Makes two 8.5-inch cakes
For the cake:
• 1 pound cornmeal (yellow)
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 cup light olive or sunflower oil, plus 2 to 3 tablespoons for the pan and to top the bread
• 2/3 cup sugar
• 1 cup golden raisins
• zest from 1 orange and 1 lemon
• 1 cup very warm water
• 1 1/2 cup orange juice
• syrup (recipe follows)
• lemon or orange liqueur (optional)
For the syrup:
• 1 cup sugar or ½ cup sugar and 3 tablespoons honey
• 1 cup orange juice or water
• zest from 1 orange or tangerine
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Mix all ingredients together, except the sesame seeds, stirring with a wooden spoon to make a thick batter like cooked polenta. Add a bit more water if needed. Line two 8.5-inch baking pans with parchment paper and oil the bottom and sides, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Divide the dough between the pans and brush the surface with oil, then sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes or more, until golden. A toothpick inserted in the center should come out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Simmer syrup ingredients for about four minutes, then let cool.
As you take the cake out of the oven, prick with a toothpick and douse with lukewarm or cold syrup. Let stand in the pan for one to two hours, and invert onto a plate. If you like, sprinkle with lemon or orange liqueur just before serving.
To read Aglaia's story about cornbread in Greece and Italy, click here.
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