'Sit down and feed, and welcome to our table!' (As you like it, Act II Scene vii)
Today is St George's Day and also the 450th anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare. I need very little excuse for cake baking but this surely has to qualify.
While I was reading through Anna Del Conte's Classic Food of Northern Italy as part of my cookery book challenge, I came across a recipe for polenta and elderflower cake. Anna explained that the cake is eaten in Lombardy on St George's Day as he's also a popular saint in Italy - actually it turns out he's a popular saint in lots of countries.
Elderflowers seem so typical of an English summer that it seemed appropriate for celebrating Shakespeare's birthday too. Anna used real elderflowers but, as they're in short supply in England in April, I've adapted the recipe to use cordial. The other change I made was to use both coarse and fine polenta flour but that's just because I happened to have some in the cupboard: you could just use the coarse kind.
Another thing to note about this cake is that it doesn't have the dropping consistency you'd usually expect of a cake mixture. It's more of a dough and needs to be spread out in the tin. As a result, the cooked texture is quite dry and it's therefore mandatory to serve it in a big puddle of cream :)
Polenta and Elderflower Cake
100g coarse polenta flour
100g fine polenta flour
100g plain flour
1.5 tsps baking powder
pinch of salt
125g caster sugar
100g unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
icing sugar (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4
2. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Add the beaten egg, melted butter and milk and mix well.
3. Butter and/or line a 20cm/8" tart or cake tin.
4. Put the mixture in the tin. Spread out and level with your hands or the back of a spoon.
5. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a skewer comes out clean and the top is golden brown.
6. Leave in the tin and pierce the top a few times with the skewer.
7. Make up about 100ml strong diluted elderflower cordial with hot water. Brush over the top of the cake. I did this part when the cake was cool and you can see in the photo below that the cordial didn't soak in very far - next time I'll use more cordial and do it while the cake is warm.
8. Leave to cool completely.
9. Optional: To decorate, mix together some icing sugar and undiluted elderflower cordial to a drizzling consistency. I made mine a bit thicker and put it in a piping bag to give a neater finish. Alternatively you could just dust with icing sugar.
10. Serve with cream.
Decorate with a St George's flag. This red and white checked bow was the closest I had!
Happy birthday Shakespeare! And Happy St George's Day to one and all! x