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Polenta Tea Cake with Citrus-Sugared Strawberries

This moist yet sturdy little cake, accompanied by juicy ripe strawberries macerated in sugar and citrus zest, is just right for dessert, breakfast or tea. Hearty whole-grain polenta gives the tea cake an appealing bright golden color as well as a pleasantly rustic texture.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar 
  • 2 tsp. grated lemon zest 
  • 1 tsp. grated orange zest 
  • 12 Tbs. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 tsp. almond extract 
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 cup stone-ground polenta 
  • 1 tsp. baking powder 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt 
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk 
  • 2 pints ripe strawberries 
  • Confectioners’ sugar for garnish (optional) 

Directions:

In a food processor, combine 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar, 1 tsp. of the lemon zest and the orange zest and pulse until blended. Transfer the citrus sugar to a bowl and set aside.

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 6-cup tube pan.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, beat together the butter and the remaining 1 cup granulated sugar on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the almond extract and the remaining 1 tsp. lemon zest.

In a small bowl, stir together the flour, polenta, baking powder and salt. Stir half of the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Stir in the buttermilk, followed by the remaining flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 40 to 50 minutes.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack. Remove the pan and let the cake cool completely.

An hour before serving, hull and slice the strawberries and stir into the citrus sugar. When ready to serve, dust the cake with confectioners’ sugar, slice it and spoon the strawberries alongside or on top of the slices. Serves 8.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Eat Well, by Charity Ferreira (Oxmoor House, 2008).