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This Pear, Almond and Mincemeat Polenta Cake is for those who, like me, don't really like the ubiquitous fruity and boozy mince pies. The cake is made in one bowl and eats beautifully over a week. Gluten-free, and also easily vegan by using chia eggs. Despite living in Britain for over 25 years I have not quite adopted the local Christmas custom of whipping up batches of mince pies. All of that rolling and stamping out dough makes me want to break out in a not very festive sweat. But plenty of people do, so these small fruity hand pies are at absolutely every gathering at this time of year.

Some pies are just-out-of-the-oven-warm, all crumbly and buttery. Quite a few are spectacularly boozy, the brandy elevating the humble store cupboard ingredients that we mightn’t normally give the time of day. Others are more wholesome, with chunks of fresh fruit in with the dried. You can also make them a bit ‘skinnier’ (it is all relative) by using phyllo pastry instead of the usual shortcrust. And of course there are stacks of made up ones in the supermarket, with something for all tastes. Except perhaps mine. 🙁

This Pear, Almond and Mincemeat Polenta Cake is for those who, like me, don't really like the ubiquitous fruity and boozy mince pies. The cake is made in one bowl and eats beautifully over a week. Gluten-free, and also easily vegan by using chia eggs. Very much a British thing, mincemeat – the filling of mince pies – is not actual minced meat (phew!),  instead a heady compote of dried fruits, mixed peel, some kind of fat (often suet), nuts, sugar, sometimes booze, and plenty of warm spice.  It used to be made with meat, but thankfully this is no longer the case or I doubt very much whether it would be as popular a pie filling as it is. I certainly wouldn’t be adventurous enough to try one.

One reason that I haven’t got with the programme on the whole mince pie obsession is I don’t really like mincemeat. Or rather I think it is fine in small doses. For someone who likes full on savoury food I am not so hung-ho for full-on sweet foods: “No thank you” to death-by-chocolate, and “no ta” to mince pies. I will eat one (okay, two) to be polite if they are homemade, but I’d rather move onto some chilli-flecked cheese straws, or smoked salmon blini.

So, to get round the whole not being crazy for mince pies thing, I have come up with a couple of mincemeat-lover friendly recipes that will also please any non aficionados – last year’s somewhat similarly flavoured Pear, Mincemeat and Cranberry Galette and today’s Polenta Cake. The textures are however very different, and this cake is even more subtle, and actually easier too. Everything for this festive recipe is pretty much just bunged into a stand mixer and poured into a waiting tin. The hard part is, as always, waiting for the darn thing to cool.

I will leave you to read on for the recipe. As for me, I have just realised that my early present-buying has done me no favours as I now I need to find said presents and wrap them. Serves me right for being organised. Never again.

This Pear, Almond and Mincemeat Polenta Cake is for those who, like me, don't really like the ubiquitous fruity and boozy mince pies. The cake is made in one bowl and eats beautifully over a week. Gluten-free, and also easily vegan by using chia eggs.

Pear, Almond and Mincemeat Polenta Cake

  • Servings: 10
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

The bundt type tin is my favourite tin for most cakes – so easy to make even slices – but use a square tin or loaf tin if that’s what you have or prefer, perhaps covering the cake towards the end and leaving in a further 10 minutes. I’ve only made this in a bundt tin so can’t give specifics on the timings for other tins. And don’t be put off by the serving amount: this cake keeps well for up to five days. Plenty of time to scoff the lot. Freezes well, too. xx

**This recipe is based on my Fig and Walnut Polenta Cake recipe from earlier this year. 🙂

Butter or oil spray for the pan

150ml light olive oil or rapeseed oil (organic)

100g  dark brown or muscovado sugar + 1 heaped tbsp (divided use)

3 medium organic eggs or 3 “chia eggs” for vegan version

100g ground almonds (lightly toasted and then blitzed in a powerful blender is best for flavour and texture, but bought is fine of course)

100g polenta (fine or coarse)

75g gluten-free flour blend (like Doves or Bob’s Red Mill) or plain/AP flour

1 & 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp fine salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract (optional)

3 small firm pears, small dice (divided use)

5 rounded tbsp mincemeat (bought or homemade) – more to taste

1 tbsp butter or coconut oil

Palmful of dried cranberries

Palmful of flaked almonds, plus about 3 tbsp toasted flaked almonds to decorate and add contrast of texture

You will need: stand mixer, food processor or electric beaters; mixing bowl if using beaters; bundt type tin or 9 inch square cake tin; small saucepan

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F. Butter or oil spray your tin. Set aside.

