Shhhh, don't tell the kids …Eggplant Cornmeal Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting contains eggplant. The eggplant in this delicious cake adds nutrients and well as moisture … the whipped frosting is easy, light, and fresh
The making of Eggplant Cornmeal Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting
Do you remember the first time you had zucchini bread?
Or carrot cake?
I remember thinking it odd that they didn't taste at all like the vegetable. As a matter of fact, they were moist and tender and sweet. The fruit, or vegetable, only added moisture. But otherwise was not a major flavor factor.
So when I got to the end of my summer garden and had these beautiful eggplants left, I wanted to do something different and sweet with them.
Why not a cake?
Why NOT a cake?
There wasn't a lot online for eggplant cakes. But I had recently purchased a cookbook called The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini, and so I thought let's see what she has in it for eggplant. Could she have a recipe for an eggplant cake?
I made it as she wrote it, then I made it as I wanted it.
This is my version of her Honeyed Eggplant Polenta Cake with Orange Mascarpone Frosting.
Mine is easier.
Mine is better.
Of course, I might be a little prejudiced.
But only a little as I made hers too, and still liked mine better.
So let's start, with the eggplant.
Eggplant, like people, come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. Most common is the Globe, that big round ball of flesh you make Eggplant Parmigiana with. Then there are the Chinese and Japanese varieties, long and slender, great for stir-frys ad perfect for my Quick Spicy Thai Style Eggplant. More difficult to find are those heirloom varieties; Fairy Tale, Snowy White, Rosa Bianca. All beautiful, delicious, and healthy.
The many health benefits of eggplants come from their vitamin, mineral, and nutrient content. Eggplants are a rich source of vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, thiamin, niacin, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, dietary fiber, folic acid, potassium, and manganese. Good benefits to add to a cake, don't you think?
But eggplant can turn nasty in a pretty quick time, turning bitter, soggy, with hard seeds. Not so yum, So regardless of the variety buy fruit that is shiny and firm. Smaller is generally better (sweeter) than large, but if it's fresh, it's all good. Growing them in the garden is the BEST.
For this recipe, I recommend Japanese eggplant or small globes. I used a combination of the two, but as stated above, I grew them.
The Making of the Eggplant Puree
We are going to saute the eggplant low and slow over a medium-low flame. You want it to caramelize to add a great depth of flavor. In the original recipe, the author calls for "peeled" eggplant. I find peeling eggplant to be a PITA as well as removing many of the nutrients. So I didn't, in either test, peel the eggplant.
The original recipe also calls for a scant ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg. I found that lacking so instead I used ½ teaspoon pumpkin spice. Pumpkin spice includes nutmeg, along with clove and cinnamon, all-spice...well, I just think it's a well-rounded spice for cakes, especially those with a fall "pumpkin season" feel.
As I said, I didn't peel my eggplant...
It may have looked "prettier". I say it looks like chocolate, and at the end of the day, it didn't matter.
The Cornmeal Cake
Although many people call coarse cornmeal "polenta" Polenta is a dish. Not an ingredient. The original recipe called for ⅔ cup polenta (coarse cornmeal) which I found made the cake a little too crunchy. While I don't mind a bit of tooth to my cake, I thought it to be overly grainy. So I used ⅓ cup fine cornmeal and ⅓ cup coarse cornmeal in my cake and found that to have the best of both worlds. My taste testers agreed. However, if you prefer more crunch, use more coarse cornmeal. If you like a lighter, more traditional style cake, use all fine cornmeal.
How Big is a Large Egg?
This recipe uses 2 large eggs at room temperature. Since I have chickens, I use my backyard chicken eggs. Of course, my chickens have failed to read the fine print of what the size requirement of a large egg is. I discovered this when I made a couple of baked goods that I had made previously with less than stellar moistness. So into investigation mode, I went.
The inside of a standard large egg, with the yolk, is 1.75 ounces - so two large eggs would = 3.5 ounces. My eggs came up short, by about ½ of a whole egg. I solved this by adding an additional egg white. Not the yolk, but just the white. The yolk is saved for another day. You can even freeze egg yolks. Or make a really nice hollandaise sauce.
But the bottom line is, if using eggs of varying sizes, go by weight, not number.
I admit I'm a pretty experienced cook. Baking is always a challenge because it's so scientific. But frosting? That should be, pardon my pun, a piece of cake. The original recipe used mascarpone, at room temperature. The instructions then state to beat it with an electric mixer. I did this and got a waxy butter like a curdled mess. I did it again, thinking I did something wrong and got the same result. I was pretty sure it wasn't the mascarpone as I bought it at WholeFoods/Amazon, so it was a fine product and fresh, but it just didn't do what I thought it should.
It looked terrible. And while it tasted ok because she used vanilla extract it lacked any real orange flavor.
So I traded the mascarpone for whipped cream and the vanilla extract for orange extract and got a much better, tastier, and easier result.
I do like easy.
The next time you are faced with an overabundance of eggplant, give this Eggplant Cornmeal Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting a chance. Your friends won't believe it is made with eggplant - and you don't have to tell them if you don't want to - especially the kids. What a sneaky way to get them to eat their vegetables.
Eggplant Cornmeal Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting
Eggplant Cornmeal Cake with Whipped Orange Frosting
- For the Eggplant Puree
- 4 tablespoons ½ stick unsalted butter
- 1 pound eggplant cut into a 1 inch dice (about 4 cups)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup honey
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ to 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
- For the Cake
- 8 tablespoons 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature (plus more for greasing the pan)
- 1 cup all-purpose flour plus more for dusting the pan
- ⅔ cup cornmeal or ⅓ cup fine cornmeal and ⅓ cup coarse cornmeal
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup whole milk
- For the Frosting
- 8 ounces heavy cream
- ½ cup confectioner's sugar also known as powdered sugar
- Zest of 1 small orange about 2 teaspoons or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon pure orange extract
- Prepare the Eggplant Puree: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. When it foams add the eggplant and salt, turn the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the eggplant starts to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the honey, water, vanilla extract, and pumpkin spice. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is soft and caramelized. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then place in a food processor or blender and blend until completely smooth. Set aside and let cool.
- Heat the oven to 350¯F.
- Make the Cake: Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan shaking to remove excess flour. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Mix with a whisk.
- In a large bowl beat together the butter and sugar, using a handheld or stand-up mixer, until they are light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until incorporated. Add the vanilla and eggplant mixture, mix well. Add the flour in 2 batches, alternating with the milk, mix until just fully incorporated. Do not over-mix.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a spatula to make the top even, and place it in the middle third of the oven. Bake until the cake starts to pull away from the side and the top is golden brown, about 35-45 minutes. A toothpick, when inserted into the center, should come out clean.
- Set the cake, still in the pan, on a cooling rack and allow to cool for 15 minutes. Invert the cake onto the rack and allow to cool completely.
- Prepare the Frosting: When the cake has cooled, prepare the frosting. Using an electric mixer, or whisk, beat the cream until it just begins to thicken, add the confectioner's sugar and beat until soft peaks form. Add the orange zest and extract. Mix well. Frost the top and sides of the cake, cut and serve. This cake will hold, covered in the refrigerator, for up to 2 days.
Polenta is a nice crunch