Sunday, February 28, 2010

Cornmeal Rosemary Cake with Pine Nuts and Orange Glaze

cornmeal cake

This is me, trying my hardest to be a lovacore and not  succeeding! Eating  locally makes sense. It's a way to build a more self reliant  economy. It is also better for the environment since imported food uses  more fossil fuels to transport it to supermarkets than locally grown  produce.  For an entertaining yet thought provoking account of one family's attempt to adopt a lovacore or local foods only lifestyle, I highly recommend that you read the book Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and  Camille Kingsolver. This book documents the Kingsolver-Hopp family's attempt to ONLY eat seasonal food that they   grew themselves or that was produced in their neighbourhood.

After reading this book last year, I immediately became a  convert to the church of Barbara. I fully embraced the idea of a kitchen garden. I wanted to make my own cheese, can my own vegetables and make jam.  I started by planting a herb  garden. I even bought a few vegetable seedlings and manure from the agricultural depot.  Yes. I was going to do my part  to prevent global warming and rising  food prices.

I started thinking.  Maybe I could also raise  chickens, start an apiary, rear cows  - no wait, I'm afraid of cows. How about goats?  They give milk from which I could make my own cheese. I shared these thoughts of a greener world with my other 'saner'  half who patiently reassured me that while it was indeed a noble dream, my utopia fantasy was somewhat flawed. First off we live in an apartment complex - not a farm. Also, I  already have a job which makes the business of rearing a family challenging enough without wanting to add goats to the mix.....Hmm, all valid points. Bummer, don't you just hate when  the voice of reason rains on your parade.

cornmeal cake

Still every little bit counts. I pressed ahead  with  my herb garden now dead dormant  because of the  current drought conditions.  I vowed no more purchasing of strawberries or  cherries. Easy enough, since they are too expensive to be anything more  than a rare extravagance in the same way that one treats oneself to an expensive box  of chocolates. But how do I wean myself off apples and grapes? We must have  survived before without them since I remember in times past that they were a special treat purchased only at Christmas time.

My righteous,  sustainable, local-food supporting zeal was further tested when it came to making what has become a favourite cake of this family.  Pine  nuts are definitely not local. They aren't even sold here.  I acquired this ingredient in the usual manner via Facebook and my sister. I posted to her wall. the urgent message. SEND NUTS.   She was kind enough to mail them to me.  I justified my  weakness for this foreign import by rationalizing that the plane which brought the letter sized package of pine nuts was on it's way here with the mail anyway. Even  Ms.  Kingsolver is forced to admit  that there were some imported items, like coffee and  spices, which  she couldn't live without.

While I  may not be able to live as austere a lovacore lifestyle as did Barbara  Kingsolver, her book has given me much to think about as I try to be a more responsible citizen of this world.  She has made me take a good hard look at my shopping habits with a view to  making  improvements. So tell me, do you support the local food movement and is there any imported food that you  just can't live without?

Cornmeal Cake

Cornmeal Rosemary Cake with Pine Nuts and Orange Glaze
*  adapted from the Best of Fine Cooking (Fall) 2007

yeild: one 9 -  inch cake

The Cake

1 1/2 cups all - purpose flour
3/4  cup cornmeal
1/3 cup toasted, coarsely chopped pine nuts
1  Tbs fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 TBS finely grated orange zest
1  tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup cream cheese, at  room temperature
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2  cup (1/4 lb) unsalted butter, melted

The syrup
1/2  cup fresh orange juice
2-3 tbs sugar

the Glaze

1  sprig fresh rosemary
1 1/2 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
2  tbs fresh orange juice
1 tsp, finely grated orange zest

Make  the cake: Butter a 9 X 2 inch round cake pan. Line the bottom with a  round of parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper. Position rack in the center of the oven. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In  a medium bowl, mix the flour with the cornmeal, pine nuts, rosemary,  orange zest, baking powder and the salt.

In a large bowl, use a hand mixer and whisk the cream cheese to soften it. Add the eggs one at a time, beating at medium speed to combine. Add the sugar  and mix until smooth. Using a rubber spatula, fold half of the dry  ingredients into the wet ingredients. Then fold the rest of the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix until smooth. Still using the rubber spatula stir in the melted butter until blended.

Scrape batter into prepared tin. Bake for 40 - 45 mins until the cake is a nice golden brown or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out  looking a bit moist and the sides have begun to pull away from the pan.

Make the Orange Syrup
While the cake is baking mix the orange juice  and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar  dissolves. Use 1, 2 or 3 tablespoons of sugar depending on the sweetness  of your oranges and to your taste. Remove from heat.

