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03 July 2012

Lemon Polenta Cake with Wild Blueberry Sauce and the Beautful City of Merano

When I arrived at the section of the polenta at the shop, I was at a loss.  I didn't know which polenta to get.  The ones that cook for 3 minutes, 15 minutes or 40 minutes.  I remember being advised not to get the 3-minutes ones because the quality is inferior than the others.   For that reason, I always opt for the pre-cooked 15-minute polenta.  Then there are the different kinds too.  There are too many kinds to choose from.  Sometimes I wish my memory is better than it is now.  I tend to be forgetful. 

That's when I noticed the simple packaging of the biological polenta.  I am a stickler for natural stuff and I cannot resist simple packaging in natural colors.  In other words, I grabbed it.  Being used to the pre-cooked polenta, I never cooked this kind at all.   I asked the signora handling the bread about it and she explained to me that it is not pre-cooked like the others and it can also be used for making cakes.  Cakes.  She planted a wonderful idea in my mind that day. 

In spite of the frequent stirring for 40 minutes, I got this one, thinking excitedly about the cake I was going to bake.  When I told my husband about the kind of polenta I got, he just asked me if I have the arm for stirring it that long.  I was not looking forward to it but I was overtaken by my excitement in making a polenta cake. 

How strange though that I have never encountered a single cake made of polenta in this area.  My husband has never heard about it either but that didn't stop me because it was someone who lives here who suggested it to me.  I found some recipes at the internet and I went for the most dependable site to get the recipe from. 

What gets me from baking and cooking in our rented chalet is improvising with the cooking utensils that I don't have.  At home, I am so dependent on my weighing scale and measuring cups & spoons.  I didn't take any of them but I found a good way to measure my ingredients in my daughter's baby milk bottles.  We have managed to completely wean her from the bottles during this trip so it was one last use before I toss them to the garbage.

I baked two cakes.  The first cake started baking beautifully in the oven.  It rose and the color became a beautiful golden yellow.  Then midway, it caved in.  I was shocked and disappointed at the turn out but I was hoping until the last minute that it would rise again.  Of course it didn't.  It tasted great but it just didn't come out well so most of it ended up in the dump. 

Not to be beaten, I went for a second recipe that I was confident would come out good because it has yogurt, uses more eggs and less butter. I just had to tweak some parts. After watching it bake for 45 minutes in the oven, it went smoothly like any other cake.  I had some wild blueberries I got from the market the other day that were picked from the neighboring town.  I used them to make the sauce to put on top of the polenta. 

The cake tasted great especially with the addition of the wild blueberry sauce.  However, polenta cake has a granular texture.   It's not as smooth nor soft as a normal cake so it takes getting used to.  If you are familiar with polenta eaten with savory dishes, the cake is very similar, just sweeter.  I still prefer the normal cakes but I was glad to bake this one to have an understanding about it. 

Now let me show you a place we fell in love with.  

Being a city, Merano offers everything that a city would.  With the Dolomites at the backdrop, the River Passer running through it and the rows of old pastel colored buildings, the city has a dreamlike character.  Not to mention the famous 150-year old curative thermal baths of the city which is strategically positioned right next to the river and at the heart of the city.  

We spent the greater part of our day in Merano.   We were just meaning to pass through it, do some city stuff that we cannot do in the other small mountain towns, have a quick look around and move to the smaller town close by.  But we got stuck.  We didn't expect it to be beautiful.  The old part of the town has a long road of old pastel colored buildings with shops and restaurants in every ground floor of every building.  At the end of the road is the majestic 13th century old duomo (cathedral) which is beautiful inside and out. 

With the suggestion of a local, we had lunch at the garden of Forsterbrau Restaurant where we had a very good traditional lunch of the area.  From the stinco di maiale (ham hocks), sauerkraut, sausages, canederli, potatoes to my apple strudel and gelato alla birra (beer ice cream), I enjoyed every single bite of my lunch.  And I would recommend that you go there too if you happen to be in the city.  Oh, and the beer is exceptional even if I preferred to go for a light local red wine.

Along the river, there is a very beautiful walk to have a passeggiata (stroll) after a nice meal.  There are some bars and restaurants too along the road.  Whereas the other side of the river is dominated by the thermal spa complex of Merano.   

I hope you enjoyed this post too.  We have a few remaining days of the mountain life before we head back to the city again.  

Lemon Polenta Cake with Wild Blueberry Sauce

  • 150 grams polenta flour
  • 100 grams flour (00)
  • 2 teaspoons lievito di birra in polvere (baking powder)
  • 125 grams natural yogurt
  • 150 grams sugar
  • 50 grams butter, melted
  • 3 eggs
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 200 grams wild blueberries (regular blueberries work just fine)
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  1. Mix the melted butter, yogurt, lemon juice & rind in a bowl.
  2. In another bowl, beat the eggs with sugar with a electric hand blender until the color becomes light and foamy.    
  3. Add the yogurt mixture to the egg mixture using a spatula.
  4. Sift the polenta flour, flour 00 and baking powder in another bowl.
  5. Pour the sifted dry ingredients to the egg & yogurt mixture little by little using a spatula.
  6. Pour the batter in a plum cake mold that had been rubbed with butter & sprinkled with flour.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 - 50 minutes.
  8. Let it cool.  It can keep until the following day.
  9. To prepare the wild blueberry sauce, put together the blueberries (leave some for garnishing), sugar and water in a saucepan.  Cook together for 10 minutes.
  10. Pour on top of the cake before serving.