Nuts in May.
I have a tendency sometimes to buy things and then feel unable to use them because they are ‘too good’. A case in point would be my Wilton Mini Hearts Bundt tin. Or rather my three Wilton Mini Hearts Bundt tins. I think that particular tin has been discontinued now, so mine are all second-hand. Quite difficult to find but not impossible. When I bought my first one, I was happy as Larry – until it arrived. Now I don’t want to seem like I complain over nowt, but it was in mint condition. I couldn’t possibly use it. It was ‘too good’. The same thing happened when I bought Wilton Mini Hearts tin number two. It was only when I bought my third that I felt comfortable using it. The third tin was in great condition but just used enough that I didn’t think I would be spoiling something special. To this day, I’ve still not used the first two. I have a similar problem with pistachio nuts. Pistachio nuts can be expensive. An unnecessary extravagance. I wouldn’t normally buy them, but I recently had a lucky find at the supermarket when I managed to spot a bag of pistachio nuts in the reduced section. I had to rub my eyes to check that I wasn’t seeing things. And even as I bought them, I was thinking to myself that a pistachio cake would be either:
a.) Something I’d have to plan for a special occasion, like a birthday. Or…
b.) Something I’m never going to get around to making because pistachio nuts are ‘too good’.
Needless to say, those pistachios have been sat there in my cupboard ever since. I knew I would have to use them at some point, but I couldn’t possibly use them in an everyday cake, they’re ‘too good’. And yes, I do realise that sounds nuts.
It’s a keeper.
I bought a book recently by Lauren Chattman called Cake Keeper Cakes. It is essentially a book full of the American equivalents to what we would call cut-and-come-again cakes. Every time I buy a new book the first thing I do is to go through and leave little paper bookmarks as reminders on all the pages where a recipe has caught my interest. If I need to find a recipe in a hurry, I know these pages are a good place to look. I started to do this with Cake Keeper Cakes too but after the first two chapters I had to stop. It soon became clear that there was no point marking out individual pages. Every time I turned the page, I wanted to make the recipe. It’s unusual for a book to have so many recipes that catch my interest. And the best thing is that most of these recipes are for easy to make, everyday cakes. The only minor grumble, if you will, is that the recipes are all written using American cup measurements. I’m not too bothered by American measures, I’ve gotten used to them. I know that in this country we mostly prefer to use proper weights, but if you can get past the inconvenience of doing your own conversions this book really is worth the effort.
The recipe I’m sharing today is not the first cake I’ve made from Cake Keeper Cakes. I made an Applesauce Streusel Bundt a couple of week’s ago. I would no doubt have shared that recipe too but I never got the chance. The Applesauce Streusel cake was absolutely golden. Sadly, it was hungrily demolished before I thought to take any photos. Ah well. C’est la vie and all that. At the moment, whenever I do any baking I’m trying to use up any bits and bobs I might have left over from earlier bakes. So alongside the pistachios I had some polenta that was in need of being used. That made the Pistachio-Polenta Pound Cake an obvious choice. The method is slightly unusual in that you have to mix the polenta and yoghurt together in advance. When I made it I thought I’d gone wrong. The mixture went worryingly stiff. It didn’t affect the finished cake none, so all’s well that ends well. Because of the stiffened yoghurt, the usual rule of gently folding in ingredients doesn’t work in this case. For the sake of ease, you will need to beat in ALL the ingredients until smooth using your mixer, or you’ll finish up with muscles like a Russian gymnast. I’ve tinkered around with the recipe slightly, but this is essentially the same lovely, moist Bundt cake as the one in the book. It’s still a bit ‘too good’ though. And you’d have to be rich as Croesus to be eating this cake every day. If I made it again I would probably use almonds, not just to save on costs but to boost the flavour too.
A tin to bake it in.
Here in Yorkshire, we have seen the golden sunshine over this past couple of days. I don’t know if it was the heat, or if I had just gone a bit blooming nuts. The original Lauren Chattman recipe had said to use a 12 cup Bundt tin but I fancied it would look much, much better in my Nordic Ware Sunflower. The Sunflower is only 10 cups, so it was a bit of a gamble. When I put the cake in the oven I thought it best to put a baking tray underneath just in case there was any overflow. I needn’t have fretted though. The gamble paid off. The cake rose evenly to just shy of the rim. And after the resting time it just slipped out of the tin, no worries. As ever, you could use any 10 cup Bundt tin for this cake. That’s two and a half litres in English money. If you do happen to have the Nordic Ware Sunflower tin, you would be nuts not to use it. I don’t want to sound corny, but this cake looked a-maize-in. Now here’s that recipe… Enjoy.
Pistachio & Polenta Sunflower.
* Just to serve as a reminder. Usually I would say to fold in the flour and yoghurt mixtures by hand. In this case it is necessary to use the mixer, as the yoghurt goes fairly stiff when mixed with the polenta. It would be quite difficult to incorporate this fully into the cake mix by hand.
- 330g Greek Yoghurt.
- 160g Fine Polenta.
- 100g Granulated Sugar.
- 90g Pistachio Nuts.
- 40g Pistachio Nuts.
- 240g Plain Flour.
- 2 tsp Baking Powder.
- 1 tsp Bicarb.
- ½ tsp Salt.
- 200g Granulated Sugar.
- 160g Margarine.
- 3 Large Eggs.
- 2 ½ tsp Vanilla Extract.
- ½ tsp Almond Extract.
- Up to 50g Icing Sugar (optional).
- Mix together the Greek yoghurt and polenta. Set aside for 45 minutes.
- Position a shelf in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4. Grease and flour a 10 cup Bundt tin. (I used the Nordic Ware Sunflower).
- Place the 100g granulated sugar and 90g pistachio nuts in a food processor. Blitz until the pistachio nuts are finely ground.
- Add the 40g pistachio nuts and process just until the second lot of nuts have been chopped a little but are still quite chunky. Set aside.
- Sift together the plain flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the 200g granulated sugar and the margarine until light and fluffy.
- Add the pistachio nut mixture and cream together again until the mixture is light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
- Add the vanilla and almond extracts and beat to combine.
- Still using the paddle attachment, beat in the flour and yoghurt mixtures alternately on a low speed until properly combined. (Flour, yoghurt, flour, yoghurt and ending with flour).
- Spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface.
- Bake for 50 minutes or until the cake feels firm when lightly pressed with a finger and is beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin slightly. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
- Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Dust with icing sugar just before serving, if desired.