Cool  cake in pan for 5 minutes before turning it out onto a plate. Remove  the parchment paper and invert cake again onto a cardboard round or  another cake plate. Poke ho;es all over the top of the cake with a  wooden skewer or toothpick. While the cake is still warm brush it with  the warm orange syrup. Give the syrup time to soak into the cake. Use up  all the syrup. Let the cake cool completely.

Make the Glaze.
Boil a small saucepan of water. Get a small  bowl of ice water ready. Put rosemary in boiling water for one minute to  blanch them. Remove with a slotted spoon and set them in the ice water.  Drain and spread them on a paper towel to dry.

In a  bowl whisk the confectioner's sugar  and orange juice until smooth and  then mix in the blanched rosemary and the orange zest.

When  the cake is cool transfer to a wire rack set over some wax paper. Pour  glaze over the cake. or glaze over the cake then transfer to a cake  plate. Sprinkle with orange peel and rosemary. Remove rosemary garnish before eating as the woody texture can be a bit sharp.

The texture of this cake is slightly grainy due to the cornmeal. I like the texture but make sure and use a finely ground cornmeal if you think that might bother you. This is a perfect tea-time cake. I love it with a cup of coffee. It's a perfect balance of sweet and tart with subtle,  almost minty notes from the pine nuts.

NB.  Most American cake recipes call for a lot more sugar than suits my tastes. I usually only use about  3/4 cup sugar where an American recipe would call for 1 cup. The original recipe asks for 1 1/3 cups sugar. I have left the original measurement because I know that many people prefer a sweeter cake. However,  I prefer to  use  just one  cup of sugar for this.



  1. Woah. What a lovely cake. Beautiful, light photos!!

  2. Is it more sweet? like a cake-cake? It almost sounds bready?

  3. I try to buy most of my produce at our local farmer's market...we are surrounded by farms and the growing season is long so I can find most things that I like. I am still guilty of buying lots of tomatoes from Mexico in the middle of winter, though. I agree it would be much easier with lots of land an no job eating up my time!

  4. That is a gorgeous cake! And such stunning photos as well. Love the idea of using rosemary on a sweet recipe.

  5. Beautiful photos! :O And yes you're right every bit counts and as long as we try and do our best that's what counts imho :)

  6. I love this cake! Quite a lovely combo of flavours and textures. It's the 2nd best use of pine nuts (after pesto) of course. Do NOT refrigerate the cake at all. It won't have to stay out long anyway. Yum! Goes great with coffee.

  7. these are such great photos :-)
    I am fearful of starting to itemise the "foreign" stuff I rely on...yikes...

  8. I love the texture that cornmeal gives to cakes and with rosemary, pinenuts and orange glaze - I do believe you've gone over the top. sounds amazing.

    I'm with you on the sustainability - we too live in an apartment which makes it difficult especially with the darn fickle plants that sometimes like it and sometimes don't

  9. I agree that it's really hard to try to only purchase "local" products. Especially when you live in a cold place where nothing really gets out of the ground until late Spring. Trying my best is what I do. Tomatoes from Canada in the middle of Winter? No WAY! Tomatoes from Florida? Well, that's not "too" far even though at the scale of some countries, it could be "foreign"!!

  10. That photo just makes me want to grab it and eat!

  11. The time spent preparing was definitely reflected in the great blend of flavours tasted... I agree with Donna, don't kill this joy by refrigerating...

    Where I live we basically rely on imported goods...don't think I'll be farming anytime soon.


    PS - I've posted under Donna's gmail account as not everyone has one of the profiles this site requires. You may want to add hotmail and skype.

  12. Kyria,
    Thanks for the feed back. Actually this cake is supposed to sit out. Next time you can always post as anonymous - sorry no skype or hotmail. I'll register your complaint with the blogspot folks.Lol. Honestly I think it would be difficult for island states as small as yours to subsist only on locally grown produce. It may have been possible at one time but now that the population has grown, there is just not enough land to support it.

  13. Hi there,
    I am so glad to see your beautiful blog. You have a very neat and nice place.

    Oh my! this cake looks so elegant and mind-blowing pics. A very eye-catching pics indeed!

    And, thanks for visiting my blog. I hope to see you again. :)

  14. oh boy! this cake looks soooo good--i love the combination of traditionally savory flavors. (and it looks so moist and delicious in the photos.)

  15. many kudos to you for your efforts--i think every small touch definitely makes a difference. your cake is tremendous even without the added significance of the locally-procured ingredients. excellent work. :)
    incidentally, barbara kingsolver is from the area in which i'm currently living. haven't run into her yet, though... :)

  16. This looks so delish.......Superb, love the frosting!!!!

  17. How am I supposed to read the post with such beautiful picures?!!! gorgeous!

  18. aw man. so this SO does not help me since i don't have an oven to bake in. *weep*
    love these photos! brill!

  19. You've made this simple cake looks soooo beautifully delicious!