Honey Citrus Polenta Cake


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Honey Citrus Polenta Cake is an easy treat whose simple elegance makes it perfect for any occasion. Warm citrus and honey syrup keeps the cake moist, and the blend of polenta and almond flour give this tender cake a pleasant crumbly texture.

a slice of cake on a white plate with strawberries

If you love citrus desserts, this honey-sweetened citrus polenta cake is for you. Not only does this recipe feature the kind of orange and lemon flavors that will light up a room, but including a little citrus zest along with the juice lifts the flavors to a whole new level. 

The last step in this recipe is what transforms the cake from fabulous to out-of-this-world amazing. When the citrus syrup is drizzled onto the cake it soaks through the dense cake-y texture, so that each bite is filled with sweet syrupy honey and citrus goodness.

Need another reason to fall in love with this cake? The crumbliness of polenta is perfect for absorbing that extra layer of syrup, so this treat is even more moist the day after it’s baked. 

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What Is Polenta?

Polenta is a coarse type of cornmeal made from ground yellow corn. Polenta creates a pleasant, crumbly texture in baked goods – the kind of texture that is perfect for picking up loose crumbs with the back of a fork. 

stirring polenta mixture in a silver mixing bowl
spreading cake mixture in a cake pan

How to Make Polenta Cake

  1. Prep the cake pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. 
  2. Cream the butter and sugar. Mix until light and fluffy, then add the almond flour and beat until just combined. 
  3. Add the wet ingredients. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla, orange juice, and zest.
  4. Combine remaining dry ingredients. Whisk together the polenta, baking powder, and ground cardamom. Add these to the batter and combine.
  5. Bake the cake. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, and then reduce the heat to 320 degrees F (160 degrees C) and bake for another 25 to 30 minutes. 
  6. Make the syrup. Boil the lemon and orange juices in a stainless steel saucepan. Add the honey, and then continue to boil for 4 to 5 minutes.
  7. Finish with syrup. Poke holes in the top of the warm cake with a bamboo skewer. Spoon the hot citrus syrup over the top and allow to cool in the pan
  8. Remove the cake and serve. Invert the pan over a plate, cutting board, or other hard surface to remove the cake. Slice, serve, and enjoy!

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pouring honey into a in a small white bowl


For the Cake:

  • Butter, Sugar – Use soft unsalted butter for easy creaming, and to control the salt content. 
  • Almond Flour – Baking with gluten-free almond flour adds more moisture to baked goods when compared to all-purpose flour. The ground almonds in the flour also make items like tea cakes, muffins, and cookies a touch denser. 
  • Large Eggs – Eggs add moisture and richness. Always use large eggs when baking, and bring them to room temperature before using.
  • Pure Vanilla Extract – A touch of vanilla with the citrus creates the dreamiest cake flavor.
  • Navel Orange – Orange juice is sweet, but orange zest is even sweeter. Using both the orange zest and the juice really lifts the beautifully bright citrus flavors in the cake.
  • Polenta – Polenta gives the cake a golden color. Avoid instant polenta when baking; it has less texture and flavor.
  • Baking Powder – Lightens the texture of baked goods.
  • Ground Cardamom – Fragrant cardamon loves being paired with citrus desserts. To get the most out of the cardamon spice in this recipe, buy whole cardamom pods and grind the seeds down yourself. This step takes a bit more time, but the flavor is more vibrant than pre-ground cardamom. 

For the Syrup:

  • Lemons, Navel Oranges – Mixing lemon juice with orange juice gives the cake topping syrup the perfect balance of tartness and sweetness.
  • Honey – To naturally sweeten the syrup. Any type of honey (clover, wildflower, etc.) will work. 
overhead image of ingredients for honey citrus polenta cake on a white countertop

Storage tips

Store this cake in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Because the cake is topped with syrup, storing at room temperature is not recommended. 

How to serve it

This cake is a satisfying treat on its own with a warm cup of tea or coffee, but you can also serve it with a fresh fruit garnish, a bowl of ice cream, or a dollop of whipped cream.

Recipe Tips

  • Grate the orange before juicing. Grating a whole orange is much easier than trying to use a zester on a sliced navel orange.
  • Watch out for the orange pith. Citrus pith can be pretty bitter when compared to the sweet zest. Once you see the white part of the pith, move your grater to a new portion of the orange.


  • Try different citrus – Kumquats, Mandarin oranges, tangerines, blood oranges, and Meyer lemons can be used for the syrup or the cake.
  • Add powdered sugar – A dusting of powdered sugar creates an elegant presentation.
poking holes in a baked cake with a wooden skewer
pouring honey mixture over baked cake


Are polenta cakes gluten-free?

This cake recipe is gluten-free thanks to the mix of almond flour and polenta. Polenta is made from corn, so it is a naturally gluten-free food.

Is cornmeal the same as polenta?

