Thursday, 20 January 2011

Share the Joy Thursday: Delayed Gratification

How could I not take part in something called Share the Joy?! Thank you camera fiend Meri for the opportunity.

I first had Lemon Polenta cake about fifteen years ago in one of my favourite places: Valvona & Crolla which is a wonderful Italian deli and cafe in Edinburgh. The cake was like sunshine dipped in syrup: lemony, crumbly and moist. It reminded me of the lemon meringue pie my mother used to make, in terms of flavour at least. I looked for a recipe but couldn't find one. It didn't matter so much at the time because we were earning then and I could, and did, go to Edinburgh often. And when I did I always went in to V&C for coffee and lemon polenta cake. Then we stopped earning, enough for frequent city trips and indulgent coffee breaks anyway, so I began to look again for a recipe. I bought several Italian cookbooks including one written by the owner of the deli itself, but no recipe.

I experimented and though I got something near, I didn't get it quite as I remembered. So, imagine my joy when in my Christmas gift cookbook (Nigella's Kitchen in case you've forgotten) there was a recipe for the very cake. I tried it a couple of days ago, and oh my, it's perfect:

The nose: so moist you'd almost call it damp.

The edge: sticky and, almost, friable. Each crumb is an individual in its own right.

Taste test.

It was well worth waiting fifteen years for this. But it gets better: when I was a child my favourite cake that my mother used to bake was Devil's Food Cake. It was dark and velvety and intense with chocolate. I loved it so much she made it for my birthday every year. And sometimes, just because she could, she'd make it for no reason at all. I'd get home from school, tired and grumpy, fumble about for my key, open the door and be instantly revived by a chocolate hit to the nostrils:
"You've made Devil's Food Cake!" I'd almost squeal, running into the kitchen.
"Yes, I have." She'd smile.
"Who's it for?"
"Me, but why?"
"You like it, don't you?"
"Yes! But it's not my birthday."
"I had a few hours to kill," she'd say, "you know I don't like sitting about?"
That's how I knew my mother loved me. She never said it, she didn't need to.

I've found lots of recipes for Devil's Food cake over the years but none have ever tasted quite like my mother'. Now I find Nigella has a recipe in this book, and with her track record I'm pretty sure it will be the recipe I've been waiting for. I'm going to wait a while before making it, though, wait and enjoy the possibility; the knowledge that it's there and I can make it any time I want. That feeling is almost as good as cake itself.


Meri said...

"Like sunshine dipped in syrup" is a wonderful image. . . so moist and succulent! I'm overJOYed that you finally found the perfect recipe for Lemon Polenta cake. . . and keep us all updated on whether the Devil's Food Cake is heavenly.

angryparsnip said...

Love the story filled with memories.

I have ordered Nigella's Kitchen and I am a fan of all things Lemon so I can not wait to try out this cake.

Love your new photo !

cheers, parsnip

Elisabeth said...

That lemon polenta cake sounds to me to be worth tracking down, Eryl, the way you write about it. loaded down with all those wonderful childhood memories.

rebecca said...

delayed gratification...i love this.
before you revealed that you had in fact finally found the recipe i was ready to place a sleuth friend in edinburgh on the hunt for it!

is it possible you will share it here??
i loved the part about your mother. my mother, when i was young...would stay up late late late sewing. when i woke up to prepare for school a new dress would be hanging on my bedroom door...ahhhh this is love without words.

thanks for your visit and delight in the rugs and women of the rancho. if you can send a money order or u.s. dollars, lovely!
send me an email if you would like my mailing address.

now i am off to enjoy more of your blog.

lovely to meet you!

savannah said...

i might have to make that chocolate cake this weekend, sugar! i have to thank you again for turning me on to nigella kitchen! xoxoxo

miss*R said...

oh lemon polenta cake.. *sigh* love it.. and only have discovered it the past year.. have never made one but you inspire me!

Mollie said...

The pictures are great. I love polenta... we called it mush. Polenta slices fried up with rosemary, garlic and green onion...that was a good breakfast.

Scarlet Blue said...

I hope the Devil's Food Cake is as good as expected... and when are you inviting me round for tea?

The Weaver of Grass said...

I agree about the lemon cake - Santa brought me the book for Christmas too.

Alesa Warcan said...

Huh, I've never thought of or heard about using polenta in a sweet dish!
You make it look and sound delicious!

I need to add that to my list of things to experiment with for when I get a working oven again!

Jo said...

I have the same memories of an apple stack cake that my grandmother made every year at Christmas time. Her recipe was all but lost until I was in my 50s and a friend mentioned a cake that her Grandmother made that she remembered as a child and that she had recently come upon the recipe amongst her mothers things. It was the same apple stack cake and recipe that my own grandmother had used.

I felt your JOY in your post!

Sausage Fingers said...

Damn that looks great, but your pics are even better. Nice one.

Golden West said...

Love this post, Eryl! Great photos! Here's that carrot cake recipe - hurray for cake!

You'll need:
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups butter (yes, 3 sticks!)
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powers
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat oven at 350 degrees, grease and flour 13"x9" pan (I use two round pans to make a layer cake)
Beat eggs and softened butter in medium bowl. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in another bowl. Add egg mixture, mix well. Stir in carrots and nuts. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake 30-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Cream Cheese Frosting - Single Batch (sometime I make a double batch, just to have enough to really slather on thick):

1 package (8oz) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar

Beat cream cheese, vanilla and butter together with mixer. Gradually add powdered sugar and beat at low speed until well blended.

