I need cake

A bad week – ups and downs and everything in between – calls for some cake. As life moves on we get busy and forget to take a moment to stop and relax and just be still. Stillness requires food of course – and what better food than cake.

Polenta cake, to be precise. Polenta is basically cornmeal and you can find it in most food stores or Italian grocers – it comes in fine or course grind. It’s a very versatile grain and so can be used in a number of ways. When I cook a savoury polenta it I often add more liquid (milk and/or stock) to make it soft and creamy and the perfect base for cheese and fresh herbs.  You could also cook it with less liquid, place it into a pan to cool and simply cut out shapes to grill.  As a sweet it can be used to make a porridge (somewhat like semolina) or you can use it in desserts like cake – as I have done. All methods are equally delicious!
This recipe calls for lemon – a perfect touch of citrus freshness needed to enliven a mildly flavoured cake. I used olive oil for this cake. It may seem strange to use olive oil in sweet foods but the Italians have been doing this for years! It’s delicious, healthy and adds a special flavour to baked items. I’ve made a few other sweets like brownies with olive oil and they turned out great.

polenta cake with olive oil

recipe from Australian Gourmet Traveller (they served the cake with vermouth pears but I opted for more sugar, strawberries and a little balsamic glaze!)
serves 8

3 eggs, at room temperature
160g (3/4 cup) raw sugar*
80 ml (1/3 cup) olive oil
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1 tsp vanilla extract
190g course polenta
75g (1/2 cup) plain flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Icing sugar for dusting
1 pint fresh strawberries

Preheat oven to 150C. Using an electric mixer, whisk eggs and sugar until pale and creamy (about 5 minutes). Slowly add olive oil in a thin stream, continuing to whisk, then add lemon rind and vanilla. Combine polenta, flour, baking powder and ½ tsp salt, sift dry ingredients in 3 batches over egg mixture, alternating with lemon juice and folding to combine well. Pour batter into a lightly oiled 20cm ring mould, bake until a skewer withdraws clean (40-45 minutes). Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Dust with icing sugar, berries and glaze. For the balsamic glaze simply take 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tbsp agave or thick sugar syrup and mix (or buy it!). Add just a little for a serving and top with fresh berries.

*Note: I changed the amount and type of sugar


  1. I need comfort too. I need your cake.

  2. This looks beautiful with the strawberries on top. I've never made a polenta cake, it's one of things I've always wanted to do, especially with olive oil. I love using olive oil in cakes, your balsamic strawberries are the perfect accompaniment, dreamy!!

  3. This cake sounds like the perfect, I need a ckae in a hurry!, kind of cake! Delicious. I love the addition of the balsamic glaze.

  4. What a gorgeous, simple, cake! As well as the strawberries. This would certainly make me pause...and breathe...and eat! I hope you have better days next week! : )

  5. The balsamic glaze sounds wonderful.

  6. I love the combination of strawberries and balsamic! Great recipe!

  7. What a nice simple cake, with an even better simple accompaniment. Now I want cake!

  8. Simple beautiful and delicious. Love the simplicity of the strawberries and powdered sugar. Stunning photos, too!

  9. I love cakes that are made with polenta. It adds such a beautiful texture that's quite unique.

    Well, there's nothing like cake to bring a smile to your face when things aren't going as planned huh?

  10. What a beautiful blog! And such a delicious little cake: I appreciated you used olive oil instead of butter or other animal fat. I always use it in my home cake "ciambellone" together with yogurt. The texture of your cake seems so soft and perfectly humid. I love the idea of Balsamic vinegard (that's amazing with strowberries). Molto brava, ciao from Siena, Italy. Pat

  11. Such a lovely cake! Hope this week is going better for you :)

  12. Life is too short to eat bad cake! :-)

    I've become a recent convert to using olive oil in baking non traditional cakes and this polenta cake looks sublime. Just added this recipe to my Must Bake list!

  13. This cake looks incredible -- I love polenta in baked goods :)

  14. Thanks friends! Enjoy your baking adventures - and yes, use olive oil if you can - it's a wonderful ingredient.

  15. wow this sounds really great. i am going to try this for sure.



  16. I combined this recipe with a Mark Bittman recipe for Apricot Polenta Cake. This was delicious! Fantastic idea!