Tuesday 30 October 2012

Lemon and pistachio polenta cake (gluten free)

 Lemon and pistachio polenta cake (gluten free)
However much of a parody of herself she may have become, with the coy glances into the camera whilst she naughtily licks something decadent from her fingers or her flouncy, flowery phrases purred demurely at the viewer in such a way that one almost thinks she should only be on post-watershed, there are two points regarding Nigella Lawson on which I will not be swayed: number one, she always has been and still is impossibly beautiful; and number two, her baking recipes will never let you down.
On the subject of her beauty, surely no one could be in disagreement with me?  Burkini-gate excepting (we’ve all committed the odd fashion faux-pas in the past, surely we can forgive Nigella that one?) I am sure I have never seen her looking anything less than glamorous, even when she’s padding down the stairs in her dressing gown for one of her, seemingly nightly, midnight feasts.  Half the time when I’m watching her programme, I don’t know if I’m sighing in wonderment at the food or her beauty!  As for her baking, if you have never tried one of Nigella's recipes, trust me they don’t disappoint, and the cake below only served to strengthen my unfaltering belief in the Domestic Goddess!
This cake is naturally gluten free.  When I say ‘naturally’, I mean it doesn’t call for gluten-free flour or any other such specially manufactured gluten free ingredient; it simply replaces the flour with other natural ingredients: polenta and ground almonds.  As such, it’s ideal if, like me, you have family or friends who are gluten intolerant and you want to whip something up for them without having to purchase an array of gluten-free baking products.

Lemon and pistachio polenta cake (gluten free) with extra thick double cream

This is a straightforward, no-fuss cake to make and you’re rewarded with a squidgy, damp, sweet but sharp end product that melts in the mouth.  Don’t be alarmed if the cake sinks in the middle once you take it out of the oven or if you find it’s rather crumbly – polenta and ground almonds will do that to a cake - it’ll still taste great.  I added pistachios to complement the lemon and I’d also recommend a healthy dollop of extra thick double cream/clotted cream/mascarpone (heck, all of the above if you’re so inclined.  Who am I to judge?!) on the side to mellow out the sharpness of the lemon.

Slice of lemon and pistachio polenta cake (gluten free)

Adapted from Nigella

For the cake

  • 200g unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 200g ground almonds
  • 100g polenta
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder (gluten free if required)
  • 3 medium eggs
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 40g shelled pistachos, roughly chopped

For the syrup

  • Juice Of 2 lemons
  • 85g icing sugar
Plus some thick double cream, clotted cream or mascarpone to serve

Preheat the oven to 160C fan.

Line the base of a 7" or 8", deep cake tin with greaseproof paper and grease the sides lightly with butter.

Beat the butter and sugar till pale and whipped (I always use the K-beater in my freestanding mixer for this.  Ideally you want your butter and sugar to be as light and pale as fresh cream).

Mix together the almonds, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by one egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating after each addition.

Finally, beat in the lemon zest and the pistachios and spoon the mixture into your prepared tin.  Don't be alarmed if the mixture is a bit stiff and heavy, the ground almonds and polenta will make it so.

Bake in the oven for about 45 minutes until a cake tester or knife inserted into the deepest part of the cake comes out fairly clean.

As soon as your cake is out of the oven, leave it in the tin and prepare your syrup by heating the lemon juice and icing sugar together in a saucepan until the liquid starts boiling and all the icing sugar has dissolved.

Lastly, prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester or a thin knife and pour the warm syrup over the cake.

Leave to cool before taking the cake out of its tin and serving with cream.


  1. Looks fantastic. I love gluten free baking that is actually good. I was under the impression that baking powder was naturally gluten free, though. Is there gluten in it that I was unaware of?

    1. Hi Simon, if you like gluten free baking, this cake is definitely worth a try. I also have a gluten free almond roulade on the blog that works a treat every time http://www.cupofteasolveseverything.com/2012/07/almond-roulade-with-strawberries-and.html.

      Most baking powder that's available isn't gluten free (it contains wheat flour), but Dr Oetker do a gluten free one (it says gluten free in a big blue sign on the packet).

      Let me know how you get on if you try the polenta cake!

  2. AMAZING... Baked this earlier and though it had not risen as high as the cake in the image it is still amazing! Was a bit too eager and took it out of its tin whilst still warm and it broke in half.. Which meant I 'had' to try a slice... :)

    Will defo do make this again!!!


    1. Hi Rich, so pleased you liked it. Not sure why it didn't rise as high - did you use the recommended size tin? Glad to hear you'll be making it again! :)

  3. Ahhhh thats it.. Used a bigger tin.. Still lovely. In fact making a second today for work friends tomorrow :)