Part pound cake, part meltingly moist tea cake, and utterly buttery and citrus-kissed, this glazed Polenta Cake is both comfortingly homey and refreshingly unexpected at the same time.
Put another way, it’s the simple dessert recipe you didn’t know you needed.
Whether it’s a birthday party for a guest who claims not to like cake (ha!), a not-too-sweet dessert for an afternoon tea (or afternoon bubbly), or a lighter-tasting dessert to either a) keep with a breezy summer mood or b) offset a heavier dinner, polenta cake is perfect.
Polenta cake is made from polenta (ground cornmeal), almond flour, eggs, sugar, and either butter or olive oil.
I also add Greek yogurt and a touch of orange liqueur to make it special.
As with my lemon Almond Flour Cake, baking with almond flour leads to a somewhat denser dessert, but I mean “dense” in a very good way!
It is so magnificently moist that the cake has some heft to it, but it is not chewy or dry in the slightest.
On the contrary, this marvelous cake melts in your mouth.
You’ll run your fork around the plate to catch every tender crumb.
How to Make Polenta Cake
The trick to keeping the cake moist without making it overly heavy is the same I use for my top-rated Gluten Free Carrot Cake: it’s all about beating the eggs.
For the polenta cake, you’ll whip the egg whites separately, then fold them into the batter.
It’s an extra step (that between you and me, I typically avoid at all costs) but here it is well worth it for the lift they provide.
This cake’s lovely, rich texture is offset by citrus.
Orange zest, orange juice, and orange liqueur make it taste bright.
- Polenta. Polenta is ground corn that when freshly cooked becomes soft and creamy. It originated in Italy. When added uncooked to cake and other baked goods, it provides texture (think of cornbread like this Mexican Cornbread). Polenta isn’t to make cake grainy; rather it adds a pleasant contrast against the smooth almond flour.
- Almond Flour. Made of just finely ground almonds, this high-protein flour is naturally gluten free and grain free. I adore it in baking, because it makes recipes taste fully flavored, moist, and rich.
- Butter + Greek Yogurt. The Greek yogurt adds tang and the butter combines with the eggs to create a cake that reminds me of lemon curd or orange curd, but in cake form. The Greek yogurt also adds a healthy touch.
- Eggs. They make the cake moist and light and give it a subtle custard flavor (so yummy!).
- Orange. Making polenta cake with orange gives it a sunny flavor and makes this cake a delight year-round. This recipe uses orange 3 ways: the zest, the juice, and orange liqueur.
Rub the citrus zest into the sugar with your fingers prior to creaming it with the butter to bring out its flavor even more.
- Glaze. A quick and easy orange glaze is the finishing touch and makes the cake the right amount of sweet.
- Beat the egg whites.
- In a separate bowl, beat the sugar, orange zest, and butter. Then beat in the remaining wet ingredients.
- Blend in the almond flour and polenta. Fold in the egg whites.
- Scoop and smooth the batter into a cake pan. Bake for about 40 minutes.
- Let cool, prepare the glaze, and spread over the top. ENJOY!
- To Store. Polenta cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
- To Serve. Enjoy leftovers at room temperature, or for a refreshing twist, enjoy a slice cool straight from the fridge.
Because this cake is made with almond flour, it becomes more moist as it sits. We loved it even more on Day 2.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Cake Pan. 9-inch round pan with nonstick coating.
- Citrus Press. Easy to squeeze and produces more juice too!
- Citrus Zester. A durable, stainless steel microplane zester. (It can also grate cheese too.)
I originally baked this polenta cake for my friend Melissa’s birthday (she has celiac so I needed a gluten free cake that both she and the other guests would adore).
The kind soul she is, she offered me a leftover slice and I politely declined—it was her birthday after all and when you have to eat gluten free 100% of the time, desserts this good are especially prized.
In the moment, I patted myself on the back for being a good, selfless friend with a strong sense of self control.
And an hour later?
I was CRAVING a slice and regretting it…only a little bit, but. Clearly, I need more polenta cake.
Come to think of it, we all do. I hope you try this polenta cake recipe soon!
FOR THE CAKE:
- 3 large eggs separated
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large orange zest + 1/4 cup juice
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened to room temperature
- 2/3 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau; or additional orange juice
- 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 cup firmly packed almond flour or almond meal* (135 grams)
- 1/3 cup finely ground polenta/cornmeal
FOR THE GLAZE:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons orange liqueur or additional orange juice
- 1 tablespoon orange juice
- Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. Generously coat a 9-inch round cake pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until the whites hold stiff peaks (do not over beat or the whites will separate). Set aside.
- To a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment) add the sugar. Zest the orange right over the top. With your fingers, rub to combine until the sugar is fragrant and feels lightly moist. Juice the zested orange and set aside (you’ll need juice for both the cake and the glaze).
- Add the butter to the bowl with the sugar. Beat until it looks pale and fluffy (if you are using the same beaters you did for the egg whites, no need to wash them). This will take 1 to 2 full minutes. Stop to scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Beat in the egg yolks one at a time, ensuring each yolk is completely incorporated before adding the next.
- Add the yogurt, orange liqueur, almond extract, and 1/4 cup of the reserved orange juice. Mix until smooth, stopping to scrape down the bowl as needed. The mixture will look curdled but will be absolutely fine.
- Sprinkle the salt over the top, then sprinkle on the almond flour and cornmeal. With the mixer on low speed, blend just until the dry ingredients disappear.
- Add a small amount of the egg whites to the bowl with the batter. With a rubber spatula, gently fold to combine (this lightens the batter initially). Once they are mostly incorporated, add the remaining egg whites and fold in gently. Stop as soon as you no longer see white streaks.
- With a large spoon, carefully scoop the batter into the cake pan in big dollops (try to keep the batter as light as possible). With an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, gently smooth the top.
- Bake the polenta cake for 38 to 42 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the sides of the cake have begun to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Place the cake on a cooling rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it, then invert it onto a serving plate. Let cool completely before glazing.
- While the cake cools, prepare the glaze: in a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, orange liqueur, and orange juice until smooth. The glaze should be thick but spreadable. Add more powdered sugar or orange juice/liqueur as needed to achieve the right consistency.
- Once the cake is cool, spoon the glaze into the center. With the back of your spoon or an offset spatula, spread it over the top of the cake (leave the outsides bare). Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to allow the glaze to set. Slice and enjoy!
- *For best results, I HIGHLY recommend weighing the almond flour in this recipe, as the way you pack the cup can cause significant variation in amount (even bags of almond flour disagree on what “1 cup” weighs). An inexpensive kitchen scale like this one is a wonderful, important tool and one you’ll use far more often than you think!
- TO STORE. Store the cake in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. We love this cake even better on day 2, because the almond flour makes it even more moist.
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Breakfast & Brunch
Cakes & Cupcakes