Let me know how it comes out!

deb did it said...

my mouth is watering....I am JOYful to meet you here!

Brit Gal Sarah said...

Oh my mouth is watering just reading this and looking at those luscious pictures!

Kass said...

Wow, you made that look SOoooo good!

Kim Mailhot said...

Yummmmmmmeeeeee ! I adore lemon and I adore Nigella - she is such a gorgeous savoror of life !!! Thanks for sharing the mouth-watering joy!

Pat said...

I must have had it at some stage because I could actually taste the feel of it, reading you.
What a beautiful memory to have of your mother.
Don't get billowy like Nigella.

nick said...

Looks mouth-watering. How miraculous that you found the perfect recipe after that long interval.

Tess Kincaid said...

I'm lusting. I must make this.

Anonymous said...

It's always astounding to me how we connect memories with things, especially with food.

The Pollinatrix said...

Oh no - the lemon polenta cake again. Well, at least this time I am well-armed against your torturous photos with the lemon curd cake in my belly, which was very good, but still I think, probably not as good as that lemon polenta cake.

gemma said...

The cake does look like pure JOY!

tattytiara said...

Oh good god that looks delicious.

Eryl said...

Meri ~ you guys will be the first to be told.

Parsnip ~ hurrah! I'm beginning to think Ms L should pay me commission!

I've just got Claudia Rodin's book on Jewish food, so expect recipes for Blintzes soon!

Elizabeth ~ food was our family's glue, though it's only now I realise that.

Rebecca ~ that is such a lovely story! Will email you shortly. I think I have some US dollars kicking about here.

Savannah ~ do let me know if you make it, and take pictures, XXXXXXX

Miss R ~ thank you, lovely to feel inspiring. If you make it do let me know.

Mollie ~ that sounds like a bloody good breakfast, I think I will have to try it.

Scarlet ~ there is an open invitation, come any time, X

Weaver ~ it's great, isn't it?

Bed time for me now, I will reply to everyone else tomorrow. Meanwhile, thank you for all your kind and encouraging comments. X

Kim Ayres said...

Devil's food cake sounds like my kind of thing. Unfortunately it also sounds like the kind of thing I wouldn't be able to stop eating...

Anonymous said...

You look good.

julochka said...

mmm, sunshine dipped in syrup...i'll definitely be making me some of that tomorrow!

thank you for stopping by so that i discovered your blog!

i will be back.

Stocker said...

This cake and the sentiment behind it was heartwarming :')
You certainly shared the joy.

Eryl said...

Alesa ~ still not got a working oven? I wonder if it could be made in a steamer on the hob, or even just in a dry, non stick omlette pan? I'm sure my mother used to make a cake on the stove top, but can't remember the details.

Jo ~ apple stack cake sounds divine! It's such a joy to rediscover these simple but delicious things.

Sausage ~ thank you, I'm beginning to get the hang of my camera now I think.

Golden ~ thank you so much for this. Carrot cake is something I've been wanting to make for a long time. I'm glad I waited, it's so much nicer to be given a personal recipe than to look one up in a book. I'll let you know how I get on with it.

Deb ~ thanks for coming over.

Sarah ~ thank you for visiting.

Kass ~ it was sooo good, all I had to do was shoot.

Kim ~ sounds like you will have to make this!

Pat ~ getting billowy is a bit of a worry I have to confess. I wish the weather would warm up a bit then I could get out for regular runs.

Nick ~ patience is always rewarded, eventually, I've found. I'm like Siddhartha one of my talents is waiting!

Tess ~ I've just made your cornbread, it was wooled down!

Mago ~ most of my memories, best ones at least, are connected to food and triggered by it.

Polli ~ yes, do apologise, glad you have something to fight it with!

Gemma ~ thank you!

Tatty ~ you made me laugh. Good god it is!

Kim ~ best keep away from it then.

Jenny ~ oh, thank you! I won't if I keep this up though, I reckon.

Julochka ~ ooh, let me know how you get on, if you like it as much as I do.

Stocker ~ glad to share a bit of joy.

Alesa Warcan said...

Oh, I've been steaming all kinds of since since I became oven-less (like the bread pudding we talked about the other day for instance).

Steamed cakes and pastry are actually fairly common in Japanese and Chinese cuisine... and I've been experimenting with hybrids.

Though I miss having fresh cookies, I have not gone wanting in cake! : j

Eryl said...

Alesa ~ sounds scrummy. I have never made a steamed cake but it sounds like a way of producing something very light and moist. Must try it!

SY said...

yum.. this post turn my stomach on..
what a beautiful way to connect with your mother..
great read,eryl

Anonymous said...

Another great trigger is smell / Geruch.

Eryl said...

Sy ~ thank you. It was such an unexpected treat to come upon the recipe and be reminded of all the times my mother made that cake.

Mago ~ smell is definitely another one. I was pottering around a junk shop recently when I found a pretty powder compact, on opening it I found it still had powder in it and it smelt just like my aunt Marge who instantly came to mind, though she's been dead over twenty years.