Orange polenta cake food photography

We are well into the Spanish and Italian citrus seasons now so what better excuse for a blast of colour and zest than food photography featuring a delicious Orange Polenta cake? A big slab of Mediterranean sunshine to brighten up winter days.

Orange polenta cake natural food photography by Tony May.
Out of the oven and still in the tin. Makes me feel better already.
Food photography and styling by Tony May Copyright 2015.

For a food photographer there is unique satisfaction in photographing food that you have made and then styled yourself. I only tasted polenta cake for the first time a few years ago and I love them and had considered making one for some time. I’d say my photography skills are  better than my cooking skills and I haven’t had a lot of success with cakes in the past. But the first time I made this one in December, and each time since, it has been delicious and has been enthusiastically received.

Food photography of Mediterranean orange polenta cake, blue background and oranges.
Out of the tin. A light syrup made with fresh orange juice and zest was poured over the top whilst the cake was cooling.
Food photography and styling by Tony May Copyright 2015.

After reading recipes from Nigella  (too much butter for me but a very enticing description), Yottam Ottolenghi  (uses puréed boiled oranges) and from the BBC Good Food site, I settled on my own combination of polenta, ground almonds, oranges, butter, eggs and sugar with just a little self-raising flour. It makes for a cake that’s filling but not too dense and with the grittiness of the polenta that Nigella waxes lyrical over.

food photography orange polenta cake cut, with oranges and a bowl of greek yoghurt, blue background
Serve with Greek yoghurt to enhance the mediterranean experience.
Food photography and styling by Tony May Copyright 2015. 

The third time I made it coincided with brighter January afternoons and more light coming through the windows of my studio. So before anyone had chance to tuck in, I made a small natural light set and set to with my Hasselblad H1 and Phase One P25+ back.

Food photograph of orange polenta cake, showing cut portion.
The nearest thing to mediterranean sunshine in Leeds, West Yorkshire, in January. 
Food photography and styling by Tony May Copyright 2015.

I wanted a natural light look to the images with strong colour but with a darker indoor feel more fitted to the season rather than the light and airy al fresco mood associated with Mediterranean summer cooking.  All of the post-production was accomplished solely in Capture One v8.1 using its comprehensive feature set and without need to use Photoshop or plug-ins.

Food photograph of portion of orange polenta cake, served with yoghurt and orange set blue and white plate.
A slice of sunshine on a winter afternoon.
Food photography and styling by Tony May Copyright 2015.

Now did I tell you that I’ve also made a lot of Seville Orange Marmalade in recent weeks?