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Lemon polenta cake recipe

Lemon polenta cake recipe

  • Recipes
  • Dish type
  • Cake
  • Cakes with fruit
  • Citrus cakes
  • Lemon cake

Moist, sweet and substantial. This cake is easy to make ahead, so freeze until needed then defrost overnight.

Hampshire, England, UK

80 people made this

IngredientsServes: 10

  • 450g (1 lb) unsalted butter, softened
  • 450g (1 lb) caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 5 eggs
  • zest of 4 lemons
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 225g (8 oz) polenta
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

MethodPrep:10min ›Cook:50min ›Extra time:1hr cooling › Ready in:2hr

  1. Preheat the oven to 160 C / Gas 3. Grease a 30cm (12 in) round cake tin.
  2. Beat the butter, sugar and vanilla extract together until pale and light. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then fold in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Fold in the polenta, baking powder and salt and mix well. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  4. Allow to cool fully on a cooling rack before serving.

Gluten free

If making this cake for someone who is gluten intolerant, ensure all ingredients - especially the polenta and baking powder - are 100% gluten free by reading the labels.

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Reviews & ratingsAverage global rating:(3)

Reviews in English (3)

Packed with lemon flavour! This cake was enjoyed by all who tried it.-11 Mar 2014

Delicious!! Didn't last long though with my son just in from school!-16 Jun 2014

Could have been lovely but contains far too much butter. I used a spring form cake tin and melted butter leaked out all over the oven bottom as it cooked. Once the cake cooled it was more like a slab of butter with cake crumbs than a buttery cake.-16 Sep 2017

Lemon Polenta Cake: the soft and delicate recipe for breakfast

The lemon polenta cake is a very soft and tasty bundt cake. The addition of corn flour to this dessert gives a savory touch to the cake. It's the perfect recipe for breakfast, for a snack, but also as a dessert, especially if served with jam or cream. It's so easy recipe to prepare that will be loved especially by children.

Lemon Polenta Cake

I was absolutely thrilled when I came across this Nigella Lawson recipe. It is so much like a cake my two beloved Zias would make when we would spend time in Switzerland throughout my life. This cake is light and delicious with the perfect balance of the tartness from the lemon and sweetness. I serve it with puréed raspberries as I love lemon with raspberries (better than chocolate with raspberries!). This makes a perfect Easter weekend dessert!

Here is the original recipe. I have written it up with ingredients and the amounts I used, which are slightly different to the original recipe. It still turns out perfectly!

I think Nigella is an inspiration and a kitchen goddess! Thank you, Nigella, for this recipe and for the wonderful memories it evokes for me!

Prep Time: 10 minutes Bake Time: 45 minutes Serves: 8-12 slices


2/3 Cup Butter – softened (I use unsalted)

2 Cups Almond Flour (ground almonds)

3/4 cup Fine Polenta (cornmeal)

1½ teaspoons Baking Powder

2/3 cup Confectioners' Sugar (icing sugar)

How It’s Made

Prepare the bottom part of an 8.5” or 9” springform pan by covering it with overhanging parchment paper and putting the ring on tight. Grease the paper and sides of the pan with butter or a light oil (grapeseed is good) and sprinkle some cornmeal in the pan distributing it so the pan is covered to prevent sticking (this cake rarely does though). Shake out any excess cornmeal.

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until it is well mixed. I use a wooden spoon and some arm power but you can use a mix-master or a hand-held electric mixer.

Add the ground almonds, cornmeal and baking powder and mix this into the butter/sugar mixture as best you can. Add the eggs and the lemon zest and mix until it is a smooth batter.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top.

Bake for 45 minutes. Test with a sharp knife for doneness. It’s ok to have some crumbs on your knife but not goopy batter. Depending on your oven, it might need more time. Bake longer in increments of 5 minutes, testing each time.

When the cake is done, take it out of the oven and leave it in the pan.

Next, you’ll make the lemon syrup to pour over the warm cake in the pan. In a small saucepan, mix the lemon juice and the icing sugar. Bring it to a gentle boil over medium heat, let it boil for 30 seconds or so to let the sugar completely dissolve in the lemon juice, and then remove the pan from the heat.

Run a knife around the side of the pan. Then, with a toothpick, poke the top of the cake all over (anything larger than a toothpick will make too large holes for this cake as the cornmeal makes this cake have a has a courser consistency) and gently pour the warm syrup over the cake.

