Olive Oil Polenta Cake looks modest but is rich, buttery and so easy to make.
You just need 7 ingredients for a cake that’s just as good for a special occasion as it is with a cup of tea.
Serve it as is, maybe with some fresh raspberries or blueberries. Or dust it with powdered sugar for a simple decoration.
Plus this Italian polenta recipe just happens to naturally be gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free.
(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some of the links on this page may be affiliate links. If you purchase a product through an affiliate link, I’ll automatically receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)
Polenta cake with olive oil and orange
This easy polenta cake recipe is one of those charming Italian cake recipes that looks simple but is so rewarding.
The polenta gives it a subtle crunch. And instead of regular flour, it uses ground almonds, making the cake rich, dense and buttery.
But, instead of butter, it actually uses one of my favorite ingredients when baking: extra virgin olive oil.
The olive oil adds a touch of depth and complexity you won’t get with butter or other fats.
The honey also adds its own unique flavor instead of boring ol’ white sugar, plus it makes this cake refined sugar-free (unless you dust it with powdered sugar).
Add a touch of orange zest and juice for a bit of bright, zippy citrus to lighten it up and you’ve got one fantastic cake on your hands!
It’s rich enough to serve as dessert but simple enough to eat as a “snacking cake,” cutting yourself a thin slice for a quick snack or treat.
Olive oil, honey, ground almonds…am I saying that this is a healthy polenta cake? Maybe! Maybe I am.
And yes, it’s gluten-free and dairy-free. But you won’t feel deprived of anything once you taste it. It’s that good.
This recipe is an adaptation of Jamie Oliver’s orange polenta cake. While his looks delicious, I wanted to make a few changes.
His recipe calls for 10 regular or blood oranges for both the cake and an orange honey syrup to drizzle over the top with orange wedges.
I found this amount unnecessary (and blood oranges are rarely available where I live). I think just one large orange is all you need.
I want just enough orange zest to taste it without it overpowering the olive oil. But if you want a stronger orange flavor, you can follow the original recipe by using the zest of 3 oranges in the cake batter.
I added salt, because even desserts need salt.
I also omitted the orange-honey syrup and fresh orange slices he serves the cake with. I find the cake to be so wonderfully rich and moist (<— I know, sorry, but it is moist!) that I wouldn’t want to make it soggy with a syrup.
What is polenta made of?
Technically, polenta refers to an Italian recipe of soft cornmeal mush, similar to grits.
In the U.S., bags of polenta actually contain medium- or coarsely-ground cornmeal, which is the kind of cornmeal you use to make polenta.
So you can use medium-grind cornmeal for this cake.
What you need for this polenta cake
- polenta (or medium-grind cornmeal)
- blanched superfine almond flour
- extra virgin olive oil (not all olive oils are pure olive oil, read more about that here; I recommend the certified California Ranch or O-Live brands)
- 1 orange
- fine sea salt
- an 8″ springform pan
- a stand mixer with the whisk attachment or a hand mixer with a large bowl
- a spatula for stirring
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons (these are my favorite because they actually fit into spice jars!)
- a microplane grater for the orange zest
- a small offset spatula
How to make olive oil polenta cake
First, heat the oven to 325°.
Next, rub olive oil on the bottom and sides of an 8″ springform pan.
Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
I do this by placing the pan on the parchment paper, tracing the outline of the pan with a pen or pencil, cutting out the circle and placing it ink/pencil-side down in the pan.
Oil the parchment paper.
Next, add the honey and olive oil to your stand mixer with the whisk attachment. You can also add it to a large bowl and use a hand mixer.
Whisk the honey and olive oil for two minutes. The mixture won’t change much but we want to start incorporating air into it.
With the mixer still running, add the eggs one at a time and the orange zest. The mixture should be lighter in color and almost doubled in size.
Stop the mixer. Fold in the polenta, almond flour, salt and orange juice.
And by “fold,” I mean: rotate the bowl while gently scraping a spatula down the side of the bowl to the bottom and then lift it up the other side, “folding” the mixture up and over itself. Keep doing this while rotating the bowl until everything is incorporated.
