I wrote this dessert post before I had read that Nancy Silverton’s Mozza Restaurants had been looted and set fire this past week. The sadness that we all feel about the loss, yet understanding of the root cause of the situation with the continuous mistreatment and repression of Black Americans in our city and the nation. I have a great deal of respect for Nancy Silverton and she remains one of my absolute favorite chefs on the planet. A few months back when the Coronavirus just began in Los Angeles, she opened one of her restaurants to prepare meals for restaurant workers that had just lost their jobs, and during that process, she herself caught Covid-19 and had to close, so she could self isolate. Nancy’s self sacrifice and commitment to Los Angeles has always been one of her strengths, and I’m sure will remain that way, even after all the damage from vandals. I hope real change is to come and we all do our part to make our cities a better place to live as one.
Cooking and baking has always been a good way to feel connected to others and if you haven’t cooked your way through Nancy’s Mozza at Home Cookbook, I couldn’t think of a better time to get your hands on a copy. Even if you don’t love to cook, I guarantee that you will muster up the spirit to prepare at least a handful of dishes. Her salads, appetizers and family-style plates will inspire you to be a better home cook, and her desserts will make your mouth water.
This recipe is her Polenta Cake with Brutti Ma Buoni Topping. My version looks a little different, because the batter of the cake didn’t exactly bake over the nut topping, like the picture in her cookbook. However, the flavor and texture of the cake will blow you away. It tastes like a cross between the best polenta cake you’ve ever tasted, and a nutty meringue cookie you bought in a quaint little bakery in Italy. The only changes I made were to reduce the baking time on the cake, and I added a little almond extract to the batter, but the recipe is just amazing the way it reads.
What’s as nice as enjoying this cake, is that it’s simple to prepare and you can probably substitute any nuts that you have in your pantry. This cake is a win-win for any occasion, and even my mother insists that I make another one for her birthday in September, but I’ll make another polenta cake much sooner than that, it’s that good.
1 cup slivered blanched almonds
1 cup hazelnuts, skinned if possible
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon orange flour water
1 extra-large egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Non-stick cooking spray
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups confectioners’ sugar + 1/3 cup for dusting
1/4 cup cake flour
1/4 cup almond flour
2 tablespoons medium-grind cornmeal or polenta
4 extra-large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heavily spray 13 x 4 tart pan with removable bottom (you can use a 9-inch round tart pan with removable bottom), set aside.
- Spread nuts on a sheet pan and toast in oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove and let cool.
- Add sugar, honey, orange flour water, egg white, vanilla, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add nuts and stir to coat, set aside.
- To make cake – warm butter in a saute pan until deep golden brown, about 3-5 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature.
- In a large bowl, combine confectioners’ sugar, cake flour, almond flour, and cornmeal, whisk to combine. Add egg whites and almond extract, stir until incorporated. Stir in brown butter until smooth.
- Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth out on top. Bake for 25 minutes until lightly puffed and golden. Remove from oven and using your fingers, add nut topping. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.
- After 10 minutes, remove ring around tart and place on a cutting board or plate. Let cool to room temperature. Dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving. Enjoy!