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Tuesday 4th March 2008

Spiced Fig Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Orange Blossom Syrup

Spiced Fig Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Orange Blossom Syrup

Spiced Fig Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Orange Blossom Syrup

It’s Paperchef time again and this month’s randomly selected ingredients are…

  1. chilli
  2. polenta
  3. pistachio

together with our Paperchef host Ilva’s chosen theme of flowers, being that it’s now officially Spring in the northern hemisphere. I guess that, in turn, makes it officially Autumn here downunder, sigh!

After Ilva kindly alerted me to the new round and the list of ingredients, my mind immediately started churning over all the possibilities. At first I started thinking of a bean chilli topped with a polenta crust… “but how would I incorporate the flower theme?”, I thought to myself.

“Hmm… I guess I could, I suppose, purchase some sort of flower shaped vessel to serve it in?!”

“Ok, what if I was to fill some zucchini blossoms with chilli and coat them in a polenta batter and fry them…, mmm I like that better… but finding the zucchini blossoms will be a bit of an ask now it’s later in the season.”

Spiced Fig Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Orange Blossom Syrup

“Hold on! I wonder if can I turn it into a dessert?! - Everybody loves a dessert! and I get far more comments for desserts or baking!”

“…lets see, I could make a spiced polenta biscuit / cookie and serve it with some poached fruits with rose water and mascarpone?! No - that’s too similar to the Vanilla Roasted Stonefruits and Brioche I did recently. Mmm thinking… thinking. How about some polenta pancakes, or “hot cakes” with the added chili, hehe, that’s cool.. I mean that’s hot! - but no… I’ve posted about crêpes recently too!”

“Oh yes I know… I’ve got it!… A Cake!… A Spiced Fig and Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Orange Blossom Syrup!”

Spiced Fig Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Orange Blossom Syrup

“Yes that will be perfect, I can spice the polenta cake batter with the chilli, some mixed spice and cinnamon. Figs would be gorgeous with that and they scream the warmth of exotic Persia along with Pistachios, and then soaked with a sweet golden syrup with just a touch of Orange Blossom water for my take on the flower theme.”

“I absolutely love this idea and I’m in love with this cake!!”

Yes it’s true, from it’s first conception, I was so excited with my take on the ingredients, before I’d even made, let alone tasted the cake! And I’m so glad to report that on tasting my cake this evening, I wasn’t let down. I’m even more in love and bursting to share it with all of you!

I do hope you love it too!

Spiced Fig Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Orange Blossom Syrup

  • Spiced Fig Polenta Cake with Pistachio and Orange Blossom Syrup
  • 2 tablespoons of demerara or raw sugar
  • 15 or so dried figs sliced (you could use fresh ones too!)
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups of caster sugar
  • 2/3 cup of olive oil
  • 2/3 cup of white wine
  • 1 1/4 cups of plain white flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of instant polenta
  • For the syrup:
  • 1 cup of caster sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • the juice and grated zest of 1/2 an orange
  • 1/2 teaspoon of orange blossom water, less is more with this potent ingredient!
  • 1/4 cup of shelled pistachios, chopped
  1. Preheat your oven to 160 deg C.
  2. Line and grease a 22 cm round springform cake pan.
  3. Sprinkle the demerara sugar evenly over the base of your cake pan and arrange enough figs to cover well with a few gaps between.
  4. Whisk the eggs and caster sugar until very pale and thick.
  5. Continue beating while gently pouring in the olive oil slowly, until well combined. Repeat with the wine.
  6. Sift the flour, baking powder,salt and spices together to combine and add them with the instant polenta to the beaten egg mixture.
  7. Gently fold through the egg mixture, ensuring there are no clumps of flour but that the runny mixture is still fairly light and airy.
  8. Pour the cake batter over the figs in the prepared cake pan.
  9. Bake for 50 minutes or until a test with a skewer comes out clean.
  10. Meanwhile, make the syrup by heating and stirring the sugar and water until it dissolves.
  11. Boil the mixture for 8 minutes, or until it begins to thicken and lightly caramelise.
  12. Remove from the heat and add the orange juice and zest. Be very careful here as the sugar will tend to splatter some.
  13. Allow to cool a little more and add the orange blossom water, stir to combine.
  14. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 5 minutes before inverting onto a serving platter, sprinkle with chopped pistachios and spoon over the warm syrup to serve.
  15. Serves 8

Update: Ilva has posted up the roundup overnight so go check out the other entries and if you think my cake is worthy of an award please vote for me….thanks heaps!



  1. Great entry, wish it was mine ;) It looks delcious!

    linda — Tuesday 4th March 2008 9:53 am

  2. That is totally out of site fantastic! I’m thinking much to literally I see.
    I love polenta cakes! Well done Bron!

    MyKitchenInHalfCups — Tuesday 4th March 2008 10:37 am

  3. Your cake looks fantastic, I went down the sweet route too and made ice cream. Also, I am really excited to discover other NZ bloggers.

