This fanciful cake, a specialty of Bergamo, is meant to imitate a mound of polenta served with grilled game birds. The cake is molded in a half-sphere shape and covered with yellow marzipan; then some marzipan is colored and flavored with cocoa powder and molded in the shape of several tiny (cooked) birds. A spoonful of apricot glaze completes the effect, fixing the birds to the mound of “polenta” and imitating the cooking juices of the birds.
The pastry shops of Bergamo abound with this cake. Variously referred to as polenta or polentina, the cake comes in many different sizes and styles. Though many are based on a plain sponge cake like pan di spagna, I tasted several that used a corn flour-based cake to further the conceit of the presentation. The version that follows is a synthesis of many I tasted in Bergamo; the hazelnut filling complements the corn flavor of the cake and the richness of the marzipan perfectly.