Honey Citrus Polenta Cake
Published Apr 11, 2023•Updated Apr 26, 2023
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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.
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.
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.
How to Make Polenta Cake
- Prep the cake pan. Line the pan with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray.
- Cream the butter and sugar. Mix until light and fluffy, then add the almond flour and beat until just combined.
- Add the wet ingredients. Add the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla, orange juice, and zest.
- Combine remaining dry ingredients. Whisk together the polenta, baking powder, and ground cardamom. Add these to the batter and combine.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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!
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
More Easy Cake Recipes
- Chocolate Chip Ricotta Cake
- Semolina Yogurt Cake
- Easy Vanilla Snack Cake
- Applesauce Cake
- One-Bowl Chocolate Cake
- 8-inch Cake Pan
- Parchment Paper Sheets
- KitchenAid Stand Mixer
- Anchor 3-Piece Glass Mixing Bowls
- All Clad Saucepan
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Honey Citrus Polenta Cake Recipe
- 8-inch Cake Pan
- Parchment Paper
- Stand Mixer
- Mixing Bowl
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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.