Saveur Days Recipe #11: Stanley Tucci’s Plum & Polenta Cake

Have you seen House of Cards? Shakespearean in its dramatic scope, it’s like a Richard III and Julius Caesar and Macbeth mash-up. Have you seen Dexter? Deb in love with Dexter? Dexter in love with Hannah? Weird and silly and so much fun. Have you seen Orange Is The New Black? How self-absorbed and vanilla and yet somehow compulsively interesting is Piper, right? Have you watched Ray Donavan? Was Liev Shreiber always this ugly-hot? He’s right up there with Russell Crowe and Daniel Craig. Have you watched Homeland? I can’t stop thinking about the remarkable acting of Damian Lewis in the episode when his character saves Clair Danes’ character by giving up the serial number of the vice president’s remote control pace maker to the terrorists. Have you seen Wilfred? “We all know life doesn’t begin until the fetus is 10 years old,” says Wilred the dog. “You kill an 11 year old and you’re going straight to hell.” Have you seen Breaking Bad? Will Jesse end up killing Walt and bring some much needed cosmic justice to their bad bad world?

What do these shows have to do with Stanley Tucci? Or his plum and polenta cake, for that matter?

Not much except I watch them while eating his cake. It (the cake) is not too sweet, has a lovely nuttiness of corn meal, and the tart ping from the plums makes me hum. It’s one of those rare desserts you can eat in bulk and not get tired of, which is great and terrible, especially when I’m catching up on my favorite TV shows for several hours and several slices disappear into my belly. It’s (the show) better with it (the cake) and vice versa.

Random thoughts like this come with each fork full: imagine Dexter (Dexter) hunting down Frank Underwood (House of Cards) after he (Dexter) moves to DC because things get too hot (police wise) in Miami. Walter White (Breaking Bad) on the other hand is thriving in the meth business and hires Alex Vause (Orange Is The New Black), Piper’s ex-lesbian-gf, who sells drugs to Carrie Matheson (Homeland) when she’s down in New Mexico from Langley, hunting terrorists and enjoying the desert landscape. Meanwhile, Jesse’s (Breaking Bad) gone off the deepest end in the deep hole of depression because of guilt and terror of Mr. White and takes off to Miami for a little R & R where he meets Deb (Dexter), who herself is struggling with the moral affront of her serial killer brother. They (Deb and Jesse) hate each other at first, but bond over their mutual moral crises and the occasional meth bumps. Far away in the state of California, Ray Donavan (Ray Donavan) continues to looks ugly-hot. So much story possibilities, but not enough time to write it down between watching TV and eating cake.

Summer plums

On another random thought, don’t those plums up there look luscious? Let’s put them in a cake and make them sweeter, more fattening, and great with good television.


Stanely Tucci’s Plum & Polenta Cake (Adapted from recipe on Epicurious.)

Serves 8

1/2 cup plus 2 tblespoons finely ground cornmeal or semolina flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
13 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
4 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 plums, cut in half and pitted
2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease and lightly flour a 9 inch springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.

In a small bowl, toss the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Dry ingredients for plum and polenta cake

In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale yellow and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.

Plum and polenta cake batter

Spread the batter in the prepared pan.

Polenta batter in pan

Place the plum halves, skin side down, at even intervals on top of the batter.

Plums, halved and pitted

Plum, skin side down on plum and polenta cake

Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the fruit and batter.

Brown sugar sprinkled on top of plums before baking plum and polenta cake

Bake until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Plum and polenta cake

Let cool for 1 hour in pan before transferring it to a cake plate.

Plum and polenta cake

Plum and polenta cake

After inhaling the cake

The carnage.

For more photos, go to Flickr.

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