Orange and honey polenta cake

It is the tradition in most workplaces to take in cakes on your birthday and as mine has just been round it was time to do some baking. I wanted something summery and so I chose Nigel Slater’s orange and honey polenta cake. It was a slightly risky strategy as I hadn’t tried the recipe before and I wouldn’t find out if it was any good until one of my colleagues tried a slice. Eeek.

The recipe itself was relatively straightforward and just a bit of planning was needed. So in my typical oragnised way, and to help with the ‘creative’ process,  I weighed and prepared all the ingredients in readiness. Surrounded by prepped cake components the kitchen looked like I was about to do my own TV programme.

Orange and Honey Polenta Cake

Ingredients (Serves 8)

220g butter
220g unrefined caster sugar
150g blanched almonds (Nigel Slater’s recipe suggests blanching almonds yourself – I bought mine ready done to save a job and burnt fingers)
150g ground almonds
3 large eggs
150g polenta
1 level teaspoon baking powder
Finely grated zest and juice of a large orange
12 green cardamom pods

For the syrup: Juice of 2 lemons, juice of 2 oranges, 4 tablespoons of honey


Pre-heat the oven to 180C.

Line the base of a 20cm diameter non-stick cake tin with a piece of greased baking paper.

Beat the butter and sugar with a food mixer until it is pale and fluffy.

Whizz the almonds in a food processor until they are finely chopped; add them together with the ground almonds to the cake mix.

Break the eggs into a bowl and beat lightly, then stir into the cake mixture.

Mix the polenta and baking powder and then fold into the mixture, followed by the grated orange zest and juice.

Take out the black seeds from the cardamom pods and grind them into a fine powder in a pestle and mortar, then add them to the mixture.

Put the finished cake mixture into the tin and smooth down the top level.

Bake for 30 minutes, turn down the heat to 160C for a further 25 -30 minutes or until the cake is firm.

To make the syrup, squeeze the lemon and orange juice into a stainless steel saucepan, bring to the boil and stir in the honey. Keep the liquid gently boiling until it has formed into thin syrup (this takes about 5 minutes).

Whilst the cake is still warm and in the tin poke holes into the top of it using a skewer and spoon over the hot syrup. Leave the cake to cool, and then lift out of the tin. I served my cake topped with grated orange zest; you could use fresh raspberries or edible flowers like Borage.

How was it?

I walked into work very carefully to keep the cake in one piece. Then I unveiled it at 11 when I knew it would be a good time for tea and cake. I watched the first person who took a slice carefully to gauge a reaction, fortunately they were full of praise and said how delicious it was – phew.

I tried a slice and the texture was moist, slightly crumbly and the flavour was nicely sweet from the sugar, honey and fruit. The cardamom flavour came through as a subtle undertone.

It was definitely a baking success if I do say so myself.  If I was to change anything then I think a spoonful of Greek yoghurt or crème fraiche would have been nice on the side.