Lemon Polenta Cake

We actually don’t eat that much dessert around here, but every now and then I’ll break out the mixer, take the lid off the sugar tin and do a little baking.  Being in the mood for something lemon-y last week, I pulled this recipe out of the dessert queue.  It’s a Nigella Lawson cake that I’ve been curious to try as it’s made totally without flour. Instead of flour it calls for fine cornmeal and almond flour, which we found gives it a wonderful texture that’s dense with just the right bit of toothsomeness that plays oh so well with the lemon.  And, as a bonus, no flour means it’s gluten free for those of you who are looking for such.

As simple cakes go, this one couldn’t be any easier.  While the cake is baking, you make a simple lemon syrup (lemon juice and sugar), and after it comes out of the oven, you just drizzle the syrup over the still warm cake.  Oh my.  Lovely, luscious and ever so lemon-y.

Now if you’re in the market for a light, fluffy, airy lemon cake, you’d be better off making this one.  But if you don’t mind a little texture in your lemon cake, and you really shouldn’t I must say, then this is the cake for you.  We loved it.  Here’s the recipe…

Lemon Polenta Cake

Click here for a printable recipe

Recipe courtesy Nigella Lawson

For the cake:

1 3/4 sticks (14 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter

1 cup superfine sugar

2 cups almond meal/flour

3/4 cup fine polenta/cornmeal

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten-free if required)

3 eggs

Zest 2 lemons (save the juice for the syrup)


Juice 2 lemons (see above)

Heaping 1 cup confectioners' sugar

Special Equipment: 1 (9-inch) springform pan

For the cake: Line the base of your cake pan with parchment paper and grease its sides lightly with butter. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Beat the butter and sugar till pale and whipped, either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.

Mix together the almond meal, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.

Finally, beat in the lemon zest and pour, spoon or scrape the mixture into your prepared pan and bake in the oven for about 40 minutes. It may seem wibbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its pan.

For the syrup: Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon juice and confectioners' sugar in a smallish saucepan. Once the confectioners' sugar has dissolved into the juice, you're done. Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester (a skewer would be too destructive), pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its pan.

Make Ahead Note: The cake can be baked up to 3 days ahead and stored in airtight container in a cool place. Will keep for total of 5 to 6 days.

Freeze Note: The cake can be frozen on its lining paper as soon as cooled, wrapped in double layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil, for up to 1 month. Thaw for 3 to 4 hours at room temperature.

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