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lemon polenta cakePolenta cakes are  stupidly easy to make.  I don’t mean this as an insult to polenta cakes, you, or anyone else for that matter. But, really. Dumping everything in a stand mixer and pressing ‘on’ is pretty easy. And sometimes – even although you may be the best baker in your family, in your workplace, in the world – stupidly-easy is what you need.  If and when that situation arises, polenta cake is there for you.
polenta cakeWe have Italians to thank for this brilliant way with dried and ground corn. They took something inherently bland and really quite gritty, and magicked it into a delectably more-ish cake.

Variations abound, and often include wheat flour – even potato flour – but I find traditional Italian ones, dare I say, a tad dry. I’m guessing here but this may be deliberate: a way to convey Vin Santo to the mouth.

Rectifying a tendency to dryness is where the British lemon drizzle cake often comes to the rescue. The sticky-sharp syrup of this stalwart of the tea tray is frequently used to drench today’s polenta cakes.  Which is lovely, but in this cake I like to drench the cake with fruit – sweet, juicy, nutritious fruit. You, of course, may do both. Or even pour over warmed good quality honey mixed with lemon: I sometimes do, especially if I have accidentally overbaked the cake. Which happens more often than I should admit to. So maybe it is not so stupidly-easy after all!

What is your stupidly-easy bake? 

lemon polenta cakePuddingy Lemon-Berry Polenta Cake

Last year: So Summer Chickpea Salad

Two years ago: Tomato and Skillet Corn Quinoa Salad

Track of the Week: Aiofe O’Donovan’s ‘Beekeeper’ – haunting, beautiful, amazing guitar work                                                

I make this lemon drizzle-polenta cake hybrid a lot for my summer cancer nutrition workshops. Along with my Chocolate Beetroot Cake, this seems to be a favourite. I think what sets it apart from other, similar, cakes is the double helping of lemon juice and the zingy fresh berries – a zing that is sometimes missing from so-called lemon cake. What is missing from this cake is the syrupy topping. But I don’t think you will miss it. At least I hope not!

This is pretty healthy for a cake – no butter, no flour, and a relatively small amount of sugar for a cake. However, it goes without saying that for most of us (she says patting her belly) this is for an occasional treat, not everyday munching. We like this quite puddingy and a bit squidgy: if you like a firmer cake, leave it in a little longer. It will still be lovely and soft. And when summer berries are scarce just push in slices of ripe fruit of choice – pears, plums, cooked quince.

This is suitable for those with coeliac disease and a soft diet. Dairy-free and gluten-free, too.

150ml light rapeseed oil/light olive oil/virgin coconut oil

125g  unrefined caster sugar OR coconut palm sugar

100 g fine or regular polenta/maizemeal (available in the Asian section at most supermarkets)

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp turmeric (optional)

175 g ground almonds

zest 1 unwaxed organic lemon + juice of 2 lemons OR small oranges

1 tsp good quality vanilla extract

3 medium eggs

Fresh berries – to plop onto the batter before baking (I used black currants here)

1. Oil and baseline an 11 x 7 inch/27.5 x 18cm (approx) pan. Preheat oven to 180 C/160 C fan/350F. Have your baking paper reach up from two sides so that you can pull the cake out easily when cool. Or use a loose-bottomed tin.

2. Beat together the oil and sugar. I use a stand-mixer and let it rip for about 4-5 minutes. Pour in the polenta, baking powder, turmeric, almonds, lemon zest and juice, vanilla and eggs. Mix well and pour into the prepared tin. Although I use a stand mixer for this, strong arms or electric beaters are fine.

3. Top the golden batter with a good sprinkling of your chosen berries. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes, checking at 20 minutes and perhaps covering with foil to prevent burning. I usually take it out at 25 for a slightly softer cake. You can also make this in a well-greased muffin tin (uses 9-10 holes); bake these for about 20 minutes, but check at 15. The top of the cake or muffins should be golden brown in patches and just starting to pull away from the sides of the tin.

4. Let the cake stand for about 20 minutes before pulling it out by the baking paper ‘handle’ and onto a serving board or plate. It should ideally be slightly ‘puddingy’in the middle; certainly not at all dry.

Serve barely warm, or cold, with fruit compote and/or vanilla custard (and!).

Makes 16 pieces – freezes well once sliced

NB I sometimes add in some green tea powder (matcha powder) to the batter but the colour is a bit odd.

I have the pleasure of popping this over to Made With Love Mondays, hosted by the generous and brilliant Mark at Cookin’ W/ Luv.

blackcurrants

polenta cake

53 thoughts on “Lemon-Berry Polenta Cake

  1. delialah says:

    Wow what an amazing unusual recipe! Gotta give it a try tonight 🙂

  2. tworedbowls says:

    I’ve never had polenta cake, but this makes me want to try it! (Any cake described as “puddingy and squidgy” will go on my to-make list instantly, I’m pretty sure.) Your photos are gorgeous and the cake looks wonderful, thank you for sharing!

