Tonight’s dessert is brought to you by a little 118 ml bottle of Grappa we brought back from Italy in 2012.

For five years I have looked at that bottle and said i was going to make something with it. Today, I finally did.

Grappa, for the uninitiated, is a liquor made by distilling the leftover skins, stems, pulp, and seeds from wine making. It can be pretty harsh.

Polenta is to northern Italy what pizza is to southern Italy – and this cake hails from Veneto.

I could see myself eating a slice of this on the Grand Canal and swooning over every morsel.

Sitting on the couch watching Jeopardy?!? Not as much.

It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t really good… As I said, overlooking the Grand Canal in Veneto, it would be stellar… It just needs the salt air of the Adriatic Sea…

Polenta Fig Cake

adapted from Bon Appetit


  • 4 large egg yolks2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup grappa
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal; do not use instant)
  • 1/2 cup diced dried Calimyrna figs (about 6)
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds


Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter 8-inch-diameter cake pan. Beat egg yolks and sugar in large bowl. Bring milk, grappa, and salt to boil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture. Return to saucepan. Whisk in polenta. Whisk over medium-high heat until mixture thickens and begins to bubble, about 8 minutes.

Fold figs, raisins, pine nuts, and fennel seeds into polenta mixture. Pour into prepared cake pan.

Bake cake until golden brown, set in center, and beginning to pull away from sides of pan, about 40 minutes. Cool in pan 20 minutes. Cut around pan sides and invert cake onto platter. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I may play with it…