Lemon Lavender Polenta Cake

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This is one of my favourite recipes using lavender.  Particularly in the spring time when we are looking for fresh and light flavours.  This recipe is originally Italian, however I have been adjusting and tweaking it until I finally got to the point whereI felt it was ready to share with the world

Thanks to the polenta/cornmeal used in the recipe, this is a super moist cake, with a deep lemony flavour and a beautiful hint of lavender that complements the lemon perfectly.  Great for spring and summer time get togethers.

Pairing:  Pairs well with Argentine Torrontés, sparkling wines or champagne with a nice citrus or floral flavour profile, Sherry.

 Lemon Lavender Polenta Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake
•    200 grams (14 tbsp or 7 oz) unsalted butter, softened (plus some for greasing))
•    170 grams (3/4 cup) caster or natural cane sugar
•    100 grams ( 1 cup + 1 tbsp)  cake flour or all purpose flour
•    200 grams (14tbsp or 7oz) Polenta or cornmeal
•    1.5 teaspoons (7.4ml)  baking powder
•    3 medium eggs
•    2 medium lemons, zest  (save juice for syrup)
•    1 lemon, juice
•    1 tsp (4-5 g) dried lavender  (see note below)

For the syrup
•    2 lemons (juice)
•    125 grams( 4.4 oz or 1/2 cup + 3tbsp)  sugar (you can use icing sugar here as well if you like)

**Note on the lavender:  I use lavender that I grow myself in my garden.  This lavender however is quite potent.  You will notice a difference if you are buying dried lavender, it will be slightly less pungent and aromatic then something coming from your own garden. If that is the case then you may want to add a little more than what I have specified here.

This is a good aromatic exercise to help you determine how much you need:
1) Take the lavender and grind it between your fingers
2)  now smell it
3)  Is it strong?  It is more delicate?  Determine it’s level of “pungency” and then see how much you want to add based on its aromatic strength.  If you are worried about it, start off with 1.5 tsp and then keep adjusting each time you make the cake.

Directions:
1.    Line the base of a 23cm spring form cake tin (a slightly smaller one will work as well) with baking parchment and grease its sides lightly with butter.
2.    Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/350F.
3.    Beat the butter and sugar till pale and whipped.
4.    Mix together the flour, polenta and baking powder (if using this), and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.
5.    Finally, beat in the lemon zest, lemon juice and lavender.  Then pour, spoon or scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes.  (Please remember that depending on altitude cooking times can change.  Higher altitudes usually require a slightly longer time).
6.    It may seem a bit wobbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out clean and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the tin.  Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin.
7.    Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan.
8.    Once the  sugar has dissolved into the juice, leave it for about one minute more and then you’re done.
9.    Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester/fork/skewer.  Be careful to not tear the cake too much if using a fork or a skewer as it is delicate.    Pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its tin.

Before serving, sprinkle icing sugar (using a sieve) over the top of the cake.  Then slice and serve.

Variations:  A friend of mine made this cake and instead of a round tin, she baked it in a square tin.  She then made a lemon cream cheese  frosting instead so that there were not any holes in the cake from the skewer.  This is a good option if you are worried about presentation and are bringing it to a party etc.