Nigella's Lemon Polenta Cake

When it comes to cake, we always seem to end up using Nigella's recipes, and of all her cakes this is probably Mark's favourite. This cake is gluten free if you use GF baking powder, which is an added bonus in case you need to provide for someone's dietary restrictions.

You can find this recipe in Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, possibly my favourite recipe book. Here's a picture of one (ever so slightly singed!) we made recently:

[Update: 27 July 2021: Nigella has now published a vegan version of this recipe which you can find in her latest book, Cook, Eat, Repeat. The version below is the original non-vegan version


Note: this cake calls for fine polenta. We actually find that regular polenta works fine too... it gives the cake a slightly grittier texture, but Mark just describes it as "more interesting". Regular polenta seems a bit easier to find in the supermarket than the fine stuff, so don't panic if you have to use it.

  • 200g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 100g polenta (Nigella uses fine ground polenta)
  • 1½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3 large eggs
  • Zest and Juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 125g icing sugar


  1. Cream together the soft butter and caster sugar in a bowl.
  2. Mix the ground almonds, polenta and baking powder together in a separate bowl.
  3. Beat some of the dry mixture into the butter/sugar mix, then add an egg and beat that in. Keep repeating this, alternating between egg and dry ingredients until you've mixed everything together.
  4. Add the zest of the lemons (save the juice for later) and mix in.
  5. Transfer the mixture into a lined 23cm springform cake tin (Nigella suggests parchment paper for the base and buttering the sides).
  6. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180℃ (160℃ fan) for about 40 minutes. Our cake has caught in the past, so start checking from about 30 – 35 minutes.
  7. When the cake is ready, remove it from the oven and place (still in its tin) on a wire rack to cool.
  8. Put the lemon juice and icing sugar in a small pan and heat on the hob until it boils and the sugar is dissolved into the juice.
  9. When the cake is cool, pierce the surface all over (we use a piece of dry wholemeal spaghetti for this!) and then pour the syrup over it. Leave to cool.

This article was updated on 27 July 2021