Little lemon polenta cakes

lemon polenta cakes

Lemon and polenta is a match made in heaven, if you ask me, especially in a little cake like these (they also happen to be gluten free). This is essentially a lemony variation of this polenta and pear cake, which is itself a slight variation of the traditional Amor Polenta (or Dolce Varese) cake from Lombardy in northern Italy. I’ve played around with the eggs, used olive oil this time instead of butter (so this is also lactose free) and, of course, added lemons.

The lovely thing about winter is having a heaving, happy lemon tree or two in the garden. Lemons are one of those handy ingredients that I welcome having plenty of in the kitchen. When they start to outnumber the rest of the fruit in the fruit bowl, I make marmalade from them (my favourite) and that seems to restore some fruit bowl balance. But otherwise, it’s also a nice excuse to make a moist, lemony, fluffy little cake like this one.

lemon polenta cakesgarden lemons for polenta cakes

It’s a very obliging cake. You could bake this in a loaf tin if you prefer it in slices, I quite like these as dainty little cakes, which I baked in a muffin tin (it also cooks slightly quicker this way, if you’re in a rush or simply cannot wait to eat some cake!).

You could also leave it as is, simple and unadorned except for a little dusting of powdered sugar. When wanting something more tart, I add a very drizzly lemon icing, almost a syrup, with the juice of another lemon and some icing sugar, brushed over the top to make them shiny, sticky and, most importantly, lemony. I imagine this would be just as nice with oranges too, if you were in the mood for them.

lemon polenta cakes

Little lemon polenta cakes

Oh, and always remember to zest your lemons before you squeeze them for juice, not the other way around.

  • 50 gr almond meal
  • 90 grams fine polenta
  • 40 gr potato starch (can be substituted with corn starch)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 100 gr caster (super fine) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 100 ml (½ cup) olive oil
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Icing sugar (confectioner’s or powdered sugar), for dusting

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and olive oil until you have a creamy emulsion. Add zest and juice. Carefully fold the dry ingredients into the eggs and pour the batter into a lightly greased (with olive oil) muffin tin. Bake at 180ºC for about 20 minutes or until the cakes are golden and springy to the touch. Once cool, dust with icing sugar.


  1. Valeria says:

    I can imaging how good these must have smelled just out of the oven. I happen to have all the flours requiered and a great appetite for rustic baked goods these days. Off I go to buy some good lemons! x

  2. Skye says:

    Any kind of polenta cake has me very happy. And these are so adorable looking! Brava, Emiko!

  3. Mary Frances says:

    These sound just lovely, what a beautiful sunny color!

  4. Sarah says:

    These look beautiful, how do you think they would do in a Madeline pan? I imagine they would be lovely with poppy seeds.

    • Emiko says:

      Both lovely ideas! Probably just reduce the baking time a little in a Madeline pan but I think they’d go quite nicely otherwise – and poppy seeds, oh yes!

  5. Gabrielle says:

    These look lovely, and I need something gluten-free to bake for a friend. Do you think it will matter if I use quick-cooking polenta? Or “regular” cornmeal?

    • Emiko says:

      In my experience, instant polenta actually works very well in baking! So go ahead and use it, it’s a great substitute for the very fine polenta that Italians use for baking (which can be difficult to find outside of Italy).

  6. Maggie says:

    hello there, from a very sunny and warm UK evening…. Could almost be Italy! I have just made your delicious fior do latte icecream …. It is in my trusty little Phillips icecream make as I write! Thank you.m I now think, know in fact, that I would like to make these little lemon polenta cakes and I wondered about two things.
    Firstly, how many little cakes does the mixture make, and also I don’t think we have potato starch here, never seen it, but we have cornflour… Which is used to thicken sauces with, or to lighten cake flour … it the same as corn starch please?

    Thank you.


    • Emiko says:

      It makes 6-8 depending on the size of your muffin tin and yes, cornflour is the same as cornstarch! Good luck and thanks for your comment!

  7. Gabrielle says:

    Emiko, these were wonderful! I made them this week for a dinner party and everyone loved them–my partner proclaimed them “the best gluten free thing you have baked.” Very easy to make and handy when one has GF and no-dairy guests (as we seem to often). I think I will try the pear-cake version next!

  8. Regina says:

    Hi Emiko! I loved the tastes of these cakes but I’ve tried making them twice and both times, the polenta, almomd mixture sinks to the bottom. What am I doing wrong ? Any advice ?

    Many thanks !:)

  9. Michaela press says:

    Hi Emiko. These are just the best I have baked. They are tart and golden. In Australia I used instant polenta which worked perfectly. This will be a go to recipe. Thank you

  10. Zoriana says:

    Please advise if eggs mixed with oil or sugar too?

  11. Zoriana says:

    Please advise if oil and eggs and sugar ? Or just oil and eggs are mixed

  12. For the cake version, what would be the temp/duration? 🤗

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