The first step is to poach the apricots. You cut them in half, remove the pits, and place in them in saucepan with water, sugar, honey, a vanilla bean, a cinnamon stick, and lemon juice. You bring the apricots to a simmer and poach them until they "are very soft, to the point of extreme softness, but not quite to the point of complete collapse." You remove the fruit and drain it, and then return the poaching liquid to the pot and reduce it to a medium-thick syrup.
The cake batter is very quick to put together. You simply stir together cornmeal, brown sugar, flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, and cut in cold butter. Then you work in a couple of eggs with your fingers until you get a moist and crumbly mixture. You press half of the cornmeal mixture in a greased springform pan and press it down firmly. Then you spoon on the apricots, crumble the remaining cornmeal mixture over the fruit, drizzle a little syrup on top, and bake.
The syrup is sweet and almost floral, with the wonderful warm flavor of honey and vanilla. Daley suggests serving any leftover syrup with pancakes, oatmeal, or over ice cream or fresh apricots.
This cake alone was very tasty, and with the syrup, it was pretty amazing. I usually don't like the gritty texture of cornmeal in desserts because it gives me the sensation of eating small pebbles. But in this cake, the texture totally works. The top layer of cake batter is very crunchy, so the grit magnifies its wonderful texture. If anything, I wish I had drizzled on more syrup before baking, because the spots that had syrup on them baked into the crunchiest parts of the cake. While the flavor of the poached apricots is wonderful, I wouldn't say they were the star of the cake; that honor would have to go to either the cornmeal or the syrup.
I definitely plan to make this again when I have ripe apricots on hand. As Daley says, "Make this during the precious apricot season (June into July); the other eleven months of the year you can just fantasize about it!"
Recipe: "Honey-Poached Apricot Cornmeal Crunch Cake" from In the Sweet Kitchen: the Definitive Baker's Companion by Regan Daley.
- "Telly Monster Would Approve: Hamantaschen," March 7, 2012.
- "Post-Thanksgiving Baking: Rosemary Apricot Squares," November 29, 2010.
- "Jumping the Gun on Summer: Apricot-Marzipan Tart," May 23, 2010.