I feel so blessed to be food allergy free. I
can eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Makes eating out and just cooking in
general so easy. I have quite a few family members and
friends who aren’t so lucky. Whilst there is a variety of allergies I sometimes
have to cater for, the most common one is gluten. Unfortunately for those friends, the gluten intolerance and allergy generates fairly full-on,
sometimes hospital inducing reactions. It’s a little more serious for them than
the discomfort that some gluten-avoiders get, so every single ingredient needs
to be gluten free.
At a recent cousins catch-up Lance and I
hosted, I needed to make a gluten-free cake. Now, because I am fine to eat
everything, I don’t buy gluten-free flour, and I didn’t want to buy some
especially for the occasion. Which led to a decision – make my own gluten-free
flour out of things I do buy, like buckwheat flour, rice flour, chick pea
flour, or go flourless? I decided to go flourless. This cake does call for
gluten free baking powder, which I have as a default. You can leave it out
altogether if you need it gluten free and don’t want to buy new baking powder.
The cake is already a dense style, so it’s not especially missed, just make
sure the whole thing is well beaten whilst mixing.
The pink grapefruit that we planted when we
first moved in has had it’s first fruit-bearing season, and I wanted to make a
citrusy cake to celebrate this fact. I love pink grapefruit so much! Tart and
tangy and refreshing. So good! And seeing as our basil plant clearly hasn’t
been informed that it’s actually winter now, and is still growing like crazy
and given the success of a previous lime and basil cake (for a cousins catch-up
on my side of the family), my flavour profile was decided. I didn’t have enough
almonds to make an almond meal cake, so I adapted Nigella’s Lemon Polenta Cake, which uses a mixture of polenta and almonds, and is drizzled with a lemon
syrup to make a wonderfully moist cake.
Just because I wanted to show off, I added a
toasted meringue icing, also grapefruit and basil flavoured. The cake doesn’t
really need the icing – but I figure, if you’re making a cake for an event, you
might as well go all out, right? Go big, or go home!
Flourless Grapefruit and Basil Cake with Toasted Meringue
200g unsalted butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
6 large basil leaves
2 cups almond meal
¾ cup fine polenta (cornmeal)
Zest 1 pink grapefruit
Juice of the pink grapefruit above
½ cup icing sugar
6 large basil leaves
Preheat oven to 180C. Spray the sides of a 23cm springform cake tin with cooking spray and line the base with baking paper. I like to allow a little overhang, then clip the base into the ring to secure it.
In a coffee/spice grinder, finely grind the basil leaves with half of the caster sugar. Add the basil sugar, remaining sugar and butter into the bowl of a standmixer and beat on high until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine the almond meal, polenta and baking powder. Turn the mixer down to low/medium and add 1 egg, then 1/3 of the dry mixture. Alternate the egg and dry mixture for the remaining 2 eggs and polenta. When this is fully combined, beat in the grapefruit zest.
Scrape the mixture into the cake tin, and bake for around 40 minutes. The top will be a little golden, and will be pulling away from the edges a little. Place the cake tin on a cooling rack. Don’t remove the cake yet.
Just before the cake is done baking, bring the icing sugar and grapefruit juice to the boil in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar fully dissolves. Remove from the heat and add the basil leaves. Stir well, then set aside to infuse for 5 minutes. Remove the leaves
When the cake is out, prick all over the top gently with a cake tester (or thin toothpick). Pour the warm syrup over the cake. Leave it to soak in and cool in the tin.
Whilst the cake cools, make the meringue icing
Pink Grapefruit and Basil Toasted Meringue Icing
2 egg whites, at room temperature
½ cup caster sugar
Pinch cream of tartar
Juice of 1 grapefruit
Handful of basil leaves
Get ready by wetting a pastry brush and placing the eggwhites in a clean bowl of your standmixer, and attaching the whisk attachment. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of a pot large enough that the end will be submerged in the liquid, but not touching the bottom of the pan.
Place the grapefruit juice in a measuring cup and add water to make it up to 100mL. Add this, the sugar and the basil leaves to a medium pot and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat to medium and carefully remove the basil leaves.
Brush down sugar crystals with the wet brush. Continue heating the syrup until it reaches 115C, this will take around 10 minutes. Leave it on the heat, but start whisking the eggwhites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks form.
Keep an eye on the thermometer, and when it reaches 120C, take it off the heat, increase the speed of the mixer to high and slowly pour the syrup in a thin, steady stream down the side (avoid it touching the whisk). When all of the syrup is incorporated, lower the speed to medium and continue beating until it’s cooled to room temperature and the meringue is thick and glossy.
Spread the meringue over the cake with a spatula, deliberately creating peaks and swirls. Fire up your mini-blow torch and gently brown the edges of the meringue swirls, being careful not to let it burn.