Do you spend an inordinate amount of time in the winter berating yourself for things you failed to make the past year, and now must wait many months for the ingredients to come into season again? While thumbing through cookbooks on a cold January day, I must avert my eyes from glossy photos of juicy, ripe berries, cherries, and tomatoes lest I feel the pang of regret for the clafoutis I never got around to baking, or the galette that got away. What was I doing when I didn’t put together that panzanella? Why wasn’t I standing in the kitchen, canning all the precious produce that would soon disappear for half a year?
(Yes, I have issues.)
Which is why I won’t tell you how this cornmeal poundcake makes at gorgeous foil for just about any fruit; blueberry compote, freshly sliced peaches or plums. No, I won’t taunt you with images of briefly sauteed cherries nestled against a mound of softly whipped cream, or lightly macerated strawberries oozing red juice into the crumb.
Because when I say any fruit, I mean it. Even in the middle of winter when fruit desserts seem a distant memory, you can make a glorious citrus compote with blood oranges and satsumas. Hothouse rhubarb should make its grand entrance any day now. And there are always armagnac soaked prunes or dried tart cherries, both brilliant accompaniments any time of the year.
If you’re not in the market for a plated dessert, this cake is also heavenly on its own. Enjoy a slice with tea for breakfast or a snack, or toast a wedge and spread with a bit of creme fraiche. I think you’ll enjoy the nubby bits of stoneground cornmeal which contrast the meltingly tender, buttery texture of the cake. It may even ease the pain of regret, and carry you through to apricot season.
Citrus Cornmeal Poundcake
Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Makes 1 8×4″ loaf, 8-10 servings
4 oz. (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 cup sugar
zest of 1 meyer lemon and 1 tangerine
3 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons stoneground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk, yogurt or sour cream
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Line an 8×4″ loaf pan with a parchment paper sling; or grease and flour the pan. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, sugar and zests until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one by one. The mixture may look curdled; that’s ok. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Add half the dries to the butter mixture, mixing on low to combine. Add the dairy, mixing to combine, and then the rest of the dries. Give the whole thing a hearty stir with a rubber spatula to make sure everything’s well mixed, then spread evenly into the prepared loaf pan. Bake until the top is golden and springs back to the touch, about 1 hour. A tester inserted should come out mostly clean. Cool completely. The cake will keep, tightly wrapped, for several days.