ml fruity dry white wine
165 ml olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1. Line a 28 x 18 cm rectangular baking tin with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C.
2. Sprinkle the light brown sugar evenly across the lined baking tin. Evenly cover with the blueberries.
3. Sift the flour and baking powder together into a medium bowl. Add the polenta, stir together and set aside.
4. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the caster sugar, eggs, lemon and orange zests using an electric whisk until pale and very thick. Gently whisk in the wine, oil and vanilla. Fold in the flour and polenta mixture and then gently pour over the blueberries in the prepared cake tin (trying to avoid dislodging the blueberries). Carefully smooth the top if necessary.
5. Bake in the oven for 60-70 mins until golden and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin for 5 mins before inverting onto a serving plate. Carefully peel off the baking paper, taking care to leave the blueberry topping undisturbed. Allow to cool fully before slicing into 16 pieces and serving.