It’s been a few weeks since the world lost Anthony Bordain. I’ve been thinking about him, and the legacy he left behind, a lot since his suicide. Much of my early food inspiration came from my parents and grandparents, but as I got older, I yearned to learn more about the world, its cultures, and its foods. Anthony helped me, and millions of others, explore the world while sitting on our couches. And in my case, he fostered a budding case of travel lust which is in full bloom today. As countless others have written in the weeks since his death, watching Tony made you feel like you knew him. He was personable, funny, raw, and totally human. I will miss his witty personality, his unique insights and his fantastic way of cutting through the bullshit to get to the real substance of a place and its people.
For no particular reason, I’m making this recipe a shout out to Tony, and to all those that his words will resonate with and inspire in the years to come.
This recipe has a lot of ingredients and parts, but we’re going to start first with the corn cakes themselves. Keep in mind that you could make the sauces and salsas a few days in advance, if you don’t have as much time for prep. But they can also be made while the tamale cakes are baking.
To make the tamale cakes, preheat the oven to 400° F. Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil, and spray each liberally with nonstick spray.
Thaw 2 cups of frozen corn. Drain of any excess liquid. Keep 1 cup of corn frozen – we’ll use that soon. In a food processor, pulse the thawed corn until it is well minced.
Transfer to a stand mixer, then add the softened butter, sugar, and salt, and mix until a thick dough forms. Don’t forget to scrape the sides of the bowl!
Next, add the corn flour and regular flour and pulse to combine. The dough will be extremely thick. Transfer to a large bowl and mix in the remaining cup of corn. This may best be accomplished by hand – the mixture will be extremely thick and almost impossible to mix with a spatula.
Using a ½ cup measure, portion out the cakes onto the baking sheets. Flatten each into a disk about ¼ to ½ inch thick, using your hands to round out the edges of each. You should be able to make 6-8 tamale cakes. Make sure to place each one far apart on the baking sheet as they spread significantly during baking.
Place the cakes in the oven. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, then flip the cakes with a spatula, and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Both sides should be slightly browned.
While the tamale cakes are baking, assemble the toppings.
For the salsa, dice the tomatoes, red onions, and cilantro. Add to a large bowl and toss with salt, pepper, and lime juice. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
For the southwestern sauce, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Keep refrigerated until ready to use.
To assemble, spoon a few heaping tablespoons of salsa verde onto the serving plate for each tamale cake. Place a corn cake directly on top of the salsa verde. Top with salsa, sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and a drizzle of southwestern sauce. Serve with lime wedges and enjoy!
- 3 c frozen corn (thaw 2 cups, leave 1 cup frozen)
- 1 c unsalted butter, softened
- 6 Tablespoons sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup corn flour (masa harina, see note 1)
- 4 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 roma tomatoes
- ¼ red onion
- 1 Tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced
- ¼ lime
- ¼ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- (option: see note 2)
- ½ cup mayo
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp water
- 2 tsp sugar
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ¼ tsp paprika
- ⅛ tsp cayenne
- ⅛ tsp onion powder
- ⅛ tsp garlic powder
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 cup store-bought salsa verde
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, minced
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
- First, preheat the oven to 400° F. Line two large baking sheets with aluminum foil, and spray with nonstick spray.
- Thaw 2 cups of corn either by running under hot water or microwaving for a portion of the designated cook time on the package. If using water, allow the corn to dry thoroughly. Keep the remaining cup of corn frozen.
- In a food processor, pulse the thawed corn until it is well minced.
- Add the softened butter, sugar, and salt to the food processor, and pulse until the mixture comes together. You may have to stop and scrape the sides of the processor once or twice.
- Add corn flour and all-purpose flour and mix well (see note 3). The dough will be very thick at this stage.
- Transfer the dough to a large mixing bowl and add the remaining 1 cup of corn. Mix together by hand.
- Measure portions using a ½ cup measure.
- After measuring out each portion, use your hands to flatten each into a disk approximately ¼” thick and 3” in diameter. The mixture is very sticky – I recommend spraying your hands lightly with nonstick spray before attempting to handle. The cakes will spread in the oven, so be sure to space them significantly far apart on the baking sheets. This recipe makes between 6 and 8 corn cakes.
- Place the flattened disks on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops just begin to brown.
- While the cakes are baking, assemble the toppings listed below.
- Remove cakes from the oven and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Then, flip using a large spatula.
- Return to the oven for another 7-10 minutes, until the cakes just begin to brown.
- Once the tamale cakes are done, remove from the oven and follow the assembly instructions below.
- To make salsa, finely dice the tomatoes and red onion, then mince the cilantro. Place in a large bowl.
- Add the salt, pepper, and lime juice, and stir to combine.
- Set aside
- Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and mix well, then set aside.
- See note 4 for serving options
- Spoon a few heaping tablespoons of salsa verde onto the serving plate for each tamale cake. Place a corn cake directly on top of the salsa verde.
- Top with the tomato salsa, sour cream, avocado, cilantro, and then drizzle with Southwestern Sauce.
- Serve with lime wedges and Enjoy!
2. Feel free to purchase store bought salsa rather than make your own, though I prefer homemade for this recipe!
3. After adding the flours to this mixture, the dough becomes incredibly heavy and thick. If your food processor is not of a high grade, I suggest transferring the dough to a stand mixer to avoid burning out the motor. I have a KitchenAid food processor – it has never had problems handling this thick dough.
4. For fancier presentation of the Tamale Cakes, pour the Southwestern sauce into a piping bag. When ready to assemble the cakes, cut off the tip and drizzle over the cakes.