Stanley Tucci’s Plum and Polenta Cake

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Stanley Tucci has won Emmys, Golden Globes, nominated for an Academy Award, Tony, and Grammy, and now adds cookbook author to his list of achievements.  His acclaimed film, Big Night, which he directed and starred in, was in part the inspiration for this cookbook.  Tucci’s parents instilled in him and his sisters a great respect for their Italian heritage and its traditions.  His mother was an excellent cook and in this book he passionately shares the memories and flavors of the family table.

There are almost 200 recipes and recommendations for wine pairings.  I love cookbooks that have a short paragraph above each recipe with the story behind the recipe.  Tucci writes about the family ragù sauce, and how it was incorporated into his movie, Big Night.  His grandmother Concetta has a recipe for stuffed artichokes; the risotto with shrimp recipe has been handed down for three generations; his grandmother Tropiano began making pizza dough when she was nine or ten years old and the family basic recipe for pizza is included.  Almost every recipe has a story behind it and is a joy to read.  You will find recipes for appetizers, soups, eggs, breads and pizza, pasta, risotto, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish and shellfish, and desserts, each feeling like you are warmly welcomed into the Tucci kitchen.

The recipe I chose to make is a Tucci family favorite from their Aunt Angela.  It is a delectable, flavorful, and buttery cake with plums (or it can also be made with figs or cherries), a hint of lemon, and brown sugar sprinkled on top.  It’s pure bliss.

The plums sink down but still show bits on top, but wait until it’s cut.  The view of the rest of the plums is gorgeous!

How pretty is this?

I’m going to have such fun with the recipes in this cookbook.   I hope you will too!

Plum and Polenta Cake
  • ½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons finely ground cornmeal or semolina flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 13 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 4 plums, cut in half and pitted
  • 2 Tablespoons packed light brown sugar
  • Confectioner's sugar for dusting, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour and 8-inch springform pan or an 8-by-2-inch round cake pan, tapping out excess flour. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and granulated sugar together with an electric mixer, until pale yellow and creamy, about 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition. Scrape down the sides of bowl again, and add the whole eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Mix in the lemon zest and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and blend until just combined.
  4. Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Place the plum halves, skin side down, at even intervals on top of the batter. Sprinkle the brown sugar on top of the fruit and batter. Bake until the cake is golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cool and dust with a little confectioner's sugar if desired. Serves 6.



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2 Responses to Stanley Tucci’s Plum and Polenta Cake

  1. March 1, 2024 at 6:47 pm #

    I agree! It adds so much enjoyment to selecting, preparing and enjoying the recipe when you have a context for it. Sounds like a pleasant read. Your sentence that ends with, ” . . . each feeling like you are warmly welcomed into the Tucci kitchen,” certainly draws me in. Very well written, Debbie.

    Your cake looks like perfection! You did a beatiful job baking, staging and photographing.

    Thanks for inviting us into YOUR kitchen!

    • March 1, 2024 at 11:20 pm #

      Thank you, Denise! You are welcome in my kitchen anytime.

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