A very happy 2016 to you all! Hopefully the year is off to a solid start but if not, this cake can get you there. You see, back when I visited San Diego I had a remarkable cornmeal and blueberry waffle for breakfast at Cafe 222. It was after a late night and I needed some serious sustenance. I think about that waffle often and, much to my chagrin, I do not have a waffle maker. Despite this minor yet atrocious set back, I decided to replicate it in a gluten-free cake form.
I did run into an issue here. Upon taking the cake out of the oven I noticed some melted butter had accumulated in the tinfoil folds. I attributed it to the topping (more on that later) but I realized the butter had nowhere to go. I evaluated the cake from all angles trying to determine where I went wrong. I've made almond and polenta cakes before a la Bon Appetit magazine and didn't have this issue. I took to the internet and learned that almond meal is more oily than almond flour (I used meal). I also had used melted butter AND fresh blueberries, which increased the water content. While the batter does not look "liquid-y" the melted butter combined with water released from the berries affected the overall density of the cake. It is meant to be a dense cake but it was too much so in the center. Therefore, I cut the butter from 1 and 1/2 sticks to 1 and 1/4. You could probably cut it to 1 stick but proceed with caution.
Now, I could have just done a cake plain and simple but NOOOOOOOOOOOOO I had to get all fancy and try to make a streusel topping. This also didn't help the aforementioned oil factor. It wasn't so much a streusel than a brown sugar almond crunch. Even though it wasn't what I was going for it definitely adds more complexity to the cake. The cake is delicious without it so feel free to omit if you so choose.
For the cake you will need:
2 cups almond flour/meal
1 cup quick cooking polenta
scant 3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Dash of salt
1 1/4 sticks of melted butter, cooled
1/2 tsp almond extract
heaping 3/4 cup fresh blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a 9 inch pan (9 inch minimum, 8 inches is no good here) with foil and spray with cooking spray. Mix the first five dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.
In a large bowl, combine the sugar and melted butter. Use a hand mixer to combine until the mixture is lighter in color and fluffy-ish, about 4-5 minutes. Then add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Mixture should be significantly paler and fluffier. Add the almond extract.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine with a rubber spatula. Gently fold in the blueberries. Mixture will be thick and grainy but should spoon easily into prepared pan.
Optional faux streusel topping: In a small bowl mix 1/2 a stick of cold, chopped butter with 1/4 chopped/sliced almonds, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup almond flour and 1/4 tsp cinnamon. Mix until combined and top cake batter.
Place cake on a larger baking tray and bake for 50-55 minutes. This cake spreads so watch out.
Let cake cool entirely before removing from pan. If you'd like, take a serrated knife and gently trim the overhang for an even, circular cake (you can see this in the top photo).
It's not exactly and exact replica of my California dream but pretty darn close. Yes, I struggled with the ratios but that's half the fun when you come up with your own recipes. Struggle or not, the cake is rustic, dense, and slightly crumbly with nuances of almond and refreshing pockets of blueberry that would make a fine addition to any brunch, including New Year's. Until the next dish, ciao!