Strawberry Polenta Tallcake
I’ve been looking forward to this post since last January when I purchased a kitchy 1980s strawberry cake stand! Since the purchase, I’ve been yearning to make a replica of the stand and now, voila, here it is. Right at the peak of strawberry season!
Of all of the desserts I’ve made, egg and dairy-free cakes are probably the trickiest. Without a tested recipe comes various challenges. Throw in a somewhat unusual ingredient, like polenta, and the cakes come out too starchy, too tough, or completely crumbly. Perfecting the cake took an extra week, but was well worth it. Instead of sticking to a classical shortcake (or tallcake) recipe, I added polenta for a texture with a little bite. The cake is almost like a sweet cornbread, only lighter and softer. For a deep, country flavor, substitute the granulated cane sugar with maple sugar. Maple sugar is a natural sweetener created during the process of making maple syrup. It can be a bit expensive, but easy to find online and much less processed than conventional sugar.
To make whipped coconut cream, purchase full-fat coconut milk from cans and refrigerate them overnight. The fat (or cream) separates from the water, rises to the top of the can and solidifies. Low-fat coconut milks will not separate as easily and may not whip at all. Use chilled bowls and utensils when whipping the coconut, so that it won’t fall flat or melt as easily, especially in warm kitchens.
The recipe is for one 9-inch cake, not three, like the photographs. Either triple the recipe for three full-sized cakes or make one and cut in half horizontally once its cooled. Layering one cake will make a shortcake or layering a doubled recipe can give you four layers. If you cut more layers than featured in the photo, just remember to make more whipped coconut cream. My photo was made of a double batch of whipped coconut cream (5 cups).
Strawberry Polenta Tallcake with Whipped Coconut Cream
Makes 1, 9-inch cake & about 2 1/2 cups whipped cream
1 1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup medium ground polenta
1/2 cup coconut or almond milk
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted or canola oil
3/4 cup organic granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder, dissolved in 3 Tablespoons warm water
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 (14.5 ounce) cans coconut milk, classical or whole-fat
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 pint strawberries, hulled
1: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil and flour 3, 9-inch cake pans. Line the bottom of tins with parchment paper. Put a medium metal bowl in the refrigerator to chill (for whipped coconut cream).
2: In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3: In a small saucepan add polenta and coconut milk. Cook on medium heat, whisking consistently, until milk just incorporates and the mixture begins to thicken. Pull from heat.
4: In another large bowl, beat coconut oil and sugar. Add polenta mixture, vanilla and arrowroot slurry, just until incorporated. Slowly stir in flour mixture, until smooth and creamy. Fold in lemon zest.
5: Pour batter equally among the three cake pans. Bake 30-40 minutes, until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack.
6: Pull chilled cans of coconut milk from refrigerator. Pierce the bottom of each can with a can opener and drain the clear coconut liquid. Open the cans and transfer the remaining coconut cream into the chilled metal bowl.
7: With an electric or standing mixer, beat coconut cream until consistency becomes somewhat airy, about 2-3 minutes. Begin on a low speed and increase as the texture changes. Slowly add sugar and continue to beat 1 minute more, or just until sugar is incorporated. Coconut whipped cream may be chilled for up to an hour, but is best served immediately or chilled for 10-15 minutes.
8: Evenly spread coconut whipped cream between each cake layer, then top with whole or cut strawberries.