A simple polenta cake recipe flavored with lemon. It has ricotta cheese for moisture and is served with a gorgeous blueberry sauce. The texture is dense, sweet and a welcomed change from the usual sponge cakes.
I love lemon-flavored bakes just like anyone else. I think it might just be the number one flavor worldwide. In the top 2 for sure.
This lemon polenta cake recipe is very different from the usual suspects mentioned above and fluffier lemon layer cakes..
It's a great recipe with simple ingredients and a very different texture, a coarser cake that needs no lemon glaze but is phenomenal with a berry sauce.
It's dense, super moist, and coarse but not gritty, with big flavors and a rather unappealing look because it's not a looker unless you drench it in the blueberry sauce, which for me is a must. But you can eat it as a plain snack cake.
I've been meaning to make a polenta cake for the longest time.
I'm a polenta groupie. It's one of the things that I ate all the time as a kid and loved it. And it pairs so ridiculously well with lemons that I'm really happy to share this recipe with you.
The list of ingredients talks of a cake that is sweet, wonderfully moist but somewhat coarse from the polenta (which can be similar in texture to using ground almonds in a cake).
- Lemons: both fresh lemon juice and lemon zest are used for this recipe. If using meyer lemons (instead of regular lemons) the cake will be sweeter.
- Polenta: the instant type from the supermarket is the best choice.
- Ricotta: I use whole ricotta cheese but low fat can work though it makes the cake less rich.
- Honey: any mild honey you like works. If using a very pungent one, the flavor will come through more in the final cake.
- Eggs: fresh, large.
- Unsalted butter.
- White, granulated sugar.
- All-purpose flour or cake flour.
- Baking powder: it's the leavener that makes the cake rise, so make sure it's not expired as this cake is a dense batter and needs a little boost.
- Salt: I like using kosher salt when baking. But regular table salt works just fine.
Polenta is yellow corn that is coarsely ground, as you can see in the image above, and though the name is a dish in Italy, it is also used to refer to cornmeal.
It goes from very fine (usually known as cornflour) to very coarse (grits being an example though they come from different types of corn).
Instant polenta: this is the one you want to use for this recipe because it absorbs liquid better so the cake will have a finer and not be gritty texture. If you use the regular polenta or old-fashioned that takes a long time to cook, it might be too harsh when you bite.
About ricotta cheese
Ricotta is a soft, grainy cheese made from cow's milk in this case (though it can also be made with goat, sheep, or buffalo milk).
The type I use for all of my recipes is the regular soft ricotta sold in supermarkets or specialty stores. It's creamy but granular (image below), moist, and has an almost sweet taste.
Quality varies according to brands. I try to buy original ricotta sourced from good small producers. It tastes much better and I like the consistency more.
- Organization: read the recipe first and ensure you have ingredients at the correct temperature, equipment, and enough workspace. This will make the process so much easier.
- Baking time: consider that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer(like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
- Mixing the batter: I use an electric hand-held mixer and a large mixing bowl which makes the process easier, but you can make this by hand with some arm muscle and a whisk. You can also use a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, but I find it to be too much for this recipe.
- Pouring the cake mix: most of the time I don't care about a domed cake top, but if you pour the batter around the edges of the pan and let it reach the center on its own and not touch it, my experience is that the cake bakes more evenly, like the image below. It's not a foolproof method. It depends on how thin or thick the batter is, which can vary depending on the ricotta and honey you use.
- Ricotta: it needs to be soft, curdled, and moist but without excess liquid. If it has too much water, drain it by placing it on a colander with a cheesecloth.
- Polenta: use the instant type as it will absorb liquid better.
- Variations: use lime or orange zest or even a mix of several citruses. Add a ground spice such as cardamom for a different touch.
This is, in theory, optional, but I can't stress enough how great the whole package (polenta cake and blueberry sauce) is. They complement each other and the dense cake becomes mellower. It's an outstanding pair.
I use the blueberry compote or the blueberry sauce depending on how I plan to serve it. The compote is juicier, more fluid because it doesn't have cornstarch so the juice seeps into the cake like the images in this post. The sauce is thicker and I use it when I serve the cake with a topping (great for Easter brunch and Mother's Day brunch table), similar to serving a cheesecake.
Do you have other berries? Use them. Raspberries and blackberries work well too, though they're very tangy so you might want to add more sugar to the sauce. Sweet cherries work very well too, like the sauce I serve with this Chocolate Ice Cream.
Related recipes you might like:
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For lemon polenta cake:
- ¾ cup polenta or yellow cornmeal
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup ricotta cheese, at room temperature
- ⅓ cup water or buttermilk
- ¾ cup (150g) sugar
- ½ cup honey
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 8 tablespoons (½ cup or 115g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled but not cold
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cold and in small pieces for top of the cake
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
For the blueberry sauce:
- 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar
For lemon polenta cake:
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF/180°C.
- Line the bottom of a round 9-inch (24cm) springform pan (or springform cake tin) with parchment paper and spray or butter the sides of the pan.
- Mix polenta, flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
- Beat ricotta and water until smooth in a large bowl with an electric mixer. If it's still somewhat curdled, don't worry.
- Add sugar, honey, and lemon zest and beat well.
- Gradually add melted butter and then add eggs, one at a time, and beat until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the dry ingredients in two or three additions, beating on low speed only until incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the pan, dot the top with the tablespoon of chilled butter, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden and a cake tester or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Let cool completely on a wire rack and remove from the tin or pan onto a serving plate, and serve with the blueberry sauce. You can also sprinkle the top with powdered sugar (known as icing sugar in some countries) before serving if you like a sweeter cake.
For the blueberry sauce:
- Mix blueberries, lemon juice, and sugar in a small saucepan.
- Cook for 3-5 minutes at medium heat, until syrupy and the berries are somewhat wrinkled.
- Store, covered, in the refrigerator.
Organization: always read the recipe first and make sure you have all the ingredients, at the right temperatures, and also the rest of the equipment and space to make it. This will make the process so much easier!
Baking time: keep in mind that all ovens and pans are different, even if they look the same or very similar. The baking time in my recipes is as accurate as it can be, but it might take you more or less time. You can use a thermometer that is placed inside the oven (like the OXO oven thermometer) to check that your oven is at the right temperature. I recommend you keep track of how your oven works and what tiny details you might need to adjust.
Ricotta: it needs to be soft, curdled, and moist but without excess liquid. If it has too much water, drain it by placing it on a colander with a cheesecloth.
Polenta: use the instant type as it will absorb liquid better.
Variations: use lime or orange zest or even a mix of several citruses. Add a ground spice such as cardamom for a different touch.
- Prep Time: 20
- Cook Time: 40
- Category: Cakes
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: International
- Serving Size: ⅛
- Calories: 448
- Sugar: 45.8 g
- Sodium: 125.7 mg
- Fat: 18.8 g
- Carbohydrates: 66.4 g
- Protein: 7.5 g
- Cholesterol: 96.7 mg
Keywords: polenta cake
Adapted from Baking from my Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan