So far the whole no-desserts-for-lent thing has been going pretty well. I’ve resisted confections at The Bazaar, skipped out on my all-time favorite butterscotch budino at Pizzeria Mozza, and even withstood my friend Adam’s homemade vanilla ice cream (though truth be told, there is some waiting for me in the freezer). But then I was hosting book club last night with the girls, and made a polenta cake topped with mascarpone whipped cream and berries soaked in grappa. My downfall was the Moorea vanilla bean brought back from French Polynesia by my friend Kathleen. Even as I mixed the intoxicating seeds into the batter, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist, so it was fairly premeditated. I’m back on the wagon today, but seriously. Polenta + mascarpone + berries + grappa…no court would convict me.
Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Whipped Cream and Blackberry Grappa Compote
Adapted from Gourmet
4 large whole eggs
2 large egg yolks
To make cake, preheat oven to 325° F. and butter and flour a 12-inch spring-form cake pan.
In a bowl with an electric mixer beat together butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy. Split vanilla bean lengthwise. Scrape seeds from pod and add to butter mixture. Beat in whole eggs and egg yolks 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and fold in flour and cornmeal. Pour batter into pan and bake cake in middle of oven 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until golden. Release springform edge, and cool completely. Transfer cake to a large platter.
To make compote, place frozen berries in a bowl. Sprinkle with sugar, and douse in grappa. Allow to sit while cake bakes.
To make mascarpone cream, in a bowl with an electric mixer beat mascarpone and cream until mixture holds soft peaks.
Slice cake and top with mascarpone cream and a spoonful of berries. Serve.