I must admit that just a couple of months ago, I'd never even heard of a cornmeal cake. That's what I derisively call sweet cornbread, actually. But my friend, Amanda of loveandnachos.com mentioned that she'd enjoyed an orange cornmeal cake made by Karl Worley of Biscuit Love Truck (and that I really needed to have it). I didn't get to have any of Karl's cake, but I decided to try making my own. I looked through all my cookbooks and didn't find a recipe, so I turned to the Google and discovered a very popular Martha Stewart recipe.
This recipe is also easy, which is not the case for many MS recipes and certainly not for most cakes. The most difficult part is zesting your orange. This recipe doesn't even require using an electric mixer. All you need is a whisk. If you don't have that, you can just use a fork. This is a great recipe to make with kids. Just make sure they don't overstir (just like with cornbread or pancakes).
Generally speaking, it's a bad idea to alter a cake recipe too much. Baking is an exact science. But I made a few adjustments to that recipe and got a really nice, pleasant cake. It's moist but not dense and not too sweet. That is partly due to using white cornmeal instead of yellow, but this is just not an overly sweet cake anyway.
The other adjustments I made included using a blood orange-infused olive oil (though I don't think it added much overall), adding a bit of vanilla extract and, most importantly, finely ground green cardamom. I also baked it in a 9-inch springform pan instead of an 8-inch round cake pan because that's what I have. If you use a cake pan, make sure it's got the contraption on the bottom to loosen the cake or line the very bottom with parchment so that this little guy will pop out nicely. If you leave it in the pan too long, it will sweat and stick. Keep that in mind. I've included some other notes as well following the recipe.
Orange Cardamom Cornmeal Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine's Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground green cardamom
1 cup sugar + 1/4 cup for dusting
zest of one orange
1/2 cup mild olive oil or canola oil
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
In a small bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and cardamom. Rub orange zest into sugar in a large bowl and whisk in the oil eggs, juice and vanilla until smooth. Add in flour mixture and whisk just to combine.
Brush an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan (or springform pan) lightly with oil (or oil sides and line bottom with parchment). Pour batter into the pan and sprinkle with remaining sugar. Bake at 375F in a pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes, until the cake begins to pull away from the sides and a toothpick tester inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for about 20 minutes. Then invert to a cake plate and back to the wire rack to cool completely.
- I used a tangelo for a really mild orange flavor. Two tangerines or several clementines would also work well. I may try two lemons next time, though.
- I added the cardamom because I really like it, but it's not necessary. And it's just a hint. Even folks who don't like cardamom usually liked the subtle flavor combined with the orange. To get one teaspoon of green cardamom, I put six whole green pods in a coffee grinder set to "fine."
- If you want a completely white cake, you can skip the vanilla, use only orange emulsion (instead of zest and juice) and 3 egg whites with the white cornmeal. Though I think the zest would make a completely white cake really pretty.
- No mixer and just two bowls (one of which was dry) made this cake so easy to clean up, which is a huge bonus to me.