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Orange Polenta Cake (gluten free)

This delicious golden gluten-free Orange Polenta Cake is moist, rich and bursting with zesty orange flavor. It’s easy to make as it has no layers, no filling and no icing.

The flavor of the cake is scrumptious if you love orange. I serve it with whipped cream which I strongly recommend. The whipped cream balances the intensity of the orange perfectly.

orange polenta cake on a plate with a slice carved out

Eight other women and I organized an in-home cooking class and dinner with Chef Michele Lee-Pollack from My Place For Dinner Cooking School (Toronto, Canada). The highlight for me was the orange polenta cake. I became obsessed with it. The cake was melt in your mouth and intensely orange which I love.

I finally tried it on my own. I made a couple of mistakes the first two times around, but the cakes were still delicious. My husband and I had no trouble polishing them off. In other words, this cake it pretty forgiving.

Orange polenta cake is great for any occasion, but particularly fitting for a shower, tea or brunch. Scratch that. It’s great after dinner too 🙂

Bottom line: This delicious recipe makes a moist orange cake bursting with amazing taste.

Tailor to Your Taste

  • I love this cake with whipped cream best, but other good options are crème fraiche, yogurt or even lemon ice cream. Or nothing.
  • Instead of chopped pistachios as a garnish, try roasted hazelnuts.
  • I cut back the honey from the original recipe as I found the cake a little sweet for my taste. If you prefer it sweeter, add a bit more honey or pour more syrup onto the cake.

Step by step instructions

polenta, vanilla, almond flour, oranges, eggs, butter, pistachios, baking powder, cardamom
Ingredients: Polenta or finely ground cornmeal (preferred), vanilla, almond flour, oranges, eggs, butter, pistachios, baking powder, cardamom
cake dish with parchment paper cut out to cover bottom
Grease an 8 inch/20 cm cake pan or springform cake tin. Line the bottom with parchment.
batter in bowl
Make the batter.
toppings - syrup, zest, chopped pistachios
While the cake is baking, make the syrup with honey and orange juice. Chop the pistachios and grate zest for garnishes.
Orange Polenta Cake baked with holes poked into it
Poke holes in the cooled cake with a cake tester.
pouring syrup over Orange Polenta Cake
Pour half the syrup over the cake.
Orange Polenta Cake garnished on plate
Garnish cake with pistachios and orange zest.
orange polenta cake, piece cut, on plate
piece of orange polenta cake on plate with side of whipped cream
Serve with whipped cream and additional syrup if desired.

Tips

  • Which polenta or cornmeal is best to use?  Polenta is, in fact, cornmeal, but usually medium or coarse-ground. The first time I made the cake, I used medium ground cornmeal and found it too gritty. It got less grainy in the fridge as the days went by though. The second time I used finely ground cornmeal – much better. So I do suggest a finer ground cornmeal. Here’s a good article explaining the different types of cornmeal by Bon Appetit.
  • Measuring ingredients: Ideally, you should use a scale to measure the dry ingredients in grams. If you don’t have one, I converted everything to cups in the recipe below.

Make Ahead 

  • To store: The cake can be made ahead and kept covered at room temperature (or the fridge) for 4-5 days. I suggest bringing it to room temperature before serving or warming it for a few seconds in the microwave.
  • To freeze: The cake can also be frozen after it’s cooled for up to a month. Wrap well in plastic and then in aluminum foil or in an airtight container. If freezing, omit the zest and pistachios (if using) and add them just before serving.

Other delicious cakes you might like:

orange polenta cake on a plate with a slice carved out
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4.75 from 40 votes

Orange Polenta Cake (gluten free)

This delicious golden gluten-free Orange Polenta Cake is moist, rich and bursting with zesty orange flavor. It's easy to make as it has no layers, no filling and no icing. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time55 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, Italian
Servings: 10
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups (225 grams) finely ground almonds or almond flour if needed, replace with almond meal (courser)
  • 2/3 cup (100 grams) cornmeal or polenta I prefer fine cornmeal as the texture is less grainy than coarse cornmeal.
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder gluten free
  • 1 cup (200 grams) white sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) (225 grams)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • zest from 2 medium oranges (plus zest from a 3rd orange for garnish)
  • Optional garnishes: chopped pistachios, additional zest, whipped cream (or yogurt or creme fraiche)

Orange Syrup (half will be used for pouring on cake, half for serving)

