Cornmeal and olive oil for dessert? I first tasted this moist cake many years back when I was travelling from Paris to Italy over my Easter break. I soon discovered this combination in many desserts and also learn that olive oil reins supreme over butter many baked goods. If you don’t feel inclined to candy lemon slices you can just sprinkle the cake with a light dusting of powdered sugar. You can always may the lemon slices a few days in advance and store them at room temperature in an air tight container.
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp grated lemon zest
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- powdered sugar, to dust
- 1 large lemon
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
To make the Candied Lemons
1. Cut lemon into 8 thin slices. Discard the seeds.
2. Bring sugar and water to a boil in a medium skillet, stirring to dissolve sugar. When liquid is clear and bubbling, reduce heat to medium-low. Add lemon slices, arranging them in a single layer, and simmer (do not let boil) until rinds are translucent, about 20 to 30 minutes.
3. Transfer lemons to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Let cool completely.
To make the cake
1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a 9-inch spring form pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.
3. Beat eggs with sugar at medium speed until thick and frothy, about 3 minutes.
4. Add olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and vanilla.
5. Gently fold in dry ingredients until just blended.
6. Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed.
7. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove sides and let cake cool completely.
8. Dust cake top with powdered sugar and arrange candied lemons over top.
Cornmeal is ground fine, medium and coarse. You will want to make sure to use fine cornmeal otherwise the cake will be too heavy and grainy. Don’t confuse fine with extra fine cornmeal- it’s called corn flour in the US.
Use organic lemons when possible and make sure to give them a good scrub under warm water before using.
photo taken in Tuscany by Pauline Boldt