dan lepard cherry and polenta cake

I love cooking for friends and family and it's something we tend to do quite often. Over the years I've realised that for me, cooking food that can be placed on the table for people to help themselves to is how I like to eat and to entertain. It's so nice to see people digging in, passing plates around, spooning food onto each others plates - the muddle and mess and lack of formality is how I like to eat with friends.

And when it comes to puddings, well, desserts are not my forte! I can bake a cake, but ask me to make panna cottas, or individual chocolate pots and I fail miserably. So, I take the same sense of 'let's all just dig in' type of attitude to puds too.

This foolproof Dan Lepard recipe I'm about to share with you is one I turn to time and time again for that very reason. It's so quick to assemble, most of the ingredients you'll have in your cupboard, you can replace the fruit for something more seasonal depending on what time of year you're cooking and while I suppose it is a cake of sorts, with a glug of cream it suddenly seems far more pudding-like.

I've probably made this twenty times...you can tell because when I open my copy of Dan Lepard's Short & Sweet (where this recipe is from) the pages instantly fall on this recipe. The pages are splattered with jam, there are ground almonds stuck in the fold and the corners have been turned multiple times. The true sign of an excellent recipe! 

I hope you will find an occasion to make this cake and will love it as much as I do.

Lastly, a huge thank you to Dan Lepard who kindly gave me permission to share this recipe.

dan lepard cherry and almond cake recipe

Cherry & polenta pudding

Like a crust-free tart, baked in a springform cake tin. Cooking the cherries first stops them hardening when cooking with the jam, so you end up with a lush, soft filling. It does dry out quickly so, if you're not going to eat it all on the day, wrap it up well to keep it soft and moist.

  •   butter and flour for the cake tin
  •   250g pitted fresh cherries, or drained tinned cherries
  •   50ml water
  •   75g cherry jam, the good stuff
  •   100g unsalted butter, softened
  •   2 medium eggs
  •   50g polenta or corn meal
  •   75g plain flour
  •   1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  •   100g ground almonds
  •   100ml milk
  •   a handful of pine nuts or flaked almonds
  •   a little grappa to serve 

Butter and flour the inside of a 24cm-diameter springform cake tin. Place the cherries and water in a saucepan, bring to the boil then simmer for about 5 minutes until the liquid has virtually evaporated. Add the jam, stir until it melts then remove and leave to cool. In a bowl, cream the butter and sugar with the eggs until fluffy then mix the polenta, flour, baking powder and almonds together and beat this through the butter mixture alternately with the milk. Spoon this into the tin, smoothing it up to the edges then, with a teaspoon, make swirling indentations for 'rivers' through it. Fill these with the cherry compote then scatter the nuts over the top. Heat the over to 180 C / 160 C fan and bake for 30 minutes or until just firm. Spoon a little grappa over when cool.

Shared with permission of Dan Lepard & 4th Estate.

My cooking notes: I have made this cake with cherries many times and it's my favourite way to cook it, but when I had a glut of plums in my Riverford box I decided to swap out the cherries for plums. I simply halved and stoned the plums, skipped the part where you cook the cherries for a few minutes and instead placed the plums directly onto the mix adding the jam in the 'rivers' as described. The rest of the recipe I followed as is. I'm sure you could try other fruits too - figs would be delicious! 

dan lepard cherry and polenta cake recipe

September 26, 2021 — Alice Paling