Knowing the difference between cornmeal and polenta can be a little confusing. After all, both are made from ground corn, but there are two significant differences between the two. Polenta is coarser than cornmeal, and it’s also made from a very specific type of heirloom corn called eight-row flint, or otto file, as it’s known in Italy.

a slice of polenta cake on a white plate with strawberries

More Easy Dessert Recipes

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5 from 5 votes

Honey Citrus Polenta Cake Recipe

Honey Citrus Polenta Cake is an easy treat whose simple elegance makes it perfect for any occasion. Warm citrus and honey syrup keeps the cake moist, and the blend of polenta and almond flour give this tender cake a pleasant crumbly texture.
Prep: 30 minutes
Cook: 55 minutes
Total: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 10


  • 8-inch Cake Pan
  • Parchment Paper
  • Stand Mixer
  • Mixing Bowl
  • Saucepan


For the Cake:

  • 1 cup butter, softened (220 g)
  • 1 1/4 cup sugar (220 g)
  • 3 cups almond flour (300 g)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 navel orange, zest and juice
  • 1 cup polenta (150 g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (see note)

For the Syrup:

  • 2 lemons, juice
  • 2 navel oranges, juice
  • 4 Tablespoons honey


  • Preheat the oven to 350 F / 180 C.
  • Line an 8-inch round cake pan with parchment paper and spray it lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a standing mixer, beat the butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy. Add the almond flour to the mixer and beat on low until just combined.
  • Add the eggs one at a time, mixing on low between each egg. Add vanilla, orange juice and zest and mix on low until evenly combined. The batter will be lumpy.
  • In a seperate small bowl, whisk together the polenta, baking powder, and ground cardamom. Add these ingredients to the batter and mix on low just until no dry spots remain.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, and then reduce the oven's heat to 320 degrees F (160 degrees C) and bake for another 25 -30 minutes or until the cake is firm and deep golden brown on top.
  • To make the syrup, squeeze the lemon and orange juices into a stainless steel saucepan, bring to a boil and add the honey, stirring to combine. Keep the liquid boiling until it has formed a thin syrup (4-5 minutes).
  • Using a bamboo skewer, poke holes into the top of the cake (still warm and in its pan) with a skewer then spoon the hot citrus syrup evenly over the top. Leave in the pan until completely cool and then invert the pan over a plate or cutting board to remove the cake.
  • Cake can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.


Generously adapted from Nigel Slater’s recipe in the Observer and discovered thanks to this beautiful blog post on Rachel Eats. Nigel Slater’s original recipe advises that you use 12 whole cardamom pods for this recipe. Crush them and grind the extracted black seeds for a more deeply complex cardamom flavor than you will get with the pre-ground variety. Cardamom does not retain its intense flavor for as long as some spices, so I too would recommend grinding your own, although I would argue this cake is every bit worth making even if you prefer to skip that step.


Serving: 10g | Calories: 786kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 55g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 105mg | Sodium: 169mg | Potassium: 172mg | Fiber: 9g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 746IU | Vitamin C: 26mg | Calcium: 195mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $6.00
Calories: 786
Keyword: cake, easy dessert recipe, gluten free, summer dessert
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at InquiringChef.com. She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

5 from 5 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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  1. 5 stars
    Greetings and abundant blessings ~

    I made this cake this evening and was not completely pleased with the results. I give your recipe 5* because it IS a delicious cake! I chose to fresh grind cardamom seeds and deeply appreciated your note regarding this! My issue is with the texture. l’ve purchased ‘polenta cake’ from a local spot and the cake is moist, has a delightful crumbly texture thanks to the almond flour and is absolutely exquisite! What I made has a texture redolent of chewing on sand!! Are there different varieties of polenta and I possibly purchased a more coarse one unknowingly?? I feel I should have ground this up to make it more fine, but didn’t know this would be necessary until it was too late.

    Any suggestions you offer are greatly appreciated. Your recipe has amazing flavor and is definitely worthy of its 5* rating. I’d love to try it again with some tweaking. Maybe using all almond flour or grinding the polenta or substituting it for cornmeal. ♥️

    1. Yes! It is definitely possible that you used a more coarsely ground polenta. There is quite a bit of variation, but if you search online, you can find brands that will say if it is coarse or finely ground. For the best texture, a more finely ground polenta is preferable.

  2. Hello dear, amazing blog you have. Regarding this recipe, can I use honey instead of sugar? If so, how much? Thanks

    1. Josy – I often try variations whenever I can, but unfortunately, that’s one I haven’t tried yet. If you do test it out, please let me know how it works!

  3. Looks amazing! I’m allergic to nuts though, do you think I could substitute another kind of flour instead, like coconut flour or gluten-free flour? 🙂

    1. Maria – I think another type of flour would change the texture quite a bit, but it definitely seems worth a shot. The only challenge I can imagine with coconut flour is that coconut flour is so “thirsty”. You might want to really increase the liquids – or double the liquid that is poured over the surface of the cake at the end.

  4. Wow, beautiful! I’m using more polenta lately and I like your idea of cooking with both polenta and almond flour, that ought to be a good flavor combination, especially with the touch of cardamom! Such special trips you’ve had with your husband, I’ve found that the trips my husband and I have had together have been among the best and most memorable things that we have done together, well worthwhile.

    1. Silvia – it’s tough to find it in Bangkok. This bag came in a care package from the US, but Bob’s Red Mill products, including almond flour and a variety of other flours (plus quinoa!) are available at Villa Markets in town. The best selection always seems to be at the rather run-down Villa on Sukhumvit 11. Hope that helps!

  5. Love the cake and I so want to be there in that place of your memories. It sounds inspiring and delicious!