  • juice from 2 whole oranges (navel oranges, blood oranges or any other kind) (about 1/2 cup fresh orange juice)
  • 2 tablespoon honey

Instructions

  • PREHEAT OVEN TO 350F. Grease an 8 inch (20 cm) round, square or springform tin with butter or oil spray. Line bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
  • COMBINE FIRST 4 INGREDIENTS: Mix together ground almonds, cornmeal/polenta, cardamom and baking powder in a large bowl with a fork or whisk.
  • PREPARE BATTER: In a separate mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium speed until fluffy using an electric mixer (hand held is fine). Add one egg at a time, beating well after each egg. Add half the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat just until mixed. Repeat with other half. Fold in vanilla and zest of 2 oranges.
  • BAKE: Pour batter (it will be very thick) into prepared tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until cake test/toothpick comes out clean. Remove pan and let cool for 10 minutes.
  • MAKE SYRUP: While cake is baking, bring orange juice and honey to a boil in a small saucepan, then lower to medium heat and briskly simmer until reduced by about half and slightly thickened – about 8-10 minutes. It will still be quite liquidy. Let it cool.
  • FINISH CAKE: Scrape a knife around sides of the pan to loosen cake. Invert onto plate, then invert it back to a serving plate so that the top is facing up. Poke holes through top of the cake all over with skewer or toothpick. Pour about HALF of syrup on cake, allowing it to absorb into the cake. Sprinkle orange zest on top to decorate as well as chopped pistachios if using. Serve with whipped cream, yogurt or crème fraiche if desired – and a drizzle of remaining syrup if you like. 

Notes

To Make Ahead/Store:
  • The cake can be made ahead and kept covered in the fridge. I suggest bringing it to room temperature before serving or warming it for a few seconds in the microwave.
  • The cake can also be frozen. If freezing, omit the zest and pistachios (if using) and add them just before serving.
 
Nutrition values are estimates and include pistachios for garnish. 

Nutrition

Calories: 465kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 13g | Cholesterol: 98mg | Sodium: 65mg | Potassium: 88mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin A: 673IU | Vitamin C: 9mg | Calcium: 94mg | Iron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?We’d love you to rate it above under ‘rate this recipe’ or in the comment section below. Thanks!

This orange polenta cake recipe has been updated with tweaked images and new information. 

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17 Comments

  1. Loved this recipe. Making it for a wine/food pairing dinner and the winemaker needs GF foods. Now that I’ve mastered the GF recipe can you tell me how to make it with regular flour ingredients for the other guests? I’m not sure other recipes would have the intense flavors. Thx!

    1. So glad you loved the recipe. Perhaps the other guests would like the gluten free version too. Converting the recipe to regular flour is a bit tricky I think. Replacing the almond flour with half the amount of all purpose flour should be ok. But the cornmeal is different. I’m not sure you can successfully replace that with flour. May I suggest our whole orange cake instead? It also has a similar intense orange flavor like the orange polenta cake. Here’s the link https://twokooksinthekitchen.com/whole-orange-cake-super-moist/. I hope that helps.

    2. 5 stars
      17 of my friends and myself can confirm this is probably one of most delicious cakes ever! (One said that it was definitely the very best she had ever had).

      I used to make lemon polenta cake but orange takes it to the wholly new level. I like the method too – makes the cake really fluffy.

      My oven isn’t great and I have to bake it for longer at a lower temperature.

  2. Hi Anne. According to BBC Good Food, the answer is yes. They say “Quick-cook or instant polenta takes just a few minutes to make as it comes part cooked, but purists may sniff at such a shortcut. This variant is, however, ideal for using in cakes”. Let us know how it turns out!

  3. Followed recipe exactly (weighed ingredients) toothpick came out clean but middle of cake sunk badly and bottom of pan very greasy. I’m afraid to serve it to guests.

    1. Hi Viv, Sorry to hear your cake sunk in the middle. Cakes can be finicky. A couple of things come to mind. I assume you used baking powder and not baking soda. Is it possible your oven temperature is off? Most are. So the cake may have been under baked. It’s also best to bake it in the middle rack position. One other possibility it undermixing the batter. In any case, at this point you can serve the outer part of the cake and cut out the center that is not fully baked, if that helps.

  4. Can the recipe be made with oat flour instead of almond flour: nut allergies
    I know the flavour profile will be different but will it still be tasty?