Kick up your snack time with this Orange Habanero Polenta Cake. It blends two of my favorite Southwest flavors into an easy cake recipe that is equally at home at as a “dressed up” dessert or a “raid the pantry at midnight” snack.
We can’t say good bye to our first annual Spaghetti Western Week and celebration of Clint Eastwood’s birthday without a knock ’em dead cake, can we? Ok, ok, it was actually longer than a week but, who was counting? I thought about putting a little birthday candle on top of each piece, but then the image of Clint’s squinty eyes and gravely voice made me think again. I put an orange habanero glaze on top instead. Habaneros are a little more “Clint Eastwood…” don’t you think?
This Italian polenta and olive oil cake was just waiting to be invited to a par-tay. It is normally a plain and rustic dessert that is only slightly sweeter than cornbread with a much grainier texture. To dress it up, I put the polenta through the food processor and then soaked it in the milk that was already in the recipe to take away the grittiness. Then, I covered it in an orange habanero sugar glaze. Habaneros sound scary but, trust me, they are just the right chile to give this the Spaghetti Western touch.
The key to taming habaneros is to treat them with respect. Show them you are the boss and don’t let them smell your fear. I highly recommend wearing protective gear like gloves. Honestly. You want to keep the juice from the habanero from getting transferred from your hands to your eyes or nose or anywhere else you can think of. The heat from the chile will stay under your nails for several hours. Gloves are the best way. I know the habaneros don’t have much moisture, but “essence” of the habanero is enough.
Once you are ready and have shown them you mean business, remove the tops with the stems. Next, make a slit down one side and open the habanero. Use the tip of your knife to remove the seeds and the “ribs” of the chile where most of the heat is. Next, mince that habanero as tiny and fine as you possibly can. I mean almost turn it into a paste.
After making the orange powdered sugar glaze, add in about half of the minced habanero. Let it sit for a few minutes and then put some of the glaze on a bite of bread and see how you like the heat. Remember, the heat will be greatly reduced when you put it on the cake. There will be a big bite of cake with a tiny bit of habanero. And, you can always add more powdered sugar and orange juice if you need too.
Habaneros have become one of my favorite chiles. That says a lot because I am kind of a whimp when it comes to chiles. But their fruity flavor really enhances desserts and marinades but does not change the flavor the way an Anaheim or poblano does.
Give this cake a try when you are looking for a “not too sweet” dessert for after dinner or and afternoon snack.
Let me know what you think of it. I’d love to hear from you. Just leave a comment on this post or on our Facebook page.
—posted by Sandy
- 1 cup fine polenta or corn meal
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- 2 heaping tablespoons orange zest, divided
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¾ cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup honey
- For the glaze:
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- ½ cup orange juice
- 1 heaping tablespoon orange zest
- 1 small habanero chile (about 1 inch long) seeds and stem removed, finely minced
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour 9 inch cake pan.
- Put the polenta into the bowl of a food processor and pulse until the polenta is a finer grind. Pour the polenta in a large mixing bowl. Heat the milk in a sauce pan until little bubbles appear around the edge. Pour the milk over the polenta and stir. Set aside to allow the polenta to soften.
- MIx together 1 heaping tablespoon orange zest and sugar, set aside.
- Sift the flour, salt, baking powder together in a separate mixing bowl.
- Beat the eggs, egg yolk, extra virgin olive oil and honey together until frothy. Combine the egg mixture, the polenta mixture and the sugar mixture together.
- Then, add the liquids to the dry ingredients and beat together for 2 minutes. Do not over beat, it will add air bubbles to the cake.
- Pour batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Test for doneness at 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and cool for about 10 minutes then, remove from the pan.
- For Glaze:
- Heat orange juice in the microwave until just about to boil, approximately 1½ minutes. Add the heaping tablespoon of orange zest and stir to infuse the orange juice with the flavor of the zest.
- Add the orange juice mixture to the powdered sugar and stir until no lumps are left.
- Add half of the finely minced habanero. Let the glaze sit for a few minutes. Taste the glaze on a bite of bread to see if you would like to add more.
- If the glaze is too hot, add more powdered sugar and orange juice. Remember that the habanero will be more mild when it has been spread over the cake.
- Pour over the cake while it is still warm to the touch but, not hot.
- Garnish with whipped cream and orange slices.