The mixture will lose some of the air you whisked into it but that’s okay. Just fold gently and stop as soon as everything is combined.
Pour the liquid batter into the prepared springform pan and bake for 45-55 minutes, until the edges are brown and the top is completely set.
Leave the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then gently slide an offset spatula between the cake and pan to loosen it. Remove the ring and let the cake cool completely.
Storing the polenta cake
The cake can be covered and kept at room temperature for up to 3 days. It’s just as good the next day or two as the day it’s made.
It can also be covered and kept in the fridge for up to 5 days, although it may start to get softer and more moist as it sits.
Substitutions and variations for polenta cake
- You can use a lemon instead of an orange. Lemons are a bit more sour so I’d cut the amount of juice down to 1-2 tablespoons.
- If you don’t have extra virgin olive oil, you can use a more neutral-flavored oil such as avocado. The flavor will lose a little dimension but the cake will still be great.
- I haven’t tried this with maple syrup instead of honey but I think it could maybe work. If you try it, please let me know!
- No springform pan? You can use an 8″ round cake pan (grease and line it per the instructions). It would probably be easier to serve straight from the pan. However, if you want to remove it from the pan, wait until it is completely cool (when you think it’s cool, wait a little longer) so it’s completely set. Carefully flip it over onto your hand with your fingers spread as wide as possible. Peel off the parchment if you wish (and if the cake feels secure), then place an upside-down serving platter or cake stand on the bottom of the cake and flip both right-side up together. Boom! You’re all set.
Other recipes you might like:
- Olive Oil Apple Bread (Paleo, gluten-free)
- Flourless Chocolate Espresso Cake (gluten-free with Paleo/keto/dairy-free options)
- Italian Cassata Cake (gluten-free)
- Cornbread (Paleo, gluten-free)
Olive Oil Polenta Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)
- 8" springform pan
- ¾ cup / 200 ml / 6 oz. extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the pan
- ½ cup / 4 fluid oz. / 150g liquid honey
- 3 large eggs
- 1 large orange, zested, plus 3 tablespoons of its juice
- 2 cups + 3½ tablespoons / 7 oz. / 200g superfine blanched almond flour
- ½ cup + 2½ tablespoons / 3.5 oz. / 100g polenta (or medium-grind cornmeal)
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- Heat the oven to 325°.
- Coat the sides and the bottom of an 8" springform pan with the olive oil. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and coat the paper with oil.
- Still at high speed, whisk in the eggs one at a time, then the orange zest and continue whisking for another full minute. The mixture should be lighter in color and almost doubled in size.
- Stop the mixer. Fold in the almond flour, polenta, salt and orange juice. (To fold: while continually rotating the bowl, gently scrape a spatula down the side of the bowl to the bottom, then up the other side, "folding" the mixture up and over itself). The mixture will lose some of the air you just whisked in but that's okay. Just stop whisking as soon as everything is combined.
- Pour the liquid batter into the lined and greased springform pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the edges have browned and the top is completely set.
- Let cool for 10 minutes, then gently slide a small offset spatula between the cake and the pan. Remove the pan ring and let the cake cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with raspberries, if desired.
- You can use a lemon instead of an orange. Lemons are a bit more sour so I'd cut the amount of juice down to 1-2 tablespoons.
- If you don't have extra virgin olive oil, you can use a more neutral-flavored oil such as avocado. The flavor will lose a little dimension but the cake will still be great.
- I haven't tried this with maple syrup instead of honey but I think it could maybe work.
- No springform pan? You can use an 8" round cake pan (grease and line it per the instructions). It would probably be easier to serve straight from the pan. However, if you want to remove it from the pan, wait until it is completely cool (when you think it's cool, wait a little longer) so it's completely set. Carefully flip it over onto your hand with your fingers spread as wide as possible. Peel off the parchment if you wish (and the cake feels secure), then place an upside-down serving platter or cake stand on the bottom of the cake and flip both right-side up. Boom! You're all set.