Lemon Polenta Cake

lemon & polenta cake

Last week I was asked about how many of my recipes I make up and I realised it’s been a while since I’ve done any of my own ‘recipe development’.

On Sunday I was going to make a lemon and olive oil cake. As Andy headed off to the shops he asked if I needed anything. Oh no, I had everything I needed. Half an hour later, I discovered that I barely had enough olive oil for the recipe and, if I did, I’d be leaving us with none.

However, I took this as an opportunity to create my own cake. Initially that opportunity was not grasped entirely gracefully – there was a lot of muttering about not being able to find a recipe that suited exactly what was in the cupboard. But the end product was lovely!

Begin by preheating the oven to 160°C fan and grease and baseline a 23 cm springform tin. Using a 23cm tin gives a thinner cake – if you want a deeper cake use a 20cm tin, but remember you’ll need to cook the cake for a little longer.

In the trusty MagiMix, cream 200g of unsalted butter with 200g of caster sugar. Add 100g of almonds and 100g of fine polenta. Make sure you use fine otherwise rather than “texture” you’ll end up with gritty cake! Beat in 3 eggs and 2 tsp of baking powder.

At this point the mixture will be really stiff.

Now grate in the zest of 2 small lemons and add the juice of one (about 1 tbsp) and mix well. The mixture will be quite loose now. Pour it into the prepared tin and bake for 55 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean. I also had to cover my cake with foil for the last 10 minutes or so, as it was starting to take on too much colour.

When you’ve got about 10 minutes of cooking left, start work on the syrup. In a small pan, place 100g of caster sugar along with the juice of 2 lemons and 1 tbsp of rum. Heat this up to create a syrup – you may need to add a splash or two of hot water along the way. When the sugar has fully dissolved, you are good to go. Ensure you don’t heat it so much that it boils and starts to turn into caramel!

Remove the cake from the oven and, while it’s hot, prick all over with a skewer or toothpick and then spoon over the syrup. You probably won’t need all of it (I had a tablespoon or two left). If you have a silicon brush, even better because you spread the syrup out over the cake a lot more evenly.

Leave the cake to cool, and absorb the syrup, in the tin. When cool, remove the tin and baking paper. Serve with cream.

It keeps well: the syrup and almonds keep it moist and the texture of the polenta does soften a little over time.

Note that as this cake is made with polenta and NO flour, it is gluten free (suitable for coeliacs).

Lemon and Thyme Cake


I have just ended up with a pile of lemons and a surfeit of eggs. I’m working my way through both … slowly.

I spotted this recipe for a lemon and thyme cake about a month ago and I invariably find Nigel Slater’s cake recipes flawless (his chocolate brownie recipe is fantastic). I am also a sucker for cakes using ground almonds and cakes dredged in syrup when they come out of the oven … Of course, being a lemon and thyme cake … I now have an excess of thyme hanging around the house.

As I was using my trusty Magimix I took some short cuts with Slater’s method … but if you don’t bake a lot or you’re doing the hard work by hand, I’d defer to his recipe rather than what follows …

Preheat oven to 160°C. Slater doesn’t specify if this is normal or fan forced but, as I opted for normal bake and had to cook the cake for a lot longer than suggested, I think it’s fan forced. Grease a 1lb loaf tin and line with baking paper (yes, actually do this!).

Cream 200g butter with 200g caster sugar, and then add 100g plain flour, ½ tsp baking powder and 100g ground almonds. I always mix between each addition. Then add 4 large eggs. Finish by adding the finely grated zest of one large lemon (depending on how much you like lemon) and approximately 1 tsp of finely chopped fresh thyme leaves (you really can’t go the dried route here).

This makes a really thick batter so you’re going to have to spoon it in to the tin, rather than pour. Don’t be alarmed.

Slater says to bake for 45 mins. At 160°C, no fan, this wasn’t long enough and I ended up baking for just over an hour. If you can, opt for 160°C fan forced, or try 180°C in a normal oven.

Just before the cake finishes baking, make the syrup. In a pan over a moderate heat, dissolve 4 tbsp of caster sugar in the juice of 2 large lemons, adding in ½ tsp of thyme leaves. Make sure the sugar dissolves but don’t bring the mix to the boil. This did make a generous amount of syrup (not that it worried the cake) so don’t be too fussed about sourcing huge lemons!

When the cake comes out of the oven, take a long skewer and poke holes all over the cake, all the way to the bottom and then drizzle the syrup over the cake evenly, before allowing to cool in the tin.

Because you did use the baking paper to line the tin, when the cake is cool simply pull it out of the tin and cut in generous slices. Slater suggests serving with thick yoghurt but you don’t even need that.

Absolutely delicious – and I think it took me longer to do the dishes than put the cake together!