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The Perfect Cake

Recipe to Make Now:

Cornmeal Cake with Apricot-Bay Compote

Why This Recipe Works

This delicate, fragrant cornmeal cake features a fruit compote with a unique flavor profile, and it’s a welcome finish to an elegant summer dinner or a treat on the brunch table. Toasting the cornmeal boosted its flavor, allowing us to use a relatively small amount in proportion to the flour; this helped keep the cake light and tender without compromising its sweet, nutty corn flavor. While the cake layers baked and cooled, we made a sweet, tangy, and aromatic compote from dried apricots, bay leaves, honey, and vanilla. Pureeing the mixture in the food processor ensured a smooth cake filling. We topped the cake with a simple, vanilla-scented whipped cream and a handful of chopped pistachios for textural interest.

Serves 8 to 10

We do not recommend using medium- or coarse-ground cornmeal in this recipe.

CAKE
½ cup (2½ ounces) cornmeal
1 cup (5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup whole milk
1 large egg plus 1 large yolk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) sugar

COMPOTE
1 cup water
3 tablespoons honey
2 large bay leaves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup dried apricots, halved

TOPPING
Whipped Cream (recipe follows)
3 tablespoons shelled pistachios, chopped

1. FOR THE CAKE: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9‐inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper, grease parchment, and flour pans. Toast cornmeal in 10‐inch skillet over medium heat until fragrant, stirring frequently, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to large bowl and let cool slightly.

2. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into cornmeal. Whisk milk, sugar, melted butter, and egg and yolk in second bowl until smooth. Whisk milk mixture into flour mixture until smooth.

3. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans and smooth tops with rubber spatula. Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 14 to 16 minutes, switching and rotating pans halfway through baking. Let cakes cool in pans on wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pans, discarding parchment, and let cool completely on rack, about 1 hour.

4. FOR THE COMPOTE: Bring water, honey, bay leaves, and vanilla to boil in medium saucepan over medium‐high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until honey has dissolved, about 3 minutes. Stir in apricots and return to boil. Reduce heat to medium‐low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit is plump and tender and liquid has reduced by half, about 30 minutes. Discard bay leaves.

5. Transfer apricot mixture to food processor and process until smooth, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Transfer apricot mixture to bowl and set aside to cool.

6. Place 1 cake layer, bottom side up, on cake platter. Spread apricot compote evenly over top, right to edge of cake. Top with second cake layer, bottom side up, and press lightly to adhere. Spread whipped cream evenly over top of cake. Sprinkle with pistachios and serve immediately.


Whipped Cream

Makes about 2 cups

1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Using stand mixer fitted with whisk, whip cream, sugar, and vanilla on medium-low speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase speed to high and whip until soft peaks form, 1 to 3 minutes. (Whipped cream can be refrigerated in fine-mesh strainer set over small bowl and covered with plastic wrap for up to 8 hours.

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