Fluted Polenta Ricotta Cake

This week’s recipe selection comes to us from Caitlin over at Engineer Baker. I have to be completely honest – at first glance, this recipe didn’t seem all that appealing to me, but my mom and grandma thought it sounded fantastic, so I decided to make it and give it to them to enjoy. As I was putting the cake together, it smelled absolutely fabulous! Definitely a distinct Mediterranean aroma, and as it baked the smell only got better.

More about the cake and the recipe after the break…

I only had a 9.5″ tart pan (the recipe called for a 10.5″ pan) so I did not use all of the batter, but it still puffed a bit above the rim, but I didn’t have any overflow. The only problem I seemed to have was the little pats of butter. I know other people experienced the same issue, but my thoroughly chilled little pieces of butter only caused little white indentions, not golden brown circles, as Dorie said they would.

While you may be put off by the name of this cake (or the individual ingredients), give it a shot – it really is a fabulously simple and elegant cake!

Fluted Polenta and Ricotta Cake
(Source: Dorie Greenspan “Baking: From My Home to Yours” pages 200-2001)

About 16 moist, plump dried Mission or Kadota figs, stemmed
1 cup medium-grain polenta or yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup ricotta
1/3 cup tepid water
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup honey
Grated zest of 1 lemon
½ cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus 1 tablespoon, cut into bits and chilled
2 eggs

Getting Ready: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 10 ½-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and put it on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat.

Check that the figs are, indeed, moist and plump. If they are the least bit hard, toss them into a small pan of boiling water and steep for a minute, then drain and pat dry. If the figs are large (bigger than a bite), snip them in half.

Whisk the polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Working with a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the ricotta and water together on low speed until very smooth. With the mixer at medium speed, add the sugar, honey, and lemon zest and beat until light. Beat in the melted butter, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until the mixture is smooth. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are fully incorporated. You’ll have a sleek, smooth, pourable batter.

Pour about one third of the batter into the pan and scatter over the figs. Pour in the rest of the batter, smooth the top with a rubber spatula, if necessary, and dot the batter evenly with the chilled bits of butter.
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. The cake should be honey brown and pulling away just a little from the sides of the panm, and the butter will have left light-colored circles in the top. Transfer the cake to a rack and remove the sides of the pan after about 5 minutes. Cool to warm, or cool completely.


25 Responses to “Fluted Polenta Ricotta Cake”

  1. kim on April 29, 2008 at 10:46 am

    your cake looks nice and moist! my pats of butter came out white too… they didn’t indent too much, but i think it was because i forgot to put them on until 10 minutes into the baking 😉


  2. Piggy on April 29, 2008 at 11:57 am

    Love the color of your cake… mine turned out too dark. 😛


  3. April on April 29, 2008 at 11:59 am

    It looks great! really moist!


  4. Kate on April 29, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    It looks like a yummy wedge of corn bread!


  5. Ulrike aka ostwestwind on April 29, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Oh, the cake looks great, tasty and juicy!


  6. Rebecca on April 29, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    Lucky you for having so many tasting volunteers! My husband’s holding out for the PB torte. 😉


  7. steph on April 29, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    it looks great. no wonder you cut into it!!


  8. Tammy on April 29, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    great cake. I liked it too.


  9. Caitlin on April 29, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    Yay! I’m glad you liked it! It looks beautiful!


  10. LyB on April 29, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    Your cake looks great, so dense and moist! Beautiful!


  11. emily227 on April 29, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    My husband loved this recipe—in fact, the last two he has been literally drooling over. He is loving this TWD thing 🙂


  12. CB on April 29, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    So cute that hubs liked it! My hubs was interested and had one cupcake but didnt reach for 2nd so I know it wasn’t his favorite. I have a feeling the PB torte will change his mind though. LOL. Great job!
    Clara @ I♥food4thought


  13. Ally on April 29, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    The ingredients to me sound very interesting (in a good way) which is why I am totally making this soon. I want to bite that piece you have up there.


  14. Jayne on April 30, 2008 at 10:07 am

    Very yummy looking. We (husband, me, 2 kids) all loved this cake, too.


  15. NinaBeth on April 30, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    I had the same initial reaction as you. I’m glad your hubby like it!


  16. Gretchen Noelle on April 30, 2008 at 9:30 pm

    Too funny that many wound up liking it in the end. I may make it again this week with a few more changes.


  17. Mari on May 1, 2008 at 4:06 am

    Chelle, I think we were all in the same boat, convinced we wouldn’t like it and surprised to discover we did!


  18. Jaime on May 6, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    i wasn’t able to make this but still want to try it. looks great!


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  20. Wendy on March 21, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    I just put this in the oven and noticed that I missed the salt. There is no salt mentioned in the list of ingredients. Neither is the butter (I randomly put in 1/4 cup of melted butter and am hoping it works out) mentioned.

    Could you please repost this with the exact amounts of butter and salt? This is an old post so I can’t believe it hasn’t been addressed. Hasn’t anyone else noticed?


    • Michelle on March 22nd, 2011 at 4:49 pm

      Hi Wendy, I’m so sorry for the oversight, I have corrected the recipe above.


      • Wendy on March 22nd, 2011 at 7:03 pm


        with the 1/4 of butter, it turned out fine. I found it a bit too sweet, so I will try it again, cutting back a little on the honey and sugar.


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  23. C Below on March 3, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I tried this recipe and it was absolutely heavenly! I substituted frozen blueberries for figs since it was the only fruit I had on hand. Also, without a fresh lemon available, I used lemon extract. It all worked beautifully.


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