A Mishap, a Cake, and a Midwinter Break

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You may be familiar with that famous poem titled “Cut” by Sylvia Plath, the one that begins

What a thrill —
My thumb instead of an

Well, my dears, that was me a few days ago, except it was my index finger instead of my thumb. And winter squash puree instead of an onion. And an immersion blender rather than a knife.

And it was by no means a thrill.

Unlike Ms. Plath, I shall spare you the decidedly prosaic details of my own kitchen mishap (you can read her poem in its entirety here). In short, many hours in the ER, 14 stitches, and one surgery later, my left hand is swaddled in a cocoon of white gauze, where it is presumed safe from sharp objects and from me.

So it appears I will be taking an unscheduled—hopefully brief—midwinter break.

But I don’t want to leave you empty-handed. Right before the aforementioned incident, I made the cake you see in the picture at the top of this post. It’s a good cake for February, scented with citrus zest to shake off the midwinter doldrums, and so easy to make it can pretty much be whipped up with one hand.

It’s a cheery cake, too, golden in color (from grated carrots), round and mellow in flavor (from olive oil and a splash of marsala), and with the tiniest bit of crunch (from cornmeal).

Please enjoy some cake while I attend to my wounded little pilgrim (with apologies to Ms. Plath) and with any luck I’ll be back within a couple of weeks—fingers crossed (and intact)!

Citrus-Scented Polenta Cake

(copyright 2012 Domenica Cooks)


  • 1/2 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin), plus more to coat the pan
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange
  • 1/2 cup dry Marsala
  • 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup finely ground cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 cups shredded carrots (about 3 large)
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting


Heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8-inch square or round baking pan with oil and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup oil, sugar, eggs, lemon and orange zest, and Marsala until well blended (the sugar will not all dissolve).

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sea salt, and nutmeg. Pour the flour mixture into the egg mixture, whisking all the while to avoid lumps. Using a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, mix in the shredded carrots. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking pan.

Bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the cake from the pan and set it on the rack to cool to room temperature. Dust lightly with confectioners’ sugar right before serving.

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48 Responses to A Mishap, a Cake, and a Midwinter Break

  1. Marnely Rodriguez January 30, 2012 at 10:41 am #

    Ouch dear, cuts are definitely not a fun thing. But I try to look on the bright side and say it’s better than a burn (you know how burns can just last agesss hurting!) And your cake? Gorgeous.

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:29 am #

      Thanks Marnely. You are right; it could have been much worse.

  2. matthew January 30, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Ouch! I’m still wincing. i think most of us have had that knife slip with a tough veggie, but an immersion blender. **shudder** I hope that you’re fully on the mend soon.

    That cake looks delicious.

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:30 am #

      thanks Matthew!

  3. Sharon Stirling January 30, 2012 at 10:57 am #

    An immersion blender? OUCH!! Hats off for taking a painful accident (and no doubt uncomfortable hospital visits) into a witty post. Get well soon.

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:31 am #

      thank you my dear.

  4. AdriBarr January 30, 2012 at 11:03 am #

    Oh dear, that is terrible. One must always beware of coming between a sharp object and its intended target. Shocking, is it not, how quickly these things happen? I hope it heals quickly and completely. The cake looks lovely, and I’d say it is darn generous of you to take the time to share, considering what you have been through. I send best wishes for a rapid return to your kitchen.

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      thanks Adri. I miss cooking already, though the upside is that this injury finally got my son into the kitchen.

  5. Maureen Abood January 30, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Oh no!!! How awful Domenica…brings back memories of when I cut myself during my final exam at culinary school. But, no stitches or surgery needed there—yours sounds really very bad and good that you will rest and take care for a bit. Thank you for leaving us with this lovely cake. Sending you get well wishes from up north!!

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:33 am #

      thank you Maureen. Stay warm up there!

  6. janie January 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    I hope you’re okay. Stitches are bad enough but surgery too! We’ll miss you while you’re taking a break. I just made a citrus olive oil cake too!

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:35 am #

      I saw that, Janie. Not the first time that we are both on the same page where cooking is concerned. cheers

  7. Wendy January 30, 2012 at 1:06 pm #

    Oh no! Hope you’re soon on the mend!

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:36 am #

      thanks Wendy, fingers crossed — haha

  8. Barbara | Creative Culinary January 30, 2012 at 3:49 pm #

    Oh no…just makes me grimace even thinking about it Domenica. You obviously did a good job on yourself but in the worst way. A forced vacation? So very sorry and hoping you will be on the mend very soon. Poor cake…I need to go back and reread but just had to send my condolences.

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 8:15 pm #

      Thanks so much Barb. I actually made the cake a few days before the accident. Was so pleased with the way it turned out I decided to post one-handed. And yes, as much as I love vacation, forced vacation is another matter…

  9. LiztheChef January 30, 2012 at 4:49 pm #

    Yikes – I’ve been there…Hope you are truly on the mend now and thank you for this gorgeous cake.

  10. LiztheChef January 30, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Having trouble trying to share on fb – nothing happens when I click on “fb” – fyi…

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:37 am #

      thanks Liz…I’ll have tech support (aka my husband) take a look.

