I don’t know about you, but I always wondered what they were talking about when they asked for “figgy pudding” in the old Christmas carol. Then I brought some of this polenta cake I was testing to a game night, and one of my friends – aka guinea pigs—took one bite and exclaimed, “It’s figgy pudding! This is what that means!”
I sure think this cake is worth singing about. It’s a dense, velvety bread pudding of a cake, studded with chopped apples and figs, redolent with citrus peel and spices. I think it’s the most comforting cake I’ve ever made. This is the cake you want to have handed to you when you come inside from a cold, snowy night, and settle down into a cozy armchair next to a roaring fire and a glass of brandy, port, or some black coffee perched alongside. It’s also surprisingly innocent, since it’s made with whole grain Hodgson Mill Yellow Corn Meal, tons of fruit, warming spices, and 100% olive oil.
I’m using a mixture of dried figs – some black mission figs for the top, for their color and tenderness, and the more readily available, firmer dried Calimyrna variety to chop up and mix into the cake batter.
Half the figs get chopped up small to mix into the cake batter, and the rest get cut in half from top to bottom for topping. Don’t forget to cut off and discard the woody little stem area at the top. That’s no fun to chomp into in the middle of a silky bite of polenta cake.
Zest the lemons and oranges – you can use dried zest too, if that’s easier or more readily available.
In a large bowl, mix up the dry ingredients – Hodgson Mill Yellow Corn Meal, Hodgson Mill Naturally White Flour, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.
Add the honey, eggs, milk, olive oil and vanilla.
Gently stir it together to make a thin batter.
Add the chopped apple, 6 ounces of figs chopped small, (save the other half of the figs for topping) and the lemon and orange zest, and gently stir it together.
Pour the batter into the pan, and top it with the remaining fig halves. Be careful not to press the fig halves too deep into the batter -- you want them just resting on top. (I have lined my pan with foil because I recently had a bad experience with my springform pan when a beautiful clafouti I was making leaked out everywhere. I think it was user error, but better safe than sorry.)
Bake for about 50 minutes, until the top is golden brown and your house smells like Christmas is having a rerun. (My roommate came downstairs and asked if I was baking Fig Newtons® .)
Let it cool for half an hour, and then remove it from the pan. Sift some powdered sugar over the top just before serving, and you can serve it warm or completely cooled.
Whipped cream or ice cream is an excellent accompaniment, if your New Year’s resolutions can stand it. Greek yogurt is a healthier accompaniment. With all the fruit in this, I could just about serve it for breakfast. The cake is rich and moist, and absolutely wonderful served warm. It's almost like a bread pudding - but instead of bread, it's whole grain Hodgson Mill Yellow Corn Meal, cooked into a custardy polenta. Fruitcake? Bread pudding? Clafouti? Figgy pudding? I don't know, but it sure is delicious.
And I’m sorry if you catch yourself humming, “Now bring us some figgy pudding,” a month late. I promise I’m in the same boat.
Fig Apple Polenta Cake
- 1 cup Hodgson Mill Yellow Corn Meal
- 1 3/4 cup Hodgson Mill Naturally White Flour
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 12 oz. dried figs, divided (6 oz. chopped small, 6 oz. halved for top)
- 2-3 large cooking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 4 cups)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh orange zest, or 2 tsp. dried
- 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon zest, or 2 tsp. dried
- powdered sugar for dusting
Spray a 10-inch springform pan with nonstick spray and preheat the oven to 350°F. Chop all fruit. Chop half the figs roughly, about ¼- ½ inch cubes, and cut the rest in half (from pole to pole) for topping. As you cut the figs, be sure to remove the tough woody stem.
In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients (corn meal, flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon). Next, add the eggs, olive oil, honey, vanilla extract, and milk, stirring to form a smooth batter. Finally, stir in the 6 oz of chopped figs (reserve the ones cut in half), the chopped apples, orange and lemon zests. Stir until just combined. Pour into prepared pan, then top with fig halves, being careful not to push them into the batter. Bake for about 50-55 minutes, or until browned and set. Let cool for thirty minutes, run a knife around the edge of the pan, and loosen. Remove cake to platter and dust with a snowfall of powdered sugar. Serve warm or cold, sifting powdered sugar on top just before serving. Whipped cream or ice cream is an excellent optional topping too.
Keeps 2-3 days tightly wrapped in refrigerator. Cake will be moist like a bread pudding. Use good cooking apples -- I used Stayman; other good options include Rome, Jonathan and McIntosh.
Makes 1 10-inch cake, about 8 servings
Adapted from Jamie Oliver
You can find Fig Apple Polenta Cake and other recipes from Hodgson Mill by visiting the Recipes page.