Vanilla Cornmeal Cake with Roasted Strawberries | First Mess Cookbook GIVEAWAY

vanilla cornmeal cake - first mess cookbook | apt 2b baking co
vanilla cornmeal cake - first mess cookbook | apt 2b baking co
vanilla cornmeal cake - first mess cookbook | apt 2b baking co

I have been trying to Kondo-punt (thank you Molly for this phrase) a lot of cookbooks out of my life recently due to the extremely saggy shelves they are currently occupying. BUT, I have been patiently waiting for this book - The First Mess Cookbook by Laura Wright - since I had the chance to test a couple of recipes from it last year. After testing those recipes I knew that the book would be amazing, and it truly is. Every page is totally packed with inviting recipes and photography that makes me want to dive right into the page. Not that I expected anything less from Laura. 

There is a lot of noise online, but  Laura's voice always breaks through. Hers is one of the blogs that I have read and enjoyed most consistently in my many years of blogging, and her table is the one that I most often find myself wishing I had a seat. I'm not vegan by any stretch, but Laura's recipes are always SO approachable and I always appreciate her no-nonsense/no judgement approach to plant-based eating and cooking which she has perfectly translated to this book.

I love a cornmeal cake, and this one sweetened with maple syrup and topped with roasted strawberries was so simple to make and so satisfying. The recipe calls for it to be made in a round cake plan, but I was feeling the slices and baked it in a 4x10-inch loaf pan instead. Then, I ate slices of cake with my coffee every morning until it was gone.

GIVEAWAY: I am so excited to give one away a copy of this stunning book to one of you lucky folks! Just leave a comment on this post with what fruit or vegetable you are most looking forward to this Spring. I"ll pick a winner at random in a week and the book will ship after it's officially published on March 7. Open to US and Canada only, sorry international folks!

UPDATE: The winner has been notified. Check your email, it might be you! If it isn't, you should buy the book anyway ;)

A Few Announcements

Just two spots left for my workshop with Olaiya Land in Paris this Spring. Check out the details HERE


OMG Sweeter off the Vine was nominated for an IACP Cookbook Award, and it's up against Mark Bittman and America's Test Kitchen so I have zero chance of winning (hello, underdog!), but damn is it exciting. This is the big time guys, and I am so surprised and thrilled to be nominated! 

You guys also nominated it as a Community Pick in Food52's Piglet Tournament of Cookbooks, thank you! It's such an honor, and much less nerve-wracking than being in the actual bracket! 

Now let's have some cake!

Vanilla Corn Cake with Roasted Strawberries

Reprinted from The First Mess Cookbook by arrangement with Avery Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright 2017, Laura Wright.

Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) cake

¾ cup (175 mL) full-fat coconut milk

1 teaspoon (5 mL) fresh lemon juice

1 cup (250 mL) cornmeal (not coarse)

1 cup (250 mL) whole spelt flour

1 teaspoon (5 mL) lemon zest

1 tablespoon (15 mL) aluminum-free baking powder

¼ teaspoon (1 mL) baking soda

1 teaspoon (5 mL) fine sea salt

½ teaspoon (2 mL) ground turmeric (optional)

½ cup + 2 tablespoons (125 mL + 30 mL) pure maple syrup

½ cup (125 mL) sunflower oil, plus extra to grease pan

1 teaspoon (5 mL) vanilla bean paste OR pure vanilla extract

roughly 1 quart (4 cups/1 L) whole strawberries (smaller berries are preferable)

Whipped Coconut Cream for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Lightly grease a 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pan with sunflower oil. Cut a circle of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of the pan and press it in. Lightly grease the parchment, and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut milk and lemon juice. Let this mixture sit for 5 minutes so that the milk can curdle slightly.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, spelt flour, lemon zest, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, and turmeric, if using.

4. Make a well in the center of the cornmeal mixture. Add the maple syrup, sunflower oil, vanilla, and coconut milk mixture. With a spatula, gently mix until you have a smooth and unified batter. Avoid overmixing.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and slide the pan into the oven. Bake the cake for 25 to 28 minutes or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool completely. Raise the oven temperature to 400°F (200°C).

6. Cut the strawberries into halves or quarters (depending on size), and place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Slide the baking sheet into the oven and roast the strawberries until they become juicy and jammy, about 20 minutes.

7. Serve slices of the corn cake with a few roasted strawberries and some Whipped Coconut Cream (page 271) if you like.

vanilla cornmeal cake - first mess cookbook | apt 2b baking co

Blood Orange, Cornmeal, and Ricotta Cake

blood orange, almond, and cornmeal cake | apt 2b baking co
blood orange, almond, and cornmeal cake | apt 2b baking co
blood orange, almond, and cornmeal cake | apt 2b baking co
blood orange, almond, and cornmeal cake | apt 2b baking co
blood orange, almond, and cornmeal cake | apt 2b baking co

When Liz Prueitt (of Tartine fame) shared a couple of photos of a blood orange, cornmeal, and ricotta cake on Instagram - along with a short form recipe in the caption, I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Turns out Deb from Smitten Kitchen and Amelia from Bon Appétempt were drawn to this recipe too, for good reason. To be honest, I almost didn’t add my voice to the chorus evangelizing for this delicious cake, but I just got the photos back from the lab and the cake was too pretty not to share.

I also made a few small changes to the method that streamlined it a bit – this was mostly because I didn’t feel like separating the eggs and folding them into the batter (a kitchen task I avoid whenever possible!), so I added the whole eggs instead. I figured the finished batter was already pretty thick and heavy from the ricotta and almond flour that the small amount of additional air that step would provide would be pretty inconsequential.

The finished cake is dense and rich, punctuated by slightly bitter candied orange slices, and totally delicious. Prueitt described it as cheesecake-like, which is totally on the money. I can't wait to try this with blueberries and stone fruit in the summer.

Blood Orange, cornmeal, and ricotta Cake

adapted from Liz Prueitt who adapted from The River Café Cookbook

This cake is dense and moist, almost custard-like in texture. Make sure to slice the oranges very thin so they soften and caramelize a bit while the cake bakes.


2 blood oranges scrubbed and cut into very thin slices (I used a couple of cara cara slices too)

1/2 cup (100g) sugar

2 tablespoons water


1/2 cup (100g) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

3 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup (170g) whole milk ricotta

zest and juice of 2 lemons

1 cup (135g) almond meal/flour

1/3 (45g) cup cornmeal

1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat your oven to 300ºF. Butter a 9-inch baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Butter the paper too, then dust the pan and paper with flour. Stir the water and sugar together, then spread it on the bottom of the prepared pan. Arrange the orange slices in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.

Cream the butter and sugar together with the lemon zest until very light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing for 30 seconds in between each addition. Then beat the mixture for 5 more minutes. Beat in the ricotta and lemon juice.

Stir in the almond meal, cornmeal, and salt. The batter will be very thick.Spread the batter over the orange slices and bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then invert it onto a platter.

blood orange, almond, and cornmeal cake | apt 2b baking co