Brown butter is an amazing flavor addition for this cake, adding a richness and depth to the cornmeal. However, you can replace the 1/2 cup of brown butter with 1/2 cup of clarified butter, or another cooking oil. You can not melt 1/2 cup of butter and add that. Butter is up 20 percent water by weight, so what you are really adding within the 1/2 cup of liquid is about 1/3 a cup of butter oil mixed with water and milk solids. So either take the time to clarify or brown the butter, or add another cooking oil like canola or olive oil.
When choosing the cornmeal, I look for a fine ground cornmeal that still has a little tooth to it, not a corn flour. You can use any grade cornmeal from the fine grain I choose to the coarse pollenta cut, depending on the amount of tooth you want in your cake.
Fresh rosemary is an essential addition to this cake, so do find some rather than using the dry rosemary in your spice collection. 5 people on my block alone have thriving rosemary bushes in their yards, and all have been happy to share a few sprigs with me when I need.
Rosemary Scented Cornmeal Cake
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown butter
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
1 cup cake flour
1 cup milk
2 tbsp finely chopped rosemary
1 tbsp paking powder
Preheat oven to 390 degrees farenheit, 200 degrees celcius
- Place the milk and rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, remove from heat, and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the cornmeal in a bowl with enough room to hold both the cornmeal and the milk. When 10 minutes have passed, bring the milk back to a simmer, and pour over the cornmeal, stirring to make a “mush”.
- Place the egg yolks and sugar in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a kitchenaid.. Using a whisk, whip the two ingredients until they pale in color, and thicken enough to form a ribbon when let to drip from the whisk. While whisking continuously, begin adding the brown butter in a slow stream until it is entirely incorporated.
- Scrape the sides of the bowl clean, and add the cornmeal mush to the bowl. Stir with a spatua until the mixture is an even consistancy.
- Sift the flour and baking powder, and carefully fold this into the cornmeal batter. Set aside for a moment.
- With a very clean whisk and large bowl with enough room to hold both the whites and cornmeal batter, whisk the egg whites and salt until they hold soft peaks. Transfer the cornmeal batter from the mixing bowl to the bowl with the egg whites. Using a large spatula, carefully fold the egg whites into the batter just until they dissapear.
- Transfer the batter to a 9 inch round cake pan that has been greased and lined with parchment. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until the cake springs back when pressed in the center. Allow to cool before removing the cake from the pan.
- When the cake is cool, wrap it in plastic wrap well, and chill it in the refrigerator overnight. This process tightens the crumb, and stales the cake a tiny bit, which allows us to brush it with a rosemary syrup before layering it.