Let the cake cool completely, run a knife again around the side of the pan again and remove the ring.

To make the raspberry purée, mash with a fork, or in a blender to make it super smooth, 2 cups of fresh or thawed frozen raspberries. Add a tablespoon of maple syrup or honey for sweetening (as raspberries can be quite tart). Spoon the purée over the plated slice! Very thin slices of lemon on the cake before cutting (I was too eager to cut into this deliciousness to include a photo of that!) or on the plate with the slice of cake makes a pretty garnish!

Recipe Summary

  • Cake:
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (about 5 1/2 ounces)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅔ cup reduced-fat buttermilk
  • ¼ cup extravirgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
  • Compote:
  • 1 cup unsweetened apple juice
  • ½ cup golden raisins
  • ½ cup fresh cranberries
  • 1 ¾ cups finely chopped, peeled pear (about 2)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

To prepare cake, coat an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray line bottom of pan with parchment paper. Coat paper with cooking spray. Set aside.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a large bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine buttermilk, oil, eggs, and rind, stirring well with a whisk. Add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring until moist. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 40 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in the pan 10 minutes on a wire rack remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

To prepare compote, combine apple juice and raisins in a small saucepan over medium-high heat bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, and cook until reduced to 2/3 cup (about 4 minutes). Add fresh cranberries to pan cook 3 minutes or until cranberries pop. Add pear to pan cook 2 minutes or until pears are tender. Remove from heat stir in lemon juice.

Wine note: With a modestly sweet dessert like this, try a classic Madeira like Blandy's 5-Year-Old Verdelho ($21), which echoes the dried fruit with raisin and apricot flavors while adding its own touch of caramel sweetness. Serve it slightly chilled to contrast the warm cake. And don't worry about finishing the bottle Madeira lasts almost indefinitely, even after it's been opened. -Jeffery Lindenmuth

Upside-Down Lemon Polenta Cake – Recipe!

Lemons come is many different varieties and do vary in flavor. Meyer Lemons, which are my favorite, are a hybrid of lemon, orange and mandarin and have a thin-skin and taste a tiny bit sweeter than their counterparts. These lemons are a sought after fruit at farmer’s markets and fine grocery because they are harder to grow, so they do tend to cost just a little more, but I think – well worth it.

I have a few Meyer Lemon trees in my yard and at the moment they are flourishing with fruit. Over the holidays, I made a Citrus Pomegranate Punch and utilized as many as I could, so my guests could enjoy their uniqueness in drink form. Some of us added a little Tequila Blanco to our punch, while others enjoyed it straight – it was a big hit.

Baking with lemons, especially a whole lemon – skin and all, can be tricky. I find that some palates find the bitterness of the skin and pith difficult to enjoy. However, if you haven’t tried a baked good with whole lemon, you don’t know what you’re missing because it brings the citrus fruit to the forefront of the dessert.

Slicing lemons wafer thin is the first step to a successful lemon dessert, especially in this upside down cake recipe. The thin slices of lemon rest in a pool of dark brown sugar and butter before baking, and a batter of polenta (fine cornmeal) and semolina (super fine cornmeal) is combined with a few ingredients to create a moist batter that tops the lemons. After inverting the cake out of the pan the sugar-glazed lemons rest on top of a corn-crumb pedestal like a subtle volcano before it erupts.

The taste is lemony to say the least, but it’s a sophisticated lemon – not a sugary lemon. I think it gets better after resting in the refrigerator before serving. You can even bake it a day ahead, which makes it great for a party or brunch the next day.

Lemon-scented sunshine

Y ou can keep your scented candles. For me the perfect home will always smell of cake. And not only fresh-from-the-oven cake either, but the whole cornucopia of baking scents: of fresh butter and golden sugar creaming in the food mixer the grated zest of oranges and lemons cloves and nutmeg being ground and nuts toasted. Almost every cake-making ingredient from flour to treacle and chocolate carries with it a sense of safe wellbeing and welcome.

I bake when the weather is wet. The smell of warm sugar, butter and treacle creates a tiny microclimate in the kitchen that builds a safe haven from the elements outside - the soggy shoes and dripping umbrella, the pink ears and popsicle toes that become a way of life in January. In truth, this is also the flattest time of the year for me, and if the sky is dustbin-lid grey, too, then I need a bit of cake to get me through it.