  11. Elisa January 30, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    Cara Domenica, proprio non ci voleva!!!!! L’hai fatta proprio brutta! Ti auguro di tutto cuore una guarigione al piu’ presto possibile!!! La ricetta del polenta cake e’ proprio da provare. Take care of that finger, that is so important. Un abbraccio.

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:37 am #

      grazie cara Elisa

  12. mary January 30, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Enjoy your rest. Watch lots of Dowton Abby and eat cake on the couch.

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      consider it done, Mary

  13. Alicia Sokol January 30, 2012 at 10:12 pm #

    Oh no! So sorry to hear it. Sounds like a pretty bad accident with stitches AND surgery required. Yikes.

    I cut my left index finger pretty badly a few weeks ago with a dull knife. We sharpened all the knives the next day. It bled for a week (yes, a week!) and now it’s finally starting to heal. Now it seems not so bad hearing your tale. I wish you a speedy recovery and a relaxing break!

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 9:41 am #

      ouch–your sounds pretty nasty, too, Alicia. I hope you are taking good care.

  14. nancy baggett January 31, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    The cake looks yummy–heroic to be posting. Heal fast!

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

      thanks. I’d better, so I can start making your focaccia again!

  15. Aviva Goldfarb January 31, 2012 at 5:25 pm #

    Ugh, so sorry to hear about your injury. Sounds incredibly painful and I’m sure it is such a drag not to be able to use your hand for a while. I’m sure your wonderful family is stepping in where needed. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us. It sounds absolutely heavenly!

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 8:03 pm #

      Thanks Aviva, and guess what–there is a silver lining: it got my 15-year-old son into the kitchen. He’s made dinner two nights in a row.

  16. Paul Knipple January 31, 2012 at 7:37 pm #

    I hope you’re healed and feeling better soon. I’m looking forward to your post on making vinegar with a mother and a bell jar.

    • Domenica January 31, 2012 at 8:04 pm #

      This may be my favorite comment ever. Thank you, Paul.

  17. Tori February 1, 2012 at 11:24 pm #

    Oh Domenica! It’s a sort of rite of passage, as you can see from others who have been through it. I cut myself not once, but TWICE on national television. Thank god one can stir risotto with one hand…that’s always a good tonic. Speedy recovery, ragazza.

    • Domenica February 2, 2012 at 8:21 am #

      Grazie, cara. Ci vediamo a New York!

  18. Maryann De Trizio February 3, 2012 at 12:54 am #

    Hope you are healing! Was wondering about this recipe…can I use polenta that I buy from the store? I never thought of using it in sweets, but not sure if polenta = cornmeal. Thanks! I can’t wait to try to make this!

    • Domenica February 3, 2012 at 8:26 am #

      Thank you, Maryann. So far so good, though I’m still pecking away with one hand on the keyboard. Good question. Yes, by polenta I mean cornmeal. I used a brand called Indian Head, which is available here in the DC area. It’s stone ground, but still pretty finely ground. I would advise against using coarse-ground, which is probably a bit too coarse for this cake. I hope this helps. Enjoy the cake!

  19. elisa February 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

    I made the cake last night. Delizioso!!! I didn’t have enough carrots for 2 cups so I mixed 1 cup shredded carrots and 1 cup shredded coconut. My husband ate half of the cake for breakfast. Ora che il tuo dito e’ stato “ricucito” spero che presto ti senta di nuovo perfettamente bene. Ciao e buona Domenica!

    • Domenica February 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

      As always, Elisa, your own spin sounds wonderful. My sister adores coconut and would love your variation. I’ll have to make it for her. Thank you for your good wishes.

  20. Frank February 5, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Sorry to hear about the hand! One of the hazards of the kitchen life, I guess. Hope it heals quickly.

    I know the poem, which I read in college. I always found it disturbing in some ineffable way…

    • Domenica February 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm #

      Thank you, Frank. Yes, afterwards I felt bad about linking such a lovely, light cake to such a dark poem! Poor cake; it deserves better.

  21. ItalianNotes February 6, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    What a greatly original cake using both polenta, carrots and a Sylvia Plath poem. Must be absolutely delicious.

    • Domenica February 6, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      Thank you, Mette.

  22. Janine at Rustic Kitchen February 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm #

    Gracious, I hope you mend soon!

    • Domenica February 17, 2012 at 9:41 pm #

      Thanks Janine. Slow and steady…

  23. Laura February 17, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    OMG an immersion blender. My stomach turns just thinking about it. Glad they got you sewn up and they say it will recover hopefully. Ugh. So sorry.

    • Domenica February 17, 2012 at 9:43 pm #

      Thank you, Laura.

  24. Jamie February 19, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    Oh dear, oh dear, you weren’t kidding! Gruesome indeed! Oh poor you, that must be some slice 🙁 Blenders have always terrified me and images of what must have happened to you and your finger have always haunted me (for some odd reason). I hope it heals quickly and as painlessly as possible. I hope that your kids are old enough to cook and bake in your place… x


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