Lemon Polenta Cake (With Free From Options)

Cherry Cake

This started as an orange polenta cake made with yoghurt but somewhere along the line turned into dairy free lemon cake. I used to make it quite often for my old colleagues as it doesn’t really need to be decorated other than a drizzle of icing, making it an easy option for a spot of mid-week baking. It’s a bit too rich anyway if you ice it with buttercream.  It works well as a gluten free cake and can also be made without refined sugar – please see the bottom of the page for details.

Start by pre-heating your oven to 150C.

Ingredients: 350ml sugar

175ml lemon juice

175ml water

150g polenta or cornmeal

260g self-raising flour

175ml vegetable or sunflower oil

1/2 teaspoon baking powder


  1. Mix the oil, sugar, lemon juice and water.
  2. Add the flour, polenta and baking powder.
  3. Mix in one direction until smooth and pour into a greased springform tin, with the base lined with baking paper.
  4. Bake for 1 hour to an 1 hour 30 minutes until baked through – a cocktail stick will come out clean when it’s cooked.
  5. Ice with lemon juice icing or dust with icing sugar and decorate with fresh fruit.

Please note that cornmeal is not the same as cornflour. Cornmeal can be bought cheaply in Asian, Turkish or Caribbean grocers. There’s really no need to buy the expensive stuff with fancy Italian packaging!

You can vary this recipe by using all replacing the polenta with self-raising flour and adding 2 tablespoons of poppy seeds. You can also add a few sprigs of finely chopped rosemary.

If you would like to make a gluten free cake, replace the self-raising flour with 150g ground almonds & 50g chickpea flour and add a pinch more baking powder. A gluten-free cake will rise very nicely with Orgran egg replacer – it’s available in most supermarkets and health food shops, notably the Nutmeg in Belfast. Use some of the water from the 125ml in the recipe to mix with the egg replacer, following the instructions of the packet, rather than adding extra liquid.
If you prefer to avoid refined sugar, you can use coconut sugar which can be bought relatively cheaply in Lidl. It’s not quite as sweet as regular sugar, so you can replace 50ml of the water with maple or agave syrup. Simply add the coconut sugar to the recipe as you would with regular sugar.
This cake can successfully be made both gluten and sugar free. If you go for the gluten and sugar free option, make it with orange instead of lemon juice. Make an orange and maple/agave drizzle with the juice of half an orange and 2 tablespoons of maple/agave syrup. Poke a few holes in the cake with a toothpick and pour it over the cake once it has cooled and you have taken it out of its tin. The syrup drizzle creates a nice, moist cake. Serve with dairy free yoghurt.