But there is more to it than that. I want a cake that carries with it a wave of freshness. A hit of citrus that will lift everyone's spirits and send not just comfort but a sense of quiet energy and renewal through our body. The sweet syrups scented with orange and rose that are so much part and parcel of Middle Eastern pastries can also be used to scent and moisten a cake. I have done it with flourless polenta cakes before, spooning warm orange blossom and honey syrup over the surface so that it sinks in and enriches the crumb of the cake, but I must admit that the sugar hit is almost too much of a good thing. A version slightly less sticky with a snap of lemon to it feels more contemporary and less cosy.

I recently came across a lemon-spiked syrup in Gennaro Contaldo's book Gennaro's Italian Year (£20, Headline). He used the syrup to soak a modern rum baba. You got the old-fashioned warmth of fresh baking with a not-too-sweet, modern syrup flavoured not only with Italian lemons and oranges but with a dash of limoncello - the light, citrus-scented liqueur from the Amalfi coast. As you would expect, the baba is heavenly, but I wondered if a similar idea might work with a cake, too. Well, of course it did, doing the work of the sugar-heavy Middle Eastern syrups I love so much, but without the heaviness. In short, a syrup that didn't cloy.

Anyone who has a bottle of fruit syrup on their shelf might like to use that instead of the lemon liqueur. Quince, damson and plum gin, as richly coloured as a stained-glass window, is a possibility, as was the damson vodka a friend sneaked into my Christmas stocking. I find they are useful in situations such as this, and I have been known to up-end my favourite tipple (sloe gin, as you're asking) over sponge cake in a syrup emergency.

Having said that about candles, I may have to eat my words. Laduree, the Parisian baker, is now selling brioche-scented candles to fill your home with the smell of warm cake. Fine, but I would rather have the real thing.

Lemon syrup cake

210g butter

210g unrefined caster sugar

100g almonds

3 large eggs

125g ground almonds

150g ground polenta

a level tsp baking powder

finely grated zest and juice of a large orange

For the syrup:

a large, juicy lemon

a large orange

100g golden caster sugar

2 tbsp liqueur, such as limoncello

Using a non-stick, loose-bottomed cake tin about 20cm in diameter, line the base with a piece of baking parchment. Set the oven at 180C/gas mark 5. Put the kettle on.

Beat the butter and sugar in a food mixer till light and fluffy. Put the almonds in a heatproof bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover them. Leave for 5 minutes, then pop each nut out of its skin, squeezing between thumb and forefinger. Discard the skins.

Break the eggs into a small bowl and beat them lightly with a fork. You just want them lightly mixed. Pour a little of the beaten egg into the creamed butter and sugar, beating thoroughly, then slowly continue adding and beating till all the egg is used up.

Finely chop the almonds. I use a food processor, but it only takes a few minutes with a knife. Add the chopped and the ground almonds to the egg cake mixture. Stir the polenta and baking powder together then add it gently to the mix. Lastly, mix in the grated orange zest and juice.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, then turn the heat down to 160C/gas mark 3 and continue cooking for a further 30 minutes, covering the surface with tin foil if it is browning too quickly. Remove from the oven but leave the cake in its tin.

To make the syrup, finely grate the zest from the lemon and orange over a measuring jug. Cut the fruits in half and squeeze their juice into the jug, then top it up to 250ml with water. Pour into a saucepan and add the sugar. Bring to the boil and keep at a rapid bubble until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid has reduced to about 175ml. Remove from the heat and add the liqueur. Spike holes into the top of the cake (still warm in its tin) with a skewer, pour over the hot syrup and leave to cool. Serves 8.

A cheap soup for a grey day

8 rashers of smoked streaky bacon

a little oil or butter

4 fat leeks

400g potatoes

1.5 litres water or stock

a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley

2 heaped tbsp grated Parmesan per bowl

Cut the bacon into small pieces and put it in a casserole dish with a little oil or butter. Let it colour over a moderate heat till sizzling. Cut the leeks into thick slices, rinsing to remove any grit. Add the leeks to the bacon and cover with greaseproof paper and a lid. Leave to soften for 15 to 20 minutes over a low to moderate heat. The leeks mustn't colour.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Remove the paper and stir the potatoes into the softened leeks. Pour over the water or stock, season, bring to the boil, then, turn the heat down so that it gently bubbles. Leave, with just the occasional stir, till the potatoes are fully tender. Chop the parsley roughly and stir it in to the soup.

