Two things that can make a cake remarkable are olive oil and polenta. Olive oil is used to made cakes moist and deepen the flavor profile. Like olive oil, polenta can also be added for texture as well as flavor. Although polenta and cornmeal are both golden in color and used interchangeably, there is a distinction that needs to be made.
Polenta is really the name of a a dish, and cornmeal is an ingredient — often the main ingredient in that dish. Hailing from northern Italy, polenta was originally a meal of any grain, coarsely ground and slow-cooked in liquid until creamy. Chestnut flour, buckwheat meal, chickpea flour, and coarse-ground rice are just a few of the many grains that were traditionally used for polenta in Italy. But cornmeal polenta is the most common preparation today.
Cornmeal itself is made by grinding dried yellow, white, or blue corn kernels into fine, medium, and course textures. Most cornmeal is a medium grind, unless the packaging states otherwise.
But based on the above information, the title of this recipe, Polenta Plum Cake, seems misnamed, but trust me , it’s not. Bob’s Red Mill has a product called “Corn Grits, also known as Polenta. That is what I use to make this cake, hence the name. The texture added to this cake is perfectly balanced with the sweet-tart flavor of fresh summer plums.
Personally speaking, plums are my favorite stone-fruit, and I can’t get enough of them when they’re in-season. Which is why I make, eat and repeat this simple polenta plum cake to make the most of succulent in-season plums.
Plum-wise, I suggest you eat Santa Rosa or Burbank plums fresh; cook the yellow-skinned Shiro varieties into preserves; and use the deep purple Italian plums for baking and cooking. Smaller plums, such as Greengage, Mirabelle and Damson are also great for desserts, infusing into liqueurs and making into jams and jellies.
And although I think this cake would work almost as well with fresh blueberries, I prefer using stone fruit which become jam-like once baked. This lovely summer cake can be served as dessert with or without whipped cream or as a breakfast or brunch cake with coffee.
Polenta Plum Cake
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup, plus 2 teaspoons, Bob's Red Mill polenta/corn grits, divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- pinch of Kosher salt
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup buttermilk (or milk)
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 6 plums, pitted, roughly chopped
- 1 tablespoon Demerara sugar
- Step 1 Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9 inch springform pan.
- Step 2 In a small bowl mix together flour, polenta, baking powder, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- Step 3 In the bowl of a kitchen mixer add the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the vanilla and mix to blend. Next, add the flour mixture and buttermilk alternating. Mix until combined. Spread half the batter into the prepared pan, even out with a spatula. Sprinkle half of the chopped plum over the batter. Spread the remaining batter on top followed by the rest of the plums. Tap the pan on the counter to flatten.
- Step 4 Sprinkle the cake with the Demerara sugar mixed with the 2 teaspoons of remaining polenta. Place the cake on the middle rack and bake for about 50 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool slightly before serving.