Friday, July 27, 2012

Name day cake

In Greece, we celebrate our name day (ονομαστική εορτή), and mine was last Sunday, the twenty-second of July.

When I was little, I was always disappointed about the fact that my name day was smack in the middle of summer because that meant no party, no gifts and none of my schoolmates calling me up to wish me a happy name day. Everyone was on vacation.

Now, it's not as important. I don't really celebrate it but I take it as an opportunity to treat myself to a good meal and enjoy a decadent dessert, which I usually prefer to make myself.

This year though, my mom visited from Greece especially for my name day and I was extremely happy. And while we were thinking of making an intricate and rather difficult dessert for the occasion, we decided to go on a completely different direction and make something simple and summery. Sometimes, those are the best desserts.

We made a lemon, polenta and yoghurt cake with apricots poached in a vanilla and cardamom syrup, adapted from a recipe by the adorable Australian chef, Bill Granger.

The cake contains sunflower oil instead of butter, something that admittedly made me apprehensive, since I don't particularly enjoy cakes that contain vegetable oil. However, the result was amazing. The cake was light, just perfect for the hot days of July, fluffy, fragrant from the lemon, and pleasantly crunchy from the polenta.

The poached apricots, filled with the aroma of vanilla and the spiciness of cardamom, transform this simple cake into a unique dessert.

I'm treating all of you for my name day. Grab a piece and have a wonderful day!

Lemon, Polenta and Yoghurt Cake with Poached Apricots
Adapted from Bill Granger

It's best to use apricots that are not too ripe, so they don't disintegrate when you poach them. Naturally, the more aromatic and flavorful they are, the more delicious they'll be once cooked.

This dessert is not too sweet and if you enjoy sour flavors in your sweets, you may want to add a little more lemon juice to the apricot poaching liquid.

The great thing about this recipe is that it doesn't require a mixer. You do everything by hand and it's so easy too. Gotta love that.

Yield: 10 servings


for the cake
200 g all-purpose flour
100 g polenta
2 tsp baking powder
2 large eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
200 g soft, light brown sugar
200 g Greek strained yoghurt, full-fat (I use Total)
125 ml sunflower oil
Zest of 1 lemon
50 ml (3½ Tbsp) lemon juice, freshly squeezed

a little butter or sunflower oil (I used butter), for greasing the pan

for the poached apricots
30 ml (2 Tbsp) lemon juice, freshly squeezed
130 g soft, light brown sugar
1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthways
3 cardamom pods, bruised
240 ml tap water
8 apricots, halved and stones removed

Special equipment: round springform pan 22-23 cm in diameter, baking paper, fine sieve


for the cake
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit.

Using butter or sunflower oil, grease the bottom and sides of the springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a round piece of baking paper (see here how to do it) and grease the bottom again.

In a large bowl, add the all-purpose flour, the polenta and the baking powder. Mix well with a wooden spoon.
In a medium-sized bowl, add the lightly beaten eggs and the sugar and beat well with the wooden spoon, until the mixture is light in color. Add the yoghurt, the sunflower oil, the lemon zest and juice and using a whisk, beat well, until the ingredients are well blended.
Add the yoghurt mixture to the flour mixture and whisk gently to combine until there are no lumps. Don't overmix because the cake will become tough instead of fluffy once baked.

Empty the cake mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the back of the wooden spoon. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Remove the pan from the oven, place it on a wire rack and allow the cake to cool in the pan.

for the poached apricots
As the cake bakes, prepare the apricots.

In a medium-sized saucepan, add the lemon juice, the sugar, the vanilla bean, the cardamom pods and the water. Place over medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the prepared apricots, turn heat down to low and simmer for 3-5 minutes or until they just begin to soften. Be careful not to overcook them. You don't want them to become mushy and start to disintegrate. It's best if you stay close to the pan.

Remove the apricots from the saucepan with a slotted spoon and place them on a plate. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove their skins carefully.

Turn heat up to high and boil the poaching liquid for 5 minutes or until it becomes syrupy. Pass the syrup through a fine sieve and discard the vanilla bean and cardamom pods. Allow the syrup to cool completely.

Once the cake has cooled completely, remove it from the pan, peel off the baking paper and place it on a platter or cake stand. Don't invert it on the platter. Place the poached apricots on top and drizzle with the cooled syrup.
Serve cut in wedges.

You can keep the cake covered, at room temperature, for 4-5 days. The poached apricots can be kept in the fridge for 1 week.

The cake, without the poached apricots but just with the syrup, is perfect served for breakfast. Enjoy it!


  1. A belated Xponia Polla Magda, any yummy cake left?

  2. That cake looks amazing--love the beautiful apricots! Happy name day!

  3. Peter — thank you! Nope, nothing left :)

    Eileen — thank you!

  4. Bally Name Day, Magda! I celebrated my first name day in Germany when I was 22 and working there for the summer. It was so much more special to me than my actual birthday. And I still celebrate it to this day. Now, that cake seems amazing - not too sweet and full of flavor. The apricots are a great addition...

  5. Happy Name Day is what I meant to type, but my iPad had different ideas! Sorry! :)

  6. Happy Name Day and thanks for the inspiration! I am making this next!

  7. simple, beautiful, hand-whisked, and not-too-sweet:
    this is my kind of cake.
    I just poached peaches yesterday in a spicy syrup.
    I'd love to try yours, with vanilla and cardamom.
    Glad your mom could celebrate your name day with you.Cheers!

  8. Xronia polla Magda! The cake looks superb and the presence of your mother I am sure made the day even better!

  9. OMG this cake looks more than delicious! I would love this for any celebration!

  10. Thank you all so much for your wishes! I'm glad you like the cake!

  11. Magda, Happy Name Day to you! What a gorgeous cake. I love everything about it. I became a huge fan of Bill Granger when I stumbled upon his restaurant in Sydney years ago.

  12. What a delicious cake - I love all the ingredients in here, especially the apricots! Such a summer treasure. Xronia Polla!!!

  13. What amazing looking apricots and happy belated name day. Just as you wrote, I was away on a short summer vacation and am catching up with all my reading.

  14. Looks absolutely delicious, yummy!
    (I had seen your post earlier and wanted to comment bust there was a problem with login)

  15. Hi
    My sons name day tmrw
    Do you think this recipe be okay if I left out the yogurt
    He has non dairy
    Thanks :)

    1. Hi. I don't think you can make this recipe without the yoghurt. Perhaps you can use soy yoghurt but I have never tasted it so I can't vouch for the taste. Happy name day to your son!

  16. Happy Name day! This looks delish! I can't wait to make it. Do you think I could use olive oil instead of veg. oil? I'm so excited!

    1. I haven't tried it with olive oil but I think it would work. It will be heavier in flavor though.