    Kai — Tuesday 4th March 2008 8:53 pm

  4. I love polenta and have only ever made savory ones with the exception of a blueberry polenta cake. This looks very delicious and as always, the photography is top notch! Cheers!

    The Culinary Chase — Tuesday 4th March 2008 11:28 pm

  5. That event is so interesting, Bron! And your entry is superb.

    Patricia Scarpin — Wednesday 5th March 2008 3:19 am

  6. this looks divine! Is instant polenta the same as cornmeal? Would the texture be much different if I used it?

    tori lo — Wednesday 5th March 2008 8:35 am

  7. Bron,
    This cake sound very good to me! Especially this pistachio and orange syrup… delicious!
    Have a good week, Margot

    Coffee and Vanilla — Wednesday 5th March 2008 9:51 am

  8. wow this looks delicous! orange AND pistachio! mmm

    Bev — Wednesday 5th March 2008 10:15 am

  9. This cake is something I really would love to try…all of these Middle-Eastern/North African flavours in one cake…it sounds perfect!

    Ali — Wednesday 5th March 2008 12:58 pm

  10. Superb! What’s not to like?

    aforkfulofspaghetti — Wednesday 5th March 2008 10:40 pm

  11. It’s true…you do get more comments with baking. I often shy away from polenta because of the texture but I am very intrigued by your cake. I’ll have to give it another shot. Beautiful presentation!

    Ginny — Thursday 6th March 2008 1:56 am

  12. Oh, that’s so creative! I love it!

    Anne — Thursday 6th March 2008 7:00 am

  13. Bron, that’s such an original and pretty cake! Just voted. ;)

    Suzana — Thursday 6th March 2008 7:51 am

  14. Thank you Linda!

    Hi Tanna, thank you, the polenta gives cakes a lovely texture

    Hi Kai, thank you it’s super to “meet” you also

    Thank you Culinary C’ blueberry polenta cake sounds amazing, I’ll have to try that!

    Hi Patricia, it’s a fun event for sure, thank you

    Hi Tori Lo, - instant polenta is cornmeal yes, however as cornmeal only comes very coarse, or very fine (as in flour) in NZ, it’s important to look for a “medium coarseness” or something labelled “polenta or better instant polenta”. Coarse cornmeal will be too gritty in this particular cake. I hope this is of some help, unfortunately I only know what is available and how it is labelled here in NZ, I realise it can all be very confusing!! Thank you for your question!

    Thanks heaps Margot, you enjoy the rest of your week too!

    Thank you Bev!

    Thanks Ali, yes they’re amazing flavours and we really enjoyed it, my J and our girls immediately asked for a second slice, which is always a good confirmation!!

    Hi ’spaghetti, thank you!

    Hi Ginny, we are the same, tending to shy away from polenta as J isn’t fond of the texture either, but in cake well it’s very different, hehe… thanks for your lovely comment!

    Thank you Anne!

    Hi Suzana, thank you so much!

    Thank you all so very much, I adore receiving and reading your comments, thanks again for all your support!!

    bron — Thursday 6th March 2008 9:55 am

  15. I’ve never had a cake made of polenta before. I am encouraged to try making one.

    Cynthia — Thursday 6th March 2008 1:59 pm

  16. what a briliant idea, Bron!!

    arfi — Thursday 6th March 2008 7:21 pm

  17. I have to try this… I love floral waters (it’s a toss-up between orange blossom water and rose water for me) and chilies. I would never have thought of serving them in the same dish.

    Fearless Kitchen — Friday 7th March 2008 4:47 pm

  18. I do believe you have just incorporated every one of my favorite foods into your luscious cake. Well, except for pizza, but I won’t hold that against you.

    Susan from Food Blogga — Saturday 8th March 2008 6:37 am

  19. Hi Bron,
    Love the polenta cake and coconut tarts.
    Beautiful presentation

    vineela — Saturday 8th March 2008 7:05 am

  20. Mmm, that looks delicious!! You always come up with the greatest ideas.

    Anna — Saturday 8th March 2008 12:32 pm

  21. Polenta cakes with syrups are the death of my hips!! Very creative!

    Tartelette — Saturday 8th March 2008 3:21 pm

  22. This looks lovely. I do love polenta as an ingredient and its great to see it used in such a delicious looking cake!

    kiriel — Sunday 9th March 2008 5:46 am

  23. This looks absolutely amazing. I’ve never tried polenta in a sweet dish–you’ve given me something to think about, especially with these flavours…


    jasmine — Monday 10th March 2008 3:20 pm

  24. Bron,

    I wouldn’t have thought a sweet cake w/ olive oil and wine would be good but you’ve changed my mind.

    Bruno — Tuesday 11th March 2008 8:19 am

  25. Thank you for all your kind words everyone

    bron — Saturday 15th March 2008 5:05 pm

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