Chocolate Polenta Pudding Cake
(From Emma Zimmerman's 'The Miller's Daughter')
The first cookbook I ever owned was Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes. My siblings and I cooked every recipe in that book, each more brilliant and imaginative than the last, but the one we made over and over again was Bruce Bogtrotter’s Chocolate Cake from the pages of Matilda. A nearly flourless cake with egg whites, it was most definitely a technical challenge, and my siblings and I destroyed the kitchen in the process, using every available bowl and utensil. In spite of the chaos, we were learning the basics of baking: separating eggs, whipping the whites into a flurry and gently folding them into a batter. It also planted the seeds of learning how to be a good host, the glittering feeling it gave us to delight our birthday party guests with a decadent cake. Just as importantly, if less glitteringly, we also learned how to clean up afterwards. This cake would be sure to tempt Bruce Bogtrotter. It’s somehow airy and light and rich and pudding like all at once, with a little extra texture courtesy of the softened polenta.
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
75 g (23/4 oz/1/2 cup) polenta
225 g (8 oz/1 cup) unsalted butter
225 g (8 oz) dark chocolate, roughly chopped
20 g (3/4 oz/1/4 cup) cocoa powder
250 g (9 oz/11/4 cups) granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
powdered (icing) sugar, for dusting
Preheat the oven to 175C (350F). Lightly oil and line the base of a 23 cm (9 in) springform cake pan. Set aside.
Pour 480 ml (16 fl oz/2 cups) water into a medium saucepan, add the salt and bring to a boil over a medium–high heat. Add the polenta and cook, stirring frequently to prevent it from sticking to the base of the pan. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes until most of the water has been absorbed.
Remove from the heat and add the butter and chocolate. Allow to sit for about 5 minutes, then stir until melted and well combined. Mix in the cocoa powder and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs and sugar until tripled in volume. Gently fold half the mixture into the chocolate polenta, then fold in the rest until no traces of egg are visible, taking care not to overmix. Add the vanilla and give the mixture a quick stir to incorporate.
Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and smooth the surface. Bake for 30–40 minutes, or until the top is dry and somewhat souffléd, with a bit of a jiggle in the center. Remove from the oven and run a thin paring knife around the inside of the pan, then allow to cool completely at room temperature. The cake will sink slightly in the center as it cools. Place the cake in the fridge overnight before releasing the side and removing it from the pan.
Use a sharp thin-bladed knife to cut the cake into slices, wiping the blade between cuts for a clean finish. Finish with a light dusting of powdered sugar and serve. The cake will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Excerpted with permission from The Miller’s Daughter by Emma Zimmerman, photos by David Alvarado, published by Hardie Grant Books, May 2022.
Beautiful words Andrew. The patience that comes with baking... I am only just (slowly) learning of it’s delight.
Is this gluten free? Thanks