vanilla citrus cornmeal cake with poached clementines

vanilla citrus cornmeal cake with poached clementines // brooklyn supper
Observing a person’s cake preferences is akin to peering into the very depths of their soul. Some people, for instance, appear to be impressed by a cake that is covered in impenetrable layers of marzipan has had the hands of about twenty bakers on it and looks very much like a 2013 Chevrolet Camaro. Some people will spend thousands of dollars on a cake like this and others will watch television shows about bakers who make such cakes. Those people–people who prefer the artifice of a well-decorated cake to the taste–are alien to me, not the least for the amount of time they have to waste. Spending hours making a cake look like a golf bag makes as much sense as spending the same time trying to make a golf bag taste like a cake. A cake is for eating, people!

vanilla citrus cornmeal cake with poached clementines // brooklyn suppervanilla citrus cornmeal cake with poached clementines // brooklyn supper vanilla-poached clementines // brooklyn supper
I hope my commitment to cake as first and foremost an object to be eaten will lead you to believe me when I say that this vanilla citrus cornmeal cake with poached clementines is a cake you will want to eat. Cornmeal cakes are a favorite of mine when I’m in the mood for something homey and simple. And that was a definitely the mood I was in Sunday when I’d just returned to my family from four days at a conference in chilly Salt Lake City. This humble cake was the perfect vehicle for the tang and sweetness of the poached clementines and vanilla, and absorbed the poaching liquid nicely for a texture that reminded me of a rum cake.

clementines and vanilla beans // brooklyn supper

The recipe yields more poached clementines than you’ll need, so save them in fridge to mix with yogurt or serve over ice cream later.

Vanilla Citrus Cornmeal Cake with Poached Clementines

for the vanilla poached clementines (adapted from Martha Stewart)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 clementines, zested, peeled, and divided into segments

Heat the water and sugar over medium-high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the vanilla bean and seeds, balsamic, and clementine segments, turn heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and set aside while the liquid cools completely.

for the clementine cornmeal cake (adapted from Simply Recipes)
butter, for greasing the pan
3/4 cup sugar
4 inch segment of vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1/2 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup finely-ground cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons reserved clementine zest

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Liberally butter a 9 inch square baking pan and set aside.

In a small bowl, rub the scraped vanilla seeds into the sugar so that the tiny seeds are well-distributed throughout the sugar.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the vanilla sugar, olive oil, eggs, and white wine. Fold in the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sea salt, and zest.

Spoon batter into prepared baking pan. Slide into oven and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the center is set, the edges are golden, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached.

Cool cake for 20 minutes, run a knife around the edges, invert, and then invert again, so that the top of the cake faces up. Cool for 30 more minutes.

Before serving, spoon the clementine poaching liquid and poached clementines over the top, slice, and serve.


  1. lizzie says

    looks amazing (and I might put a little liqueur in w the poaced clementines) — don’t you need to worry about little pits on the clementines?

    • says

      Hi Lizzie, I think liquor with the poaching liquid would be quite nice! And there were just a few seeds in my clementines, but if it’s a concern, you could cut a little sliver in the center and squeeze the seeds out.

  2. says

    What a gorgeous cake! Way to put those fussy cakes to shame with something rustic and perfect. That pic of the clementines in the syrup, whoa, so pretty.

  3. says

    I couldn’t agree more with you! I want my cakes to be packed full of flavor! Who cares if it’s an exact replica of the car from Grease? Give me gooey oozy flavor any day of the week.

  4. says

    I just barely got to meet you at Alt but saved your card! Your blog is lovely. I also try and focus on seasonal ingredients. This citrus cake sounds like one I would devour!! I’ll be adding your posts to my seasonal recipe list that I put up at the first of the month. Happy blogging!

    • says

      Hi Becky, I so wish we had more time to chat, but it was such a busy time for all of us! Thanks so much for adding the cake to your seasonal recipe list. I love your blog too, and am really looking forward to following your culinary adventures!

  5. says

    Oh, YES. I am so very over the over-processed, over-food colored fake-y cakes. Plus underneath all the fondant, I find that those fanciful creations tend to not taste very good. What’s the point? But this cake is EVERYTHING: cornmeal, syrup-y clementines… what a lovely, simple, perfect winter cake. It looks beautiful too– naturally beautiful.


  1. […] Gluten-free baking can be difficult. For me, it usually takes extra grocery shopping, extra precision, and extra focus, which (hello, fibro fog) I’m a little short on these days. So, this Easter, I ordered a gluten-free pound cake to be baked at local Cherbourg Bakery. I had my husband pick it up, and then I made this crazy-easy, delicious vanilla-clementine topping recipe. […]

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