Tuesdays with Dorie-Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake

I can see myself sitting in a cafe in France or Italy, sipping an espresso or a strong cup of tea and having a small piece of this honey and fig cake as a mid-afternoon dessert. The dried Mission figs coated with crushed fresh thyme leaves was a pleasant surprise flavor and balanced the sweetness of the dessert, whereas the polenta gives the cake some texture. A whipped topping blend of sour cream and heavy cream counterbalances some of the sweetness of the honey and sugar.It’s nice to have some freedom with a recipe, but because this is my first post as a member of Tuesdays with Dorie, I decided not to fool with the recipe too much. As a member of Tuesdays with Dorie, I am required to have the book, Baking From My Home to Yours and to be able to post the chosen recipe at least twice a month and on a Tuesday. Caitlin of Engineer Baker chose Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake for this week’s challenge.I had no luck finding a 10 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom, so bought an 11-inch quiche pan thinking the 1/2-inch difference wouldn’t really matter. The cake went together very well and looked beautiful while it was baking. I loved the idea of the lemon zest, honey, polenta and dried figs;it had such a rustic sound to it. Instead of using 16 large dried Mission figs, I used twice the amount of dried figlets. The figlets were very moist and supple, so didn’t need the plumping up that Dorie suggested may be needed for figs that are somewhat hard. For those of you who haven’t bought Dorie’s book, Baking From My Home to Yours, here is the recipe.Fluted Polenta and Ricotta CakeAbout 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed or 32 figlets which wouldn’d need cutting in half.1 cup medium-grain polenta or cornmeal1/2 cup all-purpose flour1 teaspoon baking powder1/4 teaspoon salt1 cup ricotta1/3 cup tepid water3/4 cup sugar3/4 cup honey, a full-flavor honey such as chestnut, pine or buckwheat for real honey lovers. 1 stick(8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon, cut into bits and chilled2 large eggsCenter a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325° F. Butter a 10 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.Check that the figs are indeed moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half. I followed Dorie’s suggestion of tossing the figs with a pinch of crushed fresh thyme leaves to add a Mediterranean touch to the cake.Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder and salt together.Working with a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment or a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You will have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled butter bits.Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the pan, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.Serves 8. Cake can be wrapped in plastic and will keep for five days at room temperature or can be frozen up to 2 months.

17 Comments

  1. Jayne
    April 29, 2008 / 1:28 pm

    Beautiful photos! I had a moment of panic, though, when I read your mention of the /dried Mission figs coated with crushed thyme leaves/ – I thought I’d missed an ingredient! Great job!

  2. Rebecca
    April 29, 2008 / 2:22 pm

    Welcome to TWD! Combining the figs with thyme sounds interesting. I definitely wish I’d topped mine with something savory. This is one sweet cake.

  3. Marie
    April 29, 2008 / 2:25 pm

    Your tart looks fabulous! Well done! Your figs are so small and cute too! Mine were easily 4 times the size of those! Your cheesecake pops are fab looking too! Well done!

  4. Anonymous
    April 29, 2008 / 4:22 pm

    Your figletts sound so cute! Maybe I should try to find some and make it with figletts.

  5. Anonymous
    April 29, 2008 / 5:45 pm

    Your cake is absolutely beautiful. I love your presentation!

  6. Dolores
    April 29, 2008 / 6:50 pm

    Welcome to TWD. I love the figletts, and your addition of thyme. Great job!

  7. CB
    April 29, 2008 / 7:13 pm

    Bummer I missed “playing around w/ thyme”. I might have to try it if I make this again. Welcome to TWD. Great job!Clara @ I♥food4thought

  8. Cheryl
    April 29, 2008 / 10:54 pm

    “figlets”. : ) What a cute little word! Welcome to TWD! It’s the best! And you’re already off to a great start.

  9. Julius
    April 30, 2008 / 1:30 am

    Gorgeous presentation. I love what you’ve done. :)Juliusfrom Occasional Baker

  10. StickyGooeyCreamyChewy
    April 30, 2008 / 2:03 am

    Your presentation is lovely! I really like the topping. That was a great idea. Well done!

  11. Shari
    April 30, 2008 / 3:02 am

    I love the thyme on top of your cake! Welcome to the group!

  12. Lynnylu
    April 30, 2008 / 11:00 am

    jayne-thanks, the thyme worked well as a garnish, also.rebecca-thanks, I’m happy to be part of the group. I agree, the cake is sweet-would probably serve 16 instead of 8.marie-thanks, the little figs were easier to work with. Thanks for reading my blog.lovesweetlove-the figlets were the only choice in the grocery store the day I bought the ingredients.chelley325-thanks.delores-thanks-I’m happy to be a member. It’s quite a project to work through a baking book like Dorie’s.clara-the rosemary would have been nice, too.cheryl-thanks for the welcome.julius-thanks-glad you like my presentation.stickygooeycreamychewy-love your name!shari-thanks-I’m happy to be baking with TWD.

  13. Gretchen Noelle
    April 30, 2008 / 1:00 pm

    Lovely, lovely job! Wonderful that you used the thyme and liked it. I think I would like to try a savory-ish version as well. Great job!

  14. Cecilia
    April 30, 2008 / 7:05 pm

    Welcome to the group! Your cake turned out lovely. Great job!

  15. Mevrouw Cupcake
    April 30, 2008 / 9:47 pm

    Welcome aboard, you’ve done fabulous job on your first TWD post!

  16. Piggy
    May 2, 2008 / 12:56 pm

    welcome to the group! your cake looks delicious!

  17. Lynnylu
    May 7, 2008 / 11:06 am

    gretchen noelle-thanks, I think the rosemary might be a better choice after the fact. I couldn’t perceive the flavor of the thyme.cecelia-thanks, I’m happy to be a member.mevrouw-thanks, I’m excited about baking with TWD.piggy-thanks, it’s going to be fun. At any rate, my husband will be happy with a dessert a week

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