    1. What a lovely comment – thank you!

  3. Urvashi Roe says:

    I would agree that polenta cakes are stupidly easy cakes but also my magical lemon pie is one of those bung it in a mixer and press start for 15 mins kinda recipes which yields a lovely lemon tart!

    1. Thanks for your ‘stupidly easy’ suggestion, Urvashi. Anyone reading this comment, go check out Urvashi’s site – she’s got some fantastic recipes and brilliant information about edible plants 😀

  4. Oh Polenta- my secret love! so secret that i’ve sadly been neglecting my supply… time to change this. And with the abundance of berries in my freezer- this is definitely the recipe for me. Thank you xx

    1. Thank you. I do hope it find its way into your oven 😀

  5. ann says:

    I recognise those blackcurrants! I wish I had not made jam with all of mine, they look so good in this recipe. Maybe another picking trip is needed!

    1. I’ve got about 8 kgs in the freezer, so come and have a raid at mine 😀

  6. it’s like you’re a mind reader with your posts! I was just looking at my bag of corn meal last week thinking ‘when am I ever going to use that?’ (I did make a lush lemon cake once but with a whole pack of butter in it and lots of sugar it was a heart attack waiting to happen with every bite!). I also bought a pack of ready made polenta last week which is still sat in the cupboard awaiting cutting so thoughts on using that would be most welcome (bland is certainly how I would describe my polenta experiments so far)

    1. I’ve never used ready made polenta, but when I make some up I make extra and add parmesan, thyme and chilli to it and then oil the ‘slabs’ and griddle or grill. I think maybe just frying them in garlicky olive oil and adding herbs into the pan might be nice. Or slicing it up and layering it with cheese sauce or tomato sauce. How does that sound? Anyone reading this, add your suggestions too!

  7. aetzel says:

    This looks really good. I am just wondering is there anything to replace the black currents.

    1. Any berries at all – raspberries is my usual, but I love the ‘nip’ of black currants. And if you don’t have berries, plums are nice, or strawberries. Anything you like!

  8. Helen Portas says:

    Wonderful! I have a glut of blackcurrants from the allotment to use up and this looks like just the thing! I used another batch in a Nigel Slater recipe with marzipan and the tart little berries worked beautifully with the sweet almond. I’ll try yours for my mum’s birthday bash! Off to a yoga retreat tomorrow, armed with a courgette loaf – another glut I’m experimenting with.

    1. Lucky you with the allotment. We got our batch of black currants from a family friend’s garden, but it was actually from a bush that was originally in OUR garden! We had to clear stuff away for building work, but we miss our fruit bushes. And ooh, I love courgette cake too. I do one (in here somewhere) with lemons, elderflower cordial and oat flour. I hope you enjoy this recipe. Let me know how it turns out for you 😀

  9. Never had a polenta cake before. Looks delish. If I change the blackcurrant to cherry or some other berries, do you think it would be okay with the taste?

    1. Yes it will fab. The last batch I made was with cherries and it was delish. I DO prefer the nippier contrast of black currants, but I am kind of weird that way. Basically I even like my sweet things to be a bit tangy!

  10. eastofedencook says:

    Easy is fine with me as long as the recipe is bursting with flavor! And black currants sound so enticing! A lovely cake to celebrate summer!

  11. truefoodlove says:

    What a timely post! 🙂 Just bought some red currants from a local farmer’s market yesterday and was debating what to do with them. This cake looks beautiful.

  12. This cake is so beautiful, Kellie! I love the studding of the cake with berries and the simplicity in making it. It’s always intrigued me, this use of cornmeal/polenta to make a cake when typically I think of corn as a accompaniment to something savory…

  13. Kellie, I love the sound of this cake and the addition of turmeric is interesting! Thank you for sharing.

  14. I’ve actually never seen polenta used in a dessert before but it makes so much sense. Seems like a really cool idea!

  15. Polenta cake has been on my list to make for a while, so thanks for reassuring me that it is simple to make (I absolutely fall into the non-bakers category!) I may replace (if you don’t mind) blackcurrants with blueberries. Another winning recipe Kellie!

  16. SusanE says:

    Made it with red currants. Very good. Going very fast!

    1. Fantastic! Thanks so much for letting me know. I’ll have to try it with red currants too 😀

  17. yangonyogi says:

    Reblogged this on Top3List.

  18. I love your polenta cake Kellie, it’s definitely a favourite among staff and visitors to Maggies. Your photos are really wonderful so infused with colour that I can taste the cake just by looking. We are about to be drowned in a glut of raspberries so I think I might try it with those.

  19. ummfathima says:

    I have read about polenta cake many times (baking books and net), but have not come across cornmeal in the supermarkets, though fresh corn is easily available here. I love healthy alternative to cakes. And l like most of ur recipies.

    1. I’m wondering if it may go by a different name in your country as it is the product of the most widely grown crop in the world (apparently).

    2. I’m wondering if maybe it goes by another name in your country as it is the product of the ost widely grown crop in the world (apparently).

      1. ummfathima says:

        Maybe. Or i look again. Thank you.

  20. Hmmm….How is it that I have never made a polenta cake before? Love that this is naturally GF, and looks simply amazing!!

