Over and over again, I'm drawn to crunch. That corner of the brownie pan with its crusty bits? I have my eye on it. The crackly top of baked lasagna? Oh yeah, it's mine. Crispy crunchy baked potato skins with crackling cheese on top? Pass them this way. Do I have a problem? Cornmeal is a great way to add crunch to a baked good, so naturally I'm particularly fond of it.
I made these cakes late one night when I was home alone, futzing around the kitchen, looking for something sweet. I picked out the cornmeal for crunch, chose olive oil for the unique flavor and how easy it is to use during baking, some egg yolks leftover from another project, sugar and a splash of booze because, why the hell not? And voila, a cake recipe was born. I used these great non-stick molds I bought at E. Dehilirin in Paris, which makes them perfect snack cake size. Happy midnight snacking!
Olive Oil Cornmeal Cakes
Being the daughter of Southerners, I'm kind of picky about my cornmeal. Too coarse a grind of cornmeal and these would be unpleasant too eat, too fine a grind and they lose some of their characteristic crunch. I'm partial to Anson Mills brand. If you use Bob's Red Mill their standard cornmeal is too coarse, I would pulse it a few times in a coffee grinder.
6 egg yolks (or 3 whole eggs)
1 cup sugar
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons amaretto
zest of 1 lemon
1 cup flour
1 cup medium-grind cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon each baking powder and baking soda
powdered sugar, for dusting
equipment: silicone cake mold pan
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Grease molds with a neutral oil.
2. Combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, soda, and salt in a small bowl.
3. In a large bowl, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until they are thick, lightened in color, and form ribbons when drizzled from the whisk. Beat in the olive oil and the amaretto. Zest the lemon into the bowl. Stir in the flour in a few swift strokes, combining just so that no white streaks remain, but do not overbeat.
4. Pour batter into the molds, filling about 2/3 of the way full. Bake 25-35 minutes, until golden and a cake tester comes out clean. Baking time can vary greatly depending on the size of your cakes and material of your pan, so keep an eye on them and use your judgment.
5. Let cakes cool for 5-10 minutes before gently removing them from the molds. Cool on a cooling rack. When cool, dust with powdered sugar if desired.