Remove half of the soup and blitz till smooth. Pour the blended soup back in with the unblended vegetables and stir. Check the seasoning. Reheat if necessary, ladle into bowls and scatter with Parmesan. Serves 4.

Lemon polenta cake with limoncello and citrus syrup

A zesty little number, this is an easy-to-make, delightfully light and fluffy cake, with an excellent texture from the polenta. It's also a great way to showcase the delicious flavours of lemon and to also take advantage of other winter citrus fruits. The cake is given an extra bit of oomph with a boozy citrus sauce.



Skill level


  • 200 g caster sugar
  • 250 g diced unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • fine zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 125 g self-raising flour, sifted
  • 125 g polenta, buzzed in a blender until fine
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 50 ml lemon juice
  • 50 ml orange juice
  • fine zest from 1 orange
  • 50 ml limoncello

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Cooling time 10 minutes

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter, sugar, zest and salt. Use a wooden spoon to mix quite vigorously, until you have a creamed texture. Alternatively, use an electric mixer.

Add the eggs one by one, making sure each egg is fully incorporated before the next one goes in.

Slowly fold in the dry ingredients and mix until everything is fully combined. Turn the cake mixture out into a lined 26 cm spring-formed tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon. Place in a pre-heated oven at 170°C and cook for 25 minutes.

While you are waiting for your cake to cook, have a little syrup moment.

To make the syrup, combine the sugar, citrus juice and zest in a small saucepan. Give it a little stir to incorporate, before placing it on a medium heat. Allow it to come to the boil undisturbed and then let it bubble away, until it starts to caramelise and change colour slightly. This will take about 5 minutes. At this stage, add the limoncello, being careful of spitting liquids, and let the syrup come to the boil again, before removing from the heat and setting aside.

Now it may be time to check your cake. Pull it out of the oven and test using a skewer it should come out clean. If not, pop it back in the oven and bake for another 10 minutes.

Once it’s ready, place the cake on a wire rack and use a pastry brush to brush the syrup over the top. You won’t need to use it all. Leave the cake to cool for 10 minutes or so, before removing it from the tin.

Cake can be eaten immediately, but will be needed to be cut with a gentle hand as it will still be fragile. Serve with some mascarpone and extra syrup drizzle over the top.

• Syrup can be made ahead of time and will store in the fridge for a good week or so. A tasty little number that would be good added to cocktails or even poured over a pancake.

Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson. Borge Mogensen Spanish chair, from Great Dane Furnture. Tapas coffee cup in indigo from Country Road. Mode plate 20 cm in colour stone from Royal Doulton. Bogart cake fork from The Chef and The Cook.

For a taste of O Tama Carey’s cooking, visit her at Berta restaurant in Sydney. Like Berta on Facebook, and follow the restaurant on Twitter and Instagram.

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Serve as-is or with a dusting of powdered sugar and/or candied lemon peel. To store, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to four days or freeze for up to one month.

Note: This recipe specifies polenta, which varies in texture, from fine to coarse. A coarser polenta, will give a slight crunch to the cake. If you prefer a softer texture, use a fine-grained polenta (not instant) or cornmeal.

Lynda Balslev is a San Francisco Bay Area cookbook author, food and travel writer and recipe developer. She studied cooking at Le Cordon Bleu Ecole de Cuisine in Paris and worked as a personal chef, culinary instructor, and food writer in Switzerland and Denmark.

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Editor's note: This recipe has been adjusted by its author to clarify the type of polenta used -- fine to medium-grain or cornmeal will work beautifully -- and to skip a 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda that isn't necessary for baking success.

Lemon Polenta Cake (nut free)

Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fully.

Add the eggs one by one beat well, adding a small amount of flour if it starts to curdle.

Add the remaining flour and beat well.

Sit in the polenta and baking powder.,

Grate in the zest of one lemon and the juice of half a lemon.

Mix well and then transfer the mixture into your prepared time. Bake in the middle of your over between 45 and 1 hour. Check to make sure a skewer comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, grate the rind off two lemons and extract the juice from the remaining three and a half into a saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.

When the cake is cooked, remove it from the oven and prick all over with a skewer - immediately pour the lemon syrup over the cake and let is soak in. It will seem like too much, but it will soak in!

Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and wrap in foil until needed. The cake will keep for a few days, but will freeze very well. And is lovely warmed up in the microwave for a few seconds.

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