  21. OK, so I need to try baking a polenta cake! I am the worlds worst baker!!! I wonder what the calorie count is;)

    1. It is not a diet kind of cake, to be sure. But a small slice with a cup of tea is quite filling and satisfying. I should take the time to do the calorie count stuff but, as this isn’t a calorie counting kind of blog, I kind of just hope that people are mindful of portion sizes when serving! Thanks for visiting, Fiona. Love your 5:2 quiche!

  22. natashalh says:

    Oh, wow – I’ve actually never heard of a polenta cake. Very cool! When I first saw the picture it reminded me of a clafuotis. I need to make one some time! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog earlier (oatmeal cream pies). =)

    1. No, thank you! I found you from a pin of someone’s & so glad I did. I want to make your “little Debbie’ s” for my dad when I visit him in October (I live in UK, he’s in Florida)

  23. narf77 says:

    This is my kind of cake…cake how it should be. If you have to slather something with fluffy rich icing, ganache or cover it in cream and sprinkles then you shouldn’t be serving it at all. Cake is the main event, use gorgeous nut meals, fruit purees, dried fruit and nuts and make it something to write home about. Tart up gingerbread with fresh grated ginger and ginger chunks rather than make it into houses with sweets. Give cake back it’s place next to the cup of tea as the backbone of our mornings and afternoons I say! This one is gorgeous and very open to interpretation by vegans. Cheers for the share and the eye candy. I am storing up the music for when I can find my earphones or when Steve heads off shopping today…ear fest coming up courtesy of Miss R 🙂

    1. I can’t be doing with thick unctuous icings either. A little, okay. But these days everyone expects to see a cake or sweet bake all slathered up. Less is more 😀

      1. narf77 says:

        The flavour is in the cake. If you have a delicious moist slice of heaven, why mess around with it? Use nut meals, vegetable and fruits grated or pureed in them and make them sing with spices. You can always add a bit of marzipan if you really want to gild the lily 😉

  24. Lucy says:

    Hi Kellie, this looks absolutely delicious, I’m going to bake this for my mum’s birthday this weekend, I was wondering have you tried using honey or maple syrup instead as I can’t use caster sugar or coconut sugar are not an option for her due to dietary reasons

    1. Hi Lucy. You know, I haven’t made it with honey so I had a look online and couldn’t find anything that was all honey, rather than honey-sugar combination. I really don’t know how it would work because of the drastic increase in moisture. I didm find this link thought that may help you decide whether you want to try and adapt this recipe (or any other). http://honeyfanatic.com/1278/baking-with-honey-instead-of-sugar/. Good luck! If you do adapt this cake, would you let me know how you got on with it? I could perhaps pop in a note on adapting it in the post itself, with a nod to you. 🙂

      1. Lucy says:

        Thanks so much for getting back to me Kellie and for sending the link, it was very helpful. I made this cake for my mums birthday today and it went down very well, everyone loved it, it’s really yummy 🙂 I used 3/4 cup of honey and lowered the temperature to 160 degrees. On the link you gave me it said to reduce the liquids, I wasn’t really sure what to reduce so I just used a little bit extra polenta and ground almonds instead (i didn’t measure this out I’m afraid, so I don’t know how much extra I used). Other than that I followed the recipe exactly. I will definitely be making this again, it’s so moist and fresh tasting. Delicious. Thanks for the recipe and for your reply. Looking forward to trying more of your recipes 🙂

      2. That’s super, Lucky. Thanks so my h for getting back to me with such useful and detailed information. I’m so happy you like this cake. I may just try it your way next!

  25. Kalli says:

    I was thinking about “veganizing” this recipe — using applesauce instead of eggs. It seems like the applesauce would remedy the cake’s tendency toward dryness.

    1. Applesauce could be nice, but if dryness of the cake is a worry this cake is actually quite puddingy. Very soft. Perhaps more lemon if adding the applesauce.

  26. Su Lewis says:

    If you’re veganising it do you think you would need to put in extra raising agent to compensate for the missing eggs?

  27. Chris says:

    This cake looks really great, I want to make it for my daughter as she has an intolerance to fat which means even ‘good fats’ like eggs and nuts are a no go and so she’s never had cake before. Do you think it would work if I just used egg whites (obviously increasing the amount)? Also do you have any suggestions on what I could replace the ground almonds with?

    1. Yes, but if using something like aqua fab (whipped chickpea juice) this shouldn’t be necessary. 🙂

    2. Hi there. I think very well whipped white would be fine and perhaps toasted and ground oats (oat flour) might sub for the nuts but that would be an educated guess. Let me know how it goes!

  28. Chris says:

    Hi Kellie, thanks for all the advice. I finally got the chance to make it today, I ended up using a low fat durum wheat flour instead of almonds as oats were a bit too fatty for her and it came out fantastic. It was brilliant to finally be able to give me little girl a piece of cake. Thanks again 🙂

    1. That’s so good to hear. I really really am so chuffed for you – and her. You sound like a lovely Dad. 😊

If you have time, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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