Orange Polenta & Chestnut Cream Cake with Dark Chocolate Glaze...

This has been a weekend just as I like it: a Saturday spent hunting down vintage props for a client shoot this week, a stroll in the park followed by some baking on Sunday. Time relaxing on the sofa with hot tea and the wood burner on, and - don't tell anyone, it's my guilty pleasure - some pure escapism tv in the shape of Gilmore Girls on Netflix... It's been a perfect November weekend. Rain one day, sunshine the next, early evenings, candlelight and just the right balance between busy and chilled. Whilst I'm no advocate for being busy at all times, that is exactly what keeps me from thinking too much as it's during what should be a relaxing few hours that I find my brain rattling through things that I successfully push aside at other times. 

It was this weekend then that I yet again found myself in equal measures angry, hurt, sad and bitter about a situation I got myself into. I have let somebody take advantage of me, let them use my knowledge and profit from it without a single acknowledgement that I've done 90% of the work and brought all the essential materials to the table. By the time I realised what was happening, I was already committed and had no choice but to run with it. I bit my tongue. I swallowed my pride. I carried on with a smile. I told myself I'm overreacting and that that person is very nice and surely at some point there would be a 'thank you, I couldn't have done it without you'. Only, there wasn't. It took me right back to my school days: the uncool kid that people tolerate because they can copy their homework from him/her but who never gets that 'thank you' or invited to the birthday parties. The useful idiot doing all the essential work in the background without which the project would never have worked only for the boss to take the credit and glory. 

This experience has put me in a place I didn't want to be in and made me think the way the kind of person thinks that I would dislike myself. It's made me bitter and it's made me question how we perceive success through social media. It has made me rethink the difference between authentic knowledge and simply copying whatever is successful. This thinking goes right back to the beginning of my freelance career: it took me a very long time to say "I'm a photographer and stylist" because I felt I needed to back it up with experience and knowledge. Equally, I am only prepared to take people's money for jobs where I know I can deliver the goods. I know what I can and can't do. I know that whilst there are things that might be great for some extra cash, if I don't have the relevant knowledge for the job I will stay away from it. I don't want to risk clients feeling they've paid for something but didn't get much in return. 

So I'm now dealing with my own sadness over this whole situation. And that's essentially what it is: my own feelings and something I need to deal with and get over. I would like to think that they will subside soon and that I will be able to just see all the good aspects in that person, but at the same time I feel that so much time has passed and opportunities have been missed that I'm not sure how to come back from it. All the talk about community and likeminded people developing friendships seems very hollow right now. I would like to be proven wrong, but maybe I need to toughen up and just accept that there will always be people who are just looking for their own advancement and I was that useful idiot. It makes me sad to think that, but that what it feels like right now... 

So, after all my ramblings, onto the cake because baking is a great distraction from everything. And you get to eat it which is a bonus. I baked this polenta-orange cake with gluten-free flour because I have discovered some time ago that I seem to have developed an intolerance to gluten. Now, I know, I know, it sounds phoney and like I'm jumping onto some fashionable food bandwagon. And don't worry, I'm not about to cause a scene in a restaurant or at your dinner party. It's an intolerance that manifests itself through stomach cramps, extreme bloating and whole days spent in a tired "fog" unable to feel awake or concentrate. Eating gluten won't kill me (hence I'd never mention it at a dinner party), but not eating it makes me feel a whole lot better. Besides, who needs that stuff when there's chocolate involved? 


You will need two 20cm, loose-bottomed baking tins and a sugar thermometer. 

For the cake (adapted from BBC Good Food):

  • 250g unsalted butter plus extra for greasing the tins
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 140g polenta
  • 200g gluten-free, self-raising flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • zest and juice of two medium/large oranges

For the cream:

  • 400g mascarpone cheese
  • 500g sweetened chestnut purée

For the glaze:

  • 90ml double cream
  • 90ml water
  • 30g cocoa powder
  • 80g caster sugar
  • 2 gelatine leaves

How it's done:

The cake:

  • preheat the oven to 160C and grease the tins with butter
  • mix the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, this will take a good 10 minutes
  • now add the eggs one by one, whisking for 2 minutes between each addition
  • mix the polenta, flour and baking powder and put through a sieve
  • add the polenta/flour mix spoon by spoon to the egg mix whilst continuously mixing
  • add the orange zest and juice
  • mix all the ingredients are completely combined
  • divide the batter equally between the two tins
  • bake for 45-50 minutes until a skewer/cake tester comes out clean
  • once done, leave the cakes to cool

The cream filling:

  • one step: fold the chestnut purée into the mascarpone until combined
  • put into the fridge to rest
  • once the cakes are completely cooled, put about 1/3 of the cream onto one of them, spread it with a palette knife and put the second cake on top
  • now cover the whole cake with the cream smoothing it with the palette knife until you achieve an even coat 

The chocolate glaze:

  • put the cream, water and sugar into a small saucepan
  • sift the cocoa and add to the pan
  • put the pan onto a low heat and stir continuously until the sugar and cocoa are dissolved
  • turn the heat up to medium and bring the cream to a boil
  • whilst still stirring, simmer for 2-3 minutes
  • take the cream off the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes
  • put the two gelatine leaves into cold water and leave to soak for 5 minutes
  • once the cream has cooled, squeeze out the gelatine leaves and add to the cream
  • stir until gelatine is dissolved
  • leave the cream to cool down to 38C before pouring it through a fine sieve into a jug
  • take the cake out of the fridge and pour the glaze over it
  • leave to rest and set for 30 minutes before adding any other decorations