As a general rule, I love food that’s full of bright, healthy flavours that make a plate sunny even when it’s grey outdoors. But we can’t be angelic the whole time, can we? Sometimes it’s good to be bad…
That’s why I’m excited to announce the arrival of Dark Side of the Spoon, a new recurring monthly feature on the blog, where I’ll post a devilishly indulgent recipe based on dark chocolate…
This month it’s chocolate chai spiced polenta cake.
With a crisp light shell and a dark, gooey centre, this moreish cake is one of my favourite chocolate cakes of all time. But it wasn’t a recipe that sprung up fully formed. In fact, it sort of came about by chance.
First there was the choice of flour. Until now, I’ve usually relied on ground almonds as my go-to gluten free cake flour. I love how rich and grown up tasting an almond-based cake is. But those almonds don’t come cheap. So when I discovered that a giant bag of polenta is just a fraction of the price of ground almonds, it didn’t take me long to work out that using polenta instead of almonds meant I could make MORE CAKE! And who can argue with more cake? Especially when that cake is just as tasty…
And then there was the chocolate. After returning home from the market with my giant bag of polenta, the first thing I did was show it off proudly to K. At first he was confused as to why I was showing him a huge bag of cornmeal, but eventually he cottoned on to the fact that this meant cake and began nodding enthusiastically. But when I asked him what sort of cake he thought I should make with it, he threw me a bit of a curveball. He said chocolate cake.
This was not the answer I was expecting. I’ve heard of lemon polenta cake, orange polenta cake, even raspberry and lime polenta cake. But I have never, ever, in all my many cake eating years, come across chocolate polenta cake. I figured that it must break some ancient rules laid down by Italian nonnas, but I didn’t want to disappoint K, so I said I’d try…
And then in between finding a recipe I could adapt for my chocolate polenta cake and actually baking it, I decided that I really should throw some aromatic spices into the mix. Why? Well, for years I’ve been having longing flashbacks to when I could eat these chai spice cupcakes, which are gorgeous, but sadly off limits now that I’m gluten free. But I realised that I could borrow the amazing spice mix from that recipe, add it to my polenta cake, and basically win at everything!
And lo, the chocolate chai spiced polenta cake was born. Bake it as little as you dare…I love it practically molten in the middle (it will make your house smell like Christmas while it cooks). And if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to wash it down with a nice cup of tea. Perfectly indulgent, and very much on the dark side of the spoon…
- 225g dark chocolate
- 115g butter
- 5 large eggs, separated
- 160g fine polenta
- 140g caster sugar
- Icing sugar, for dusting
- 2 tsp fennel, whole
- 2 tsp cloves, whole
- 2 tbsp cardamom pods, outer husks crushed and inner seeds extracted
- 2 tsp cinnamon, ground
- 2 tsp ginger, ground
- Preheat the oven to 180C, and grease and line a 23cm dia. springform cake tin.
- Prepare your chai spices by grinding the fennel, cloves and cardamom seeds in a spice grinder, or mortar and pestle. Once finely ground, stir in the other pre-ground spices and set to one side.
- Place the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl, and set the bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Allow to melt, stirring occasionally, then remove the bowl from the pan.
- In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks with half of the sugar (70g) until the mixture is pale and creamy. Then gently fold in the melted butter and chocolate mixture, followed by the polenta and 5 teaspoons of your chai spice mixture.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites with the remaining sugar, until stiff peaks form.
- Fold the whisked egg whites into the chocolate mixture, taking care not to knock too much air out of them.
- Spoon the batter into the cake tin and bake for about 20-30 minutes, until the cake appears to be just set (but still gooey inside). Remove from the oven and cool in the pan (it will shrink slightly in the middle as it cools). Dust with icing sugar before serving.