Thursday, 30 December 2010

Gluten free polenta, lemon and pistachio cake for Olivia

I promised my niece I’d share this recipe with her. 

This is a moist cake that can be made in advance (up to three days) – apparently the flavour only improves and it can be frozen.  It’s also great served with sliced oranges drizzled with some honey, apparently, but I just settled for oodles of cream.


  • 150g unsalted, shelled pistachio nuts – I only had 100g so substituted 50g with pecans
  • 200g unsalted butter softened – recipe doesn’t specify unsalted but I only buy unsalted and also the softening the butter thing is important.  When I made it it hadn’t quite softened enough and I had to give it a good bash in the mixer.
  • 200g caster sugar although I invariably substitute granulated
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100g polenta – I couldn’t find this in Sainsbury.  What you’re looking for is something that looks a bit like couscous, not ready made polenta which looks more like a lump of mashed potato.  I found it in the local farm shop eventually.
  • 150g ground almonds
  • 1 tbsp gluten free baking powder (isn’t all baking powder gluten free?)
  • zest and juice of one lemon, unless like me your lemons were looking very sorry for themselves, in which case use your own judgement.

For the syrup

  • zest and juice of 3 lemons – see above
  • 100g caster sugar – see above


  • You’ll need a greased and lined 22cm springform cake tin and an oven pre-heated to 160 °C (fan oven).
  • Start by blitzing pistachios in a food processor until they are finely ground.
  • In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Gradually add the eggs, mixing well after each addition. 
  • In another bowl mix polenta, almonds, pistachios and baking powder and then add this to the butter, sugar and egg mixture and mix well.  Stir in lemon zest and juice and mix well until combined.
  • Pour mixture into the cake tin, level the top and bake for 20 minutes and then cover with foil (to stop it browning too much) for another 30 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.
  • While the cake is cooking put the lemon zest, juice and caster sugar in a pan and bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and then simmer for 3 minutes.
  • When the cake emerges from the oven, pour the syrup over the top and leave in the tin to cool.
  • Yum.

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