The 5-Ingredient Martha Stewart Dessert I’ve Been Making for Over 20 Years

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In the late ’90s, I took a big leap and started a private chef business. Suddenly people were booking me to cater parties, and I needed solid, impressive dishes that didn’t take too long to make.

Martha Stewart was the reigning Queen of upscale, aspirational food, so I combed through The Martha Stewart Cookbook looking for recipes that were simple, but still fancy enough to impress.

Her Italian Cornmeal Cake practically jumped off the page to save the day. Made entirely in the food processor, the cake couldn’t be simpler—no eggs to beat, no folding, no sifting. 

In the headnote, Martha describes the cake as “crumbly,” and it is. In fact, it’s almost like a shortbread. There is no leavening or salt in her recipe, so it doesn’t have an open crumb, just a dense, crunchy texture. Like many traditional Italian desserts, there is just enough sugar in the cake to give it a hint of sweetness.

How To Make Martha Stewart’s Italian Cornmeal Cake

To make Martha’s cornmeal cake, you’ll need:

  • 1 cup (125 grams) almond flour or 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cup fine yellow cornmeal (not polenta)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 stick cold salted butter, cut into pieces, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing the pan

Simply Recipes / Robin Asbell

Use a tablespoon of butter to grease a 10-inch springform pan, going only a half inch up the sides.

Add the almond flour to a food processor or grind the slivered almonds until very, very fine, stopping every once in a while to scrape down the sides of the bowl. 

Add the cornmeal and pulse a few times to combine it with the almond flour. Then add the sugar and all-purpose flour and process again for several seconds to mix the ingredients well. 

Toss in the butter and process, stopping to scrape down the bowl after a few seconds. The dough will start to form clumps. Stop the machine and try squeezing the dough. If it holds together it’s ready.

Scrape the dough into the prepared pan and pat it evenly to the edges. It should be an even disk so it bakes uniformly. Chill the dough for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, set an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 400°F.

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes. The edges and top of the cake will be golden brown. Cool the cake on a rack, then loosen the edges with a thin metal spatula and invert the cake onto a cutting board. Use a chef’s knife to cut it into 12 wedges.

Tips for Making Martha’s Italian Cornmeal Cake

After making this cake for over 20 years, I’ve learned a few tweaks. The original recipe called for grinding almonds into almond flour, but I prefer to use store-bought almond flour because it’s tricky to grind almonds as finely as they need to be.

I also pat the dough in the pan and then chill it for 20 minutes to make the butter solid again and place my leaky springform on a sheet pan in case a little butter seeps out during baking.

The simplicity of this cake is a thing of beauty. If you want to add a splash of vanilla, a couple teaspoons of lemon zest, or chopped fresh rosemary you absolutely can. I’ve even made this cake vegan with plant-based butter.

This cake shines when served with scoops of ice cream and spoonfuls of sweetened fruit, with mint sprigs or lemon zest curls as finishing touches. It works in all seasons and is just as compatible with spring raspberries as it is with winter citrus or pears.

Even though this is technically a cake, you can treat it like a cookie as well. For a cookie platter, you might dress up wedges with a drizzle of melted chocolate, or a dead-easy glaze of lemon juice and powdered sugar. 

All hail Martha!

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