Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Orange polenta cake for Immy

So, an orange polenta cake is a thing I've been meaning to have a go at for a really long time. I was dithering over it yesterday and then I received a Tweet from a reader, Immy, who needed some inspiration for a tea party this weekend. And there's nothing like a reader in distress to get me going.

This works really well and it's very easy. But unfortunately, it's not as wheat-free as it sounds as it still contains 200g of flour. There are flourless and wheat-free cakes you can do but I find that they're often very dense and more puddingy than tea time-y.

(Having said that, Immy, you could do a flourless chocolate cake topped with cream and fruit, a la Sophie Dahl)

But if you're not really that bothered about the flour, this really is an excellent cake. It's jammy and delicious with a surprisingly subtle flavour and doesn't dry out. And doesn't have the bilious after-taste of a lemon cake. There looks like a staggering amount of sugar in this but the end product is not too sweet at all.

One word of warning though: this makes a HUGE cake. Enough for 15 people, easily.

It's made using a 23cm diameter cake tin, that's about 7cm deep. Cake tins are normally about 23cm, but they are sometimes shallower than 7cm. I can never, ever be bothered to measure tins but in this instance it's worth making sure you've got a big enough tin - alternatively you could halve the quantities.

Orange polenta cake

250g butter
250g sugar
4 eggs
140g polenta OR substitute semolina, doesn't really make a difference
200g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
zest and juice 2 oranges

100g sugar
100ml orange juice

1 Zest and squeeze your oranges. Roughly chop the zest. Measure off 100ml of the juice and set aside for the glaze.

2 Set the oven to 140C for fan ovens and 160C normal ovens. Grease your cake tin and - if you feel like it, line with baking parchment. I rarely bother, but then I almost ALWAYS get cake stuck to the sides. So if you can be arsed then do it - if not it won't be a disaster, but don't say I didn't warn you.

3 Cream together the butter and sugar. Yawn... why is this task so tedious?

4 Add each of the four eggs, one at a time. They may start to curdle towards the end of adding the last egg. Just ignore it.

5 Add your dry ingredients and mix. Then add the zest and your half-quantity orange juice and mix. Pour it all into cake tin and shove in the oven for 1hr 10mins. Yes, I know, seems a long time. But that's how long it takes.

6 Take cake out of oven and leave to cool. When it's sort of tepid, sling together the remaining juice and sugar and bring to the boil - then simmer for 5 minutes. Once this has cooled down to lukewarm, prick all over your cake with a fork or a skewer and pour over. It'll probably go everywhere so don't worry - just get as much down the holes as you can and spread it around and it'll sink in eventually. But I would wipe up any sugar-juice combo quickly because it will basically set and glue itself to your work surface otherwise.

Nice on its own, or with creme fraiche.


  1. That truly is an impressive looking cake. I've never baked with polenta before though- bought a bag ages ago to use but it ended up going out of date! Think I'll bookmark this recipe.

  2. Ah yes... the out of date bag of indistinct grains we all possess... you can absolutely use semolina for this - I did and it's fantastic. Although orange semolina cake doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

  3. What a beautiful cake! Did you cut the heart out of parchment?! If so, I am amazed by your drawing/ cutting skills... I've tried before and although the end result was OK, it was definitely not a perfect heart.

    Looking forward to making this to use up some polenta (I bought way too much when I first discovered the "no-stir" method a few months ago).

  4. yars the heart is all my own work. what can I say? my mother is an artist. the trick is to fold the paper in half and cut out one "side" of the heart only - be generous on the outward swoop of the fat buttocky bit and then curve dramatically inwards. then you unfold the paper and ta ha! perfect heart.

    still got icing sugar everywhere though

  5. You are such a wonder, thank you so much. This looks delicious. I will report back! xx

  6. This is so great!It reminds me(sans orange juice, a lot less sugar and with veg oil instead of butter*)of a corn muffins recipe I usually make on weekends for breakfast. Hard to screw up and tasty.

    *Ok, it's almost nothing like this recipe...

  7. Glad I ran into this. I have a crapton of Polenta I ordered off the internet to try and use.