When you think of polenta, you might not think of cake! But Italians love polenta, so it is not surprising that a baker in Varese, a town near the Italian-Swiss border, created Amor Polenta or Dolce Varese around 1930. This Italian cake has a beautiful golden color and a texture that is both rustic and delicate. In Italy, this cake will often be eaten at breakfast or as an afternoon snack. Each delicious bite is just sweet enough and bursting with bright lemon flavor. Whenever possible, I use Meyer lemons for the most intense lemon flavor possible. I use fine grain polenta and not coarse corn meal because I prefer a less crunchy texture. Because the cake is a simple plain cake, so typical of Italian cakes, I often serve it with whipped cream or berry compote. A slice of the cake with Meyer Lemon Semifreddo is lemon heaven!
Lemon Polenta Cake
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ½ cup fine polenta or cornmeal
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1¼ teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 eggs at room temperature
- 1¼ cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup mild flavored olive oil
- ½ cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ¼ cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350° convection.
- Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan and line the bottom with a round of parchment paper.
- In a large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda and salt by whisking together and set aside.
- Using a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat the eggs and sugar on medium high speed for 4 minutes, until creamy and pale yellow. Scrape down the bowl as needed.
- Add the olive oil and continue to beat for 1 minute on low speed.
- Add the wine, lemon juice, almond extract and lemon zest and mix on low speed until combined.
- Add dry ingredients to wet and mix on low speed just to combine.
- Pour batter in prepared pan and level the batter.
- Bake for about 30 – 35 minutes, reducing heat 25° after 20 minutes. Toothpick should test clean but with a few crumbs attached.
- Remove from oven. Leave cake in pan.
- To make the syrup, heat the lemon juice to a simmer in the microwave. Remove and add the sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar.
- Poke the top of the cake all over with a toothpick and brush lemon syrup over the top. Do not oversaturate the cake – it may not take all of the syrup.
- Cool the cake for 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Release the cake from the pan by running a spatula around the inside. Turn onto a cooling rack, remove parchment paper and turn right side up on a serving plate.