2. Add the oil, sugar and eggs to the bowl of a stand mixer, food processor or large mixing bowl. If using a stand mixer use the ballon whisk attachment. Whisk/beat on high until light and fluffy. Change to a paddle attachment if you have a stand mixer.

3. Turn off the machine and add in the almonds, polenta, flour, baking powder, salt and the extracts. Beat until all is incorporated.

4. Pour or spoon in half of the batter and dot over about one-third of the pears and all of the mincemeat. Pear. Almond and Mincemeat Polenta Cake5. Top with the remaining batter and smooth with a wet spoon. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until lightly golden, and a skewer inserted comes out clean. Place the cake on a cooling rack or similar (anything to let the air underneath the tin).Pear. Almond and Mincemeat Polenta Cake

6. While the cake is cooling, heat the butter/oil and sugar until the sugar is dissolved; add the pears. Saute the pears, stirring, for a few minutes then add the cranberries and flaked almonds and continue cooking for a couple of minutes until all is softened.  Allow to cool a bit.

Pear. Almond and Mincemeat Polenta Cake

Making the topping in my fab little OXO sauté pan

7. Turn out the cake and place on a plate or cake stand. Spoon over the cooked fruit and top with the toasted almonds.

Soft Food Diet: leave off the topping, or blend it thoroughly first, and no flaked almond extra topping.

Pear. Almond and Mincemeat Polenta Cake




20 thoughts on “Pear, Almond and Mincemeat Polenta Cake Recipe (gluten-free)

  1. coffee&twigs says:

    I feel so silly! Up until now I completely thought mincemeat pies all really were filled with meat. This looks great though! Will have to try, thanks for sharing

    1. Haha, I thought the same, but thank god, they don’t! 😂 xx

    2. I feel most of the non-Brits reading this clicked away in horror. Thanks for sticking with me on this!

  2. Nicola says:

    That sounds so lovely, will get some pears in to do it 🙂
    When I was young, I used to think mincemeat somehow miraculously changed in the oven from mince into the sweet pies, couldn’t understand how it worked!

  3. I’m with you on the mincemeat, horrible stuff!!

  4. This cake looks bomb! And the name sounds so sophisticated haha ☺️ but the pics are as always on point!! Lots of love to you xoxo

    1. What a lovely comment, Claudia. Thank you 🙂

  5. nadishaf says:

    Looks yumm 😊……and the combination of mincemeat with pears!! Gonna try

    1. Cheers, Nadia. 🙂

  6. I. Love. This. I’m a huge fan of the alternative mince pie and I do like mincemeat so this is a huge win win. Is it also wrong that I probably would have loved it with beef in too?!?!

    1. Ha ha! No, as I guess that’s more authentic. :-)) And thank you, Dom. 🙂

  7. Oh god, this is just pure perfection!

    1. Aw, thank you, Petra. Very kind of you. If you are ambivalent towards mincemeat, this is the recipe for you. 🙂

  8. clupv says:

    Wow, I have to say those pictures are beautiful, and it looks delicious!!

    1. Thanks so much. 🙂

  9. This looks and sounds yummy. I also now want to get a bunt pan!

    1. I love my bundt! But I never can decide what side I wish to have “up”, if you know what I mean.

  10. Sally says:

    I’m with you on being a savoury lover (no – to death by chocolate for me too) but do like a mince pie. The pastry has to be unsweetened and very buttery to make them truly addictive. I like the tangy burst of cranberries in mincemeat too. So identify with your present dilemma. I am legendary for hiding presents and then not being able to find them!

  11. Hah – I hear you on the fruit mince – I used to have a real love-hate relationship with it but have figured out that if it has not much candied peel and *quite* a lot of booze (!) then I am A-OK with it. And although like you I have a savoury tooth rather than a sweet one, I always make an exception for a good mince pie, especially if I can add a dollop of brandy butter. Swoon.

  12. LauraJane says:

    This looks devine! Putting that on my recipe bucket-list for the holidays!

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