A few weeks ago, I started thinking about cornmeal, and the more I thought about cornmeal, the more I liked it. All of the great things about cornbread would be just as great in a scone or a cake, if maybe not a little better because of the addition of other flavors playing off the cornmeal. I started to think about the flavors that would like hanging around with cornmeal. Lemon? No. Lime? Maybe. Oh, but Orange? Most definitely!
Once I got that idea of cornmeal + orange into my head, I couldn’t get it out. I wanted to make cornmeal orange everything, but I decided that cornmeal would best meld into a wholesome, humble breakfast baked good, something that the crunchy, slightly gritty texture of cornmeal would shine. I also knew that there had to be another flavor in there somewhere to keep it from getting boring, and fruit was my best bet. So, I started with a batch of cornmeal orange waffles with blueberries.
However, something was really wrong with the waffle recipe I used. The blogger played them up as crunchy from the cornmeal, but they turned out mushy and soggy. The batter just had way to much liquid in it, and the cornmeal couldn’t form the gluten necessary to give the waffles some structure. I could have tried a different waffle recipe, but during this process I also remembered how much I hate cleaning our waffle maker. So, the waffles earned a no.
I decided the next best option was to go for a hearty muffin. Still caught up with blueberries, I made a sweet version of these with orange and blueberries. But, once again I was not satisfied. They were crumbly and slightly dry (basically too much cornmeal), and I didn’t add enough sugar to make them seem sweet enough for breakfast muffins. Also, I hate juicing fresh oranges.
Then, I came to the answer: cake. I knew that a cornmeal cake would be a humble affair, so a loaf shape would be best. The cornmeal makes for a slightly “rougher” cake, and I knew pound cake would love this quality, rather than rebel against it like a springy birthday cake. So, I turned to one of my favorite cookbooks for a pound cake recipe. I added orange zest to the batter and replaced some of the flour with yellow cornmeal. Then, I served it with fresh strawberries and softly whipped cream, because it was exactly the touch our cake needed.
And, it was delicious! (Finally) The pound cake has a hint of orange and a modest amount of cornmeal to ensure it stays tender, as cake should. Everything just pairs together really nicely to make a simple dessert.
orange cornmeal pound cake with strawberries
recipe adapted from The Science of Good Cooking
Note: The butter should be soft enough to press into easily, but still be slightly firm and have a slight chill. This should take 20-30 minutes at room temperature if the butter is cut into chunks.
for the cake:
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened (see note)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 large egg yolks, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups cake flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
for the strawberries and cream:
1 cup of fresh strawberries
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 and butter and flour a 9 by 5 inch loaf pan. In a liquid measuring cup, beat together the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla until combined. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the cake flour and cornmeal. Set aside. In another small bowl, rub the orange zest into the sugar until the orange zest has released it’s oils and the sugar has the texture of wet sand. Set aside.
Combine the butter and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium high speed until shiny, smooth and creamy. Add the sugar mixture and beat on medium high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, 5 to 8 minutes, scraping the bowl once. Bring the speed down to medium and slowly pour in the egg mixture, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and raise the speed to medium high. Beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.
Gently fold the flour mixture into the butter and egg mixture. Scrape the bottom of the bowl a few times to make sure there are no flour pockets. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes before inverting the cake onto a wire rack. Cool completely.
Slice the strawberries thinly and combine with 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a small bowl. Set aside for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, whip the cream. Combine the cream, remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, and vanilla in a stand mixer. Whip with the whisk attachment until the cream holds soft peaks.
Serve the cake in thick slices with the macerated strawberries and their juice and a dollop of whipped cream.Pin It