I LOVE this cake and the flavour of the apples infused with wonderful heady spices of cinnamon, cardamom and star anise and stained with the golden colours of saffron. The polenta and almond meal base is moist and delicate, making it a wonderful cake for all seasons. You can also substitute the apples for pears, peaches, plums or whatever is in season at the time, and feel free to substitute the flour for gluten-free flour.
Spiced apple, saffron and polenta cake
INGREDIENTS: 1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
2 cardamom pods
Good pinch saffron
1 cup sugar
Zest and juice of ½ large lemon
¼ tsp orange blossom water (optional)
8 red delicious apples
½ tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp vanilla essence
50ml orange juice
60ml lemon juice
125ml olive oil
1 cup plain flour
100g fine polenta
1 cup almond meal
1½ tsp baking powder
METHOD: Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Place all the spices in a large pot with the sugar, water, orange blossom water and lemon juice and zest.
Bring to a boil over a moderate temperature.
Peel, core and slice the apples and add these to the pot.
Bring the liquid back to the boil, reduce the syrup to a simmer with the apples and cook for 3 minutes.
Turn off the heat and allow the apples to sit in the syrup until cool.
Meanwhile beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy, add the orange, lemon juice and olive oil and beat until combined.
Mix the flour with the polenta, almond meal and the baking powder.
Gradually add this to the eggs and sugar, combining with a spoon until it forms a smooth batter.
Line a 24cm spring form tin with baking paper and scatter ¾ of the apples into the base of the tin.
Pour over the batter and spread evenly to cover the apples.
Bake the cake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the cake.
As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pierce the top with a skewer a couple of times and spoon over some of the syrup.
Let the cake cool completely before removing from the tin, remove the remainder of the apples from the syrup and bring the syrup back to the boil until slightly reduced.
Pour this over the remaining apples and then serve these as garnish with the cake.
You can add a dollop of fresh cream or thick natural yogurt, although the cake itself with the apples is delicious on its own.
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