Over Memorial Day weekend I had a huge bagful of cherries, the assignment to make dessert for a friend’s barbecue, and no clear idea of what to do. Mom was visiting and we’d already made her signature chocolate cupcakes, but we wanted to do something with the cherries. She found a cherry olive oil polenta cake recipe online that we chose over other cherry-oriented recipes because we had all the ingredients for it in the house and it seemed like a cinch to make—no waiting for butter to soften, no melting ingredients and dirtying a pot!
It was delicious! A bit more like a breakfast/coffee cake than a true dessert cake, but moist and tender and with a nice crumb. We brainstormed what other fruits would be good, given how fleeting the cherry season is. A week or so later, I tried it with a pint of blueberries (but didn’t take a picture). Tasty, very breakfasty, but needed more blueberries (and for my timer to work; that one got a bit overcooked). Jason said that what he liked about the cherries was that the sweetness isn’t so one-dimensional; there’s a bit of a tang. So when Fresh Direct had a sale on pluots (plum-apricot hybrids), I grabbed some and figured I’d give them a shot.
The pluots are moister, and definitely tarter, but I cooked the cake exactly the right amount of time and the result is sublime. I also added a generous sprinkling of raw sugar to the top, which was the right choice.
I’ll try it with straight up apricots, maybe mango, and someday if I can spare pieces for baking instead of eating them immediately, pineapple. At first I wasn’t sure how versatile this recipe would be, and now I am eager to stick all the fruits in there! Try it with whatever you have on hand, and let me know how it comes out!
(Cherry) Olive Oil Polenta Cake
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup extra-virgin extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup polenta or cornmeal
2 1/2 cups fresh fruit (1 lb cherries, pitted / 1.5-2 pints blueberries / 4 pluots, peeled and diced into 1-inch pieces)
Sugar in the raw, for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a 10″ round cake pan with nonstick vegetable spray. I found that cutting a round of parchment and placing that in the pan, then lightly spraying it, was a big help in getting the cake out of the pan cleanly.
In the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium-high until light in color, about 4 minutes. Add vanilla, olive oil, lemon zest, and lemon juice and stir to combine.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, and polenta. Add to egg mixture and mix until combined.
Spread two-thirds of batter into the prepared pan. If you put a round of parchment in, it’ll slide all over the place, but soldier on and you can get the batter spread and the parchment centered. Cover completely with the fruit, pressing in lightly. Spoon and spread the remaining batter over the fruit as best you can. Sprinkle generously with sugar in the raw to make a sweet crust. Bake until top and edges are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 1 hour. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely on rack. Enjoy!