Olive Oil Polenta Cake with Almonds and Lemon

An all-day cake, because we need this:

Gluten free Lemon, Polenta, Olive Oil Cake

Let’s be honest, we can all do with a little pick-me-up. This lemony olive oil and polenta cake will help. Whether you call it breakfast, snack, or dessert, it’s a guaranteed sweet break that you deserve to take any time of the day. This cake is also gluten-free, thanks to the almond meal and polenta, which give it a nutty and slightly crunchy texture. Drenched in lemon syrup, each bite is a burst of citrusy sunshine.

The only tricky issue with this cake is that it tastes even better the day after baking, once it’s had time to sit and soak with the syrup and develop in flavor. So, the only challenge you may face is waiting, or at least saving some of it for later. To store, wrap it tightly in plastic and let stand at room temperature overnight (perhaps out of sight). Of course, if you can’t wait, that’s entirely understandable. No judging, friends.

Olive Oil Polenta Cake with Almonds and Lemon

Active Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour and 5 minutes, plus cooling time
Makes 1 (8-inch) cake

Cake:
1 1/2 cups almond meal (or almond flour)
1 cup fine or medium-grain polenta or cornmeal – see note below
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon almond extract

Syrup:
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch spring-form pan and line with parchment.
2. Combine the almond meal, polenta, baking powder, and salt in a bowl and whisk to blend.
3. Whisk the eggs and sugar in a large bowl until light in color, about 2 minutes. Mix in the olive oil, lemon juice, zest, and almond extract. Add the dry ingredients and mix to combine without over-mixing.
4. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Transfer to the oven and bake until the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes clean, 45 to 50 minutes. If the cake begins to brown on top before finished baking, loosely cover with foil.
5. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup. Combine the sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat over medium heat, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat.
6. Transfer the cake from the oven to a wire rack. Brush the top with some of the syrup and cool 10 minutes. Remove the sides of the pan and brush the cake on the sides with the syrup. Cool completely. (You may not use all of the syrup.)
7. Serve as-is or with a dusting of powder sugar and/or candied lemon peel. To store, wrap in plastic and store at room temperature for up to 4 days or freeze for up to one month.

Note: This recipe specifies polenta, which varies in texture, from fine to coarse. I used Bob’s Red Mill Polenta, which is coarser and gives a slight crunch to the cake. If you prefer a softer texture, use a fine-grained polenta or cornmeal.

8 thoughts on “Olive Oil Polenta Cake with Almonds and Lemon

  1. I had the same experience with my cake falling! It was not only lower in the center than the sides, but it was actually only 1/2 inch high at the center! It was baking up beautifully until I opened the oven door to put a piece of foil over the top to prevent excessive browning. As soon as I did that – boom – right to the bottom of the pan! I will review the tips you left above, but also wonder if baking at 325 for a longer period would have been helpful?
    The taste of the edges was delightful. I’ll try it again and hope for better results!
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Patti – I just re-tested the cake, and I omitted the baking soda, using only the baking powder. This seems to help even the rise of the cake. (Baking soda helps to neutralize acidic batters. It was originally added due to the lemon juice.) Hopefully, this will help if you try the recipe again!

  2. The cake was delicious. I had a problem with the crust browning too much on the bottom. I ended up scraping the burnt edges off. I used a dark spring form pan and baked it for less time than the recipe specified. Any tips?

  3. I made this cake today and am crunching through a piece of it right now, wondering what kind of polenta you used. I see there is a note with the recipe here that was not included with the recipe in the Sunday newspaper. I definitely would not use the coarse polenta again that I used in this recipe. My husband, who had celiac disease, asked what the “hard stuff” is. Everything else about the cake is great – nice texture, delicious flavor, gluten-free. I